2021 Elections Candidate Grade Report

We are excited to present our inaugural grades for select candidates seeking election in Seattle and King County. Ballots are in your mailbox. Drop them off by 8pm on November 2nd. A few important points before grades.

Our elections committee included a diverse array of views and conducted a lengthy candidate engagement process.

Our candidate engagement process began this summer with the formation of our county-wide KCEN elections committee. Members included staff, board members, community stewards, organizers, representatives, and public servants. Expertise spanned across health, public safety, housing, anti-gentrification, education, labor, business development, community-building, media, policy, and more. The positions and perspectives of our committee members varied, reflecting the diverse experiences represented.

The elections committee developed and administered two sets of candidate questionnaires: one to all candidates in the primary election here and another to those who advanced to the general election. We then conducted candidate interviews and engaged in a series of discussions before arriving at each grade.

Success for Democratic and Progressive candidates has not translated to progress for Black community.

This isn’t new but it cannot be overstated. At King County Equity Now, we relentlessly center racial realism—the notion that Black America is not slowly, incrementally progressing towards equality or equity in the United States.

Instead, we elevate the worsening or stagnating conditions faced by Black America. How Black wealth is on trajectory to reach zero per average Black family in 2050, for example. Or, how nearly half of all Black workers earn less than $30,000 a year. How, in Seattle—one of the wealthiest, most progressive cities in the world—a white family’s wealth is 20x that of an average Black family, nearly half of all Black adults are food insecure, Blacks are 3x more likely to live in poverty, and so on and so on.

We highlight the current national and local apartheid state and the real possibility of its permenance. This is a damning failure for U.S. Progressive movements and the Democratic party. To be clear, we are not arguing the false equivalency that Republicans and Democrats/Progressives are equal. The Republican party more explicitly centers white supremacy and anti-Black racism, and more openly wages war against the Black community. However, generation after generation, we’ve seen Progressive and Democratic candidates exploit the Black vote and Black organizing to gain power and not only fail to improve conditions for Black peoples but actively inflict further harm.

Locally, you need only to throw a rock before hitting a politician this applies to. Any candidate with prior representative experience saw conditions of Blacks in Seattle worsen during their tenure. Neither the Democratic party or its Progressive arm has ever put forward a comprehensive plan to achieve equality for Black people in America or address centuries of harm and entrenched anti-Black racism. This applies to its candidate platforms too.

We lead with this point to highlight that—in a country where one party is openly anti-Black—it’s not enough for the opposing party to appeal to the Black vote by mere distinction that its anti-Blackness is more covert. Progressive and Democratic candidates need to explicitly foreground a plan to attack anti-Black racism and bring about Black equity. Anything less is unacceptable.

The Election Committee decided collectively not to award any endorsements this election cycle.

KCEN was formed in part to support and empower political representation for candidates that foreground plans to vigorously attack anti-Black racism and bring about Black equity. We reserve endorsements for individuals with deep, accountable relationships within the local Black community, a strong racial analysis, and a proven track record building collective Black power. We made important distinctions between candidates via grades and commentary below.

City Council Post. 9

Nikkita Oliver: A

Sara Nelson: F

Nikkita has been on the front lines, organizing to dismantle racist systems like the school-to-prison-to-deportation pipeline, shut down the New Youth Jail, and more. They’ve long advocated for investments in Black-led organizations toward community-based and -led supports and toward more robust public health and safety infrastructure. We are confident they will use this position of privilege to support building a more liberated society. As with all forms of celebrity, it is important to take extra caution to use one’s platforms responsibly. We look forward to supporting most of their policies and holding them accountable while in office.

Sara Nelson is a wealthy white business owner with no background at all in anti-racist work. She thinks small and moves with all of the entitlement you’d assume. A one-time legislative aide nearly a decade ago, she has neither the vision, experience, relationships or perspective to improve conditions for any community outside the wealthy white ones. Solid F.

City Council Post. 8

Teresa Mosqueda: B

Kenneth Wilson: N/A

Teresa is an intentional politician who doesn’t have it all but is earnest in her aims. She is actively anti-racist and invested in seeing this region’s success. With a history of labor organizing, her theories of change and strategies are more developed than most politicians and she attempts to show up for the community. She does not champion pro-Black policies per se but tries to respond in kind. B. We know next to nothing about her opponent.

King County Executive

Joe Nguyen: B

Dow Constantine: D

Joe’s an up-and-coming Progressive raised in south King County with a proximity to hardship that allows him to connect with the community and craft the policies needed to create meaningful equity. Dow, a longtime incumbent, has resisted change at nearly every turn, most notably in his (failed) attempts to squash the No New Youth Jail movement along with a litany of anti-Black actions. He receives a D because he recently changed his tune on archaic forms of criminal punishment (i.e., committing to closing the New Youth Jail and launching a community-led diversion program) but did so only because he faced mass public pressure generated by Black organizers. Post election, we’ll be elevating more stories around Dow’s complicity in the systemic anti-Black racism rampant within the County Metro Department, and more. For now, we welcome the challenge from Joe, a burgeoning, more with-it state senator.

City Attorney

Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: C

Ann Davison Settler: F

NTK joins a positive trend of public-defenders seeking City Attorney positions. Her campaign has rightfully run on an abolitionist platform, underscoring the urgency to move on from anti-Black systems that prey on poor and non-white folks to more effective community-centered care models. However, representing the Black community is a privilege to be taken seriously and in excellence. The election committee left the NTK interview underwhelmed with her articulation of abolition in practice. To be successful, she needs to do a lot more of the hard work building accountable relationships, struggling in community and understanding what implementing abolition truly looks like. We give her a C for the opportunities her candidacy presents and, more or less, because her opponent is so abysmal.

As her opponent, Ann Davison ran for Lt Governor on a pro-Trump Republican ticket under conspiracy theorist and failed gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp last year. She parrots 90s era War on Drug rhetoric and lacks even a basic understanding of racism, let alone anti-Black racism. She has no experience in municipal court, has only been the attorney of record in 5 cases, and has never won a jury trial. Up to her, conditions for the Black community would worsen across the board. Easy vote. Solid F.


Bruce Harrell: B

Lorena González: D

Ultimately, the grading for this race centered around which candidate we believe we can hold more accountable while in office. These grades are not about either’s stated policies. We do not cosign on prior votes, plans, decisions, campaigns, or stances here. Both are career politicians that wield strategic messaging, and are responsible for the impact of their decisions. (Note: they deviated on only seven votes during their overlapping tenures on City Council).

At the end of the day, there are many more accountable Black community members in relationship with Bruce Harrell that present meaningful pathways for accountability; few if any with Lorena González.

Bruce has openly championed his intent to foreground racial equity work, including working alongside trusted Black organizations and people to implement new collaborative policies. He has committed to working collectively to closing the racial wealth gap, driving up Black homeownership, expanding Black land acquisition, improving education options, access and resources, and investing in Black health systems. His Central District roots lend some credibility to his stated aspirations. We appreciate his open commitments to building in Black spaces and will continue to organize to hold him to it.

Clearly, we do not align on many of Bruce’s current positions, most notably policing. For example, his proposal to have Seattle officers watch the death of George Floyd and focus on changing the department’s culture as a reform tactic is obviously lacking. It minimizes the gravity of anti-Black racism, particularly within government, by not giving the proper weight to the obstacles we face. The George Floyd video proposal reduces the issue of anti-Black racism in the Seattle Police Department from its truth—a systemic, structural issue with long engrained custom of and foundation in unchecked violence and abuse against Black people—to just “a casual case of a few bad apples gone awry.” Another example, his appeal to his wealth as a form of expertise and promise of a “relational capital” waterfall that will befall the city upon election rings hollow. Individual Black millionaire status holds little relevance in a city and nation where Black wealth overall is plunging rapidly towards zero. Ultimately, he will need to make major adjustments to address the severity of anti-Black racism and structural class issues facing Seattle’s non-financially elite.

Bruce’s position on law enforcement was a major point of contention throughout the grading process. We fought hard to invest in Black community-centered solutions to public safety and divest mildly from policing. The gap in grading came down to accountable relationships in Black community, and a unanimous consensus around Lorena’s anti-Blackness.

Now to Lorena.

Put succinctly, Lorena grandstands, has a history of anti-Black racism, and is untrusted throughout the community. Many times, we’ve seen her disregard Black folks and inflict harm for political gain.

One direct example, as a sitting City Council Member, Lorena presided over the facilitation of a high-profile Black community-centered research project. Our ecosystem leveraged a huge amount of financial and relational capital to advance that work, leveraging decades of local Black organizing and community-building. When, during this process, our board chair, Elder in Distinction and Former State Representative Dawn Mason wrote to Lorena González, with multiple follow-ups, voicing urgency that the contract allocation process needed to slow down to allow for more robust accountability and resource stewardship, Lorena went silent. For weeks. To this day, Lorena has yet to provide a public response.

When outgoing mayor Jenny Durkan played low-ball politics by initiating a state audit of the Black community-led research project as a way to fuel the “fiscally fraudulent Black organization” racist trope, Lorena stood by and did nothing. Fully aware of our many attempts to bring enhanced community visibility and accountability to the project, Lorena sat back as multiple media outlets (Conservative and Progressive alike) gladly swung at Durkan’s softball, damaging local Black efforts.

When the auditor’s office confirmed no illegality but issued a ruling raising many of the very same issues we raised with her directly, Lorena still stood back as the narrative spun that the Black folks were the irresponsible ones, fueling divisiveness in community, confusion, and harm throughout. Her penchant to harm Black people for political gain continues.

Additionally, her interview was awful and revealed both a lack of preparation and disregard for the process. When asked simple, pointed questions regarding her anti-Black racism, she was unable to answer at all much less adequately. The committee exited the interview troubled and disturbed.

Approaching a decade as an elected official in Seattle, Lorena could barely name any Black people she was in relationship with. We’ve watched her exploit Black organizing, teachings, clout, and connections to bolster her political career. Yet when asked for her plan or commitment to bring about Black equity, she had neither.

As stated, “Progressives” often demand support from Black voters without producing any meaningful results and worse, actively inflicting harm. Black folks are frequently expected to hide criticisms of anti-Blackness in service of the “larger movement.” That does not serve us; we reject that here. Many wanted to give her an F. The D was a compromise.

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