Guest Post: 6 Things I Learned from Running a Fake Mayoral Campaign

Guest Post: 6 Things I Learned from Running a Fake Mayoral Campaign

This week’s special edition of Thirsty Thursday is brought to you by former Bus staffer, Candidate Survivor 2017 panelist, and current CID Public Safety Coordinator Sonny Nguyen. #knowledgeresponsibly

Everybody in this city is running for mayor. Back in May, after Mayor Murray withdrew his campaign for reelection, mayoral candidacies became more ubiquitous than fidget spinners. Seriously, from Larry “Oh Boy!” Oberto to the guy who Nazi salutes the city councilmembers, we have enough mayoral candidates in this city to fill a usually nearly-empty First Hill Streetcar.

Now, I am nothing if not a trendspotter. After much consideration, I decided I couldn’t be the only person in Seattle without a campaign launch party. Imagine the embarrassment! So, as anyone would do, I jokingly announced a write-in campaign to run for mayor.

Photo Credit: The Evergreen State College

At least, it started out as a joke. And then things got weird. Since then, it’s become a weird performance art piece about the state of municipal elections because I went to Evergreen and that’s just what happens for us. (I think my entire college was just an elaborate performance art piece about academia or something..)

Anyway, throughout the last two months of fake-campaigning for real-life mayor, here are the things I’ve learned about running for office.

1. Running for office is super expensive.

It can costs upwards of half a million dollars to win a mayoral race in Seattle. For those of us in student loan debt, that number looks like this: $500,000. Where does that money go? Campaign staff and consultants, mailers, facilities rentals for events, all kinds of stuff. In fact, filing to run for mayor can cost about $2,000 alone. Unfortunately, I did not have $500k waiting to be spent (see above re: student loan debt) but neither do most people running for office. That’s why we have programs like the democracy vouchers for use in municipal (i.e. city) races, to close the gap between people who have or can raise that kind of money and people who don’t have as much easy access to that kind of money.

Photo Credit: Fuse WA

(My only disappointment with the program is that Democracy Vouchers don’t come in lower denominations, making us mostly unable to make it rain stacks on candidates.)

Fortunately or unfortunately for me, I have years of practice living on a shoestring budget. I printed my hundreds of campaign stickers on Avery nametags that I got from Prime Now with a coupon code and gift card. I got over 100 bottles of beer donated to me for my campaign launch party. I borrowed a button maker to make campaign buttons. I printed my yard signs on the biggest sheets of paper my office’s printer could handle, and gluesticked them on to cut up boxes that once held ice cream sandwiches. All in all, I spent about $80 on my campaign materials, that’s a total saving so far of $794,657 compared to Ed Murray’s 2013 campaign.

 

2. I am excellent at campaigning.

I worked with the Washington Bus for about 10 years, so I knew my way around a campaign. I’ve spent many summers surrounded by stressed out candidates and campaign managers, and I’ve gotta say this was much easier than I thought. Maybe it’s because I’m not trying to win, but most of campaigning was just hanging out at events and being charming. Aside from filling out surveys and raising money, it’s pretty much just flirting with an entire city and I am an excellent flirt.

Photo Credit: CityArts

< But probably not as good a flirt as City Council Position 8 candidate, Dr. Hisam Goueli. Woof.

A lot of campaigning is learning how to make any conversation about you and what you can do. As someone who grew up in a household with seven other kids, this comes naturally. When you’re competing for attention with that many other people, you either learn to be proud of your own accomplishments or seek out new ways to gain external validation. And I ran a fake campaign for mayor, so you can guess which path I chose.

But this isn’t a blog post about my childhood development. This is a blog about Hisam Goueli’s delts. Or something.

 

3. Campaign events don’t need to be stuffy and boring.

Not every campaign event needs to be a no-host cocktail hour where strangers have to make small talk or a listening session in a rented conference room. And not every candidate forum needs to be the same questions with the same audience.

Were you at Candidate Survivor? If you were, I don’t need to explain this to you. If you weren’t, well, #vapeflute explains it all.

4. There’s no excuse for ugly campaign aesthetics.

Can we talk about this? Can we talk about how boring campaign materials look? My graphic design experience peaked at high school Yearbook Editor, and yet I must say I’ve got some of the best campaign materials of any candidate – real or otherwise. I made them on Canva! The free version!

(This post not sponsored by Canva. But it can be. Hit me up, Canva marketing team.)

 

 5. Seattle wants young progressive candidates.

You would think that with 21 people making it to the ballot, we would have enough variety in candidates to call ourselves covered for the mayor’s race. It turns out people were actually super stoked to hear my (fake) announcement. Before finding out it was fake, people were offering to host fundraisers and events for me, connect me to possible endorsements, and even pay my filing fee!

And only partly because I’m incredibly charming. It was mostly because Seattle needs more young progressive candidates. Yes, we have a few already in this race and in others this year. Still, I learned you can never have too many passionate young people with a vision for the city’s future.

All across the state this year, we’ve seen amazing young candidates running for office. From Seattle School Boards to Federal Way City Council and beyond, we’re running tough races to make a difference (and almost all of them real!). It counters the mythos that millennials are dispassionate selfish jerks who only care about MTV skinny jeans and killing the diamond industry by saying “Look. We’re here and we love our local communities and we have these great ideas about how to make it better. Also we apparently don’t by napkins and I guess that’s a problem.

A packed Neumos full of mostly Millenials, ready to meet their candidates instead of playing golf.

6. You should run for office.

I mean, why not? We’ve created this idea that a candidate has to know everything about everything, but candidates are real humans who are constantly learning about the issues and building teams of experts around them. You know how to do that. You know how to make friends, be charming, and speak from the heart.

There are people and organizations out there that will donate to your campaign. There are people and organizations out there that want to hear your ideas for improving your community. You can ask your county elections office what seats will be opening up next year and start planning now, or reach out to organizations like unions, churches, or Amplify for resources. Amplify, as stated on their website, “recruits, trains, elects, and supports progressive champions for state and local office in the Northwest, prioritizing people of color, women, young people, and LGBTQ candidates.”

Sure, I didn’t actually run for office this time around. The most important thing I learned, however, is that the idea of my candidacy isn’t absurd enough to be an obvious joke. It’s a plausibility, a possibility, and with each passing day, a growing likelihood. I know now more than ever that you don’t run for office because you think you’re the best person for the job. You run for office because you know that the communities you’re a part of and that you have connections with, they deserve a voice. You run because there are issues that need to be talked about and nobody else will start those conversations. You run because if you don’t, who’s like you that will?

So do it. Run a mayoral campaign on $80 or raise $800,000. Run for school board. Run for Insurance Commissioner (10 years in politics, still barely understand what the job does). Your community is waiting for you.

As more and more amazing young people run for office, I become more and more sure that together, #WeCanNguyen.

Candidate Survivor Recap!

Candidate Survivor Recap!

Over 400 audience members watched enraptured as the top seven mayoral candidates answered questions ranging from their policy positions to their smoking habits. It was a night that left people both informed, entertained, and probably a little stunned.

Photo credit: Darrion Sjoquist

Here are some highlights from the night:

Round 1: Lightning Round, Yes/No

The Executive Director of the Washington Bus, Emilio Garza, fired off question after question in a sixty second lightning round as each candidate tried to quickly come up with answers to questions such as, “Would you rather vape with Abraham Lincoln or farm peanuts with Jimmy Carter?”

In the final moments of the Yes/No and spectrum round in which candidates moved from one side of the stage to the other depending on their policy stance, Mike McGinn, the reigning Candidate Survivor champion, won cheers from the crowd when he gave his “explain” card to Nikkita Oliver to expand on her stance on one of the questions. Still, McGinn as well as Jason Roberts were eliminated in the first round.

Round 2: Talent Show

I guarantee nobody who came to Candidate Survivor thought they would see a candidate over sixty years old vape through a flute while two people in masks danced and his campaign manager rapped a revised Seattle-focused version of “Mask Off” by Future. But that’s what Bob Hasegawa did, all while wearing a fedora and sunglasses. #VapeFlute

Photo credit: Anthony Morrow

Jessyn Farrell played saxophone to Careless Whisper by George Michael, and replaced the original lyrics with her own lyrics asking the Stranger to endorse her as well as throwing jabs at the Seattle Times. Jenny Durkan impersonated Melissa McCarthy’s impersonation of Sean Spicer and mocked each candidate left on stage. Cary Moon made a PowerPoint as her self-proclaimed only talent and gave a “BED” Talk on how to run a mayoral campaign ending with a heartwarming message to just “Be Yourself.” Nikkita Oliver assured us through rap that “justice is just us being just.” At the end of the round, Durkan and Hasegawa were both eliminated.

 

Round 3: Serious Political Questions

In the final round, only three candidates, Nikkita, Jessyn, and Cary, had survived. The three panelists asked them serious political questions respectively tailored to each candidate.

Considering the dilemma people in Little Saigon face, Jessyn believed that more grassroots organizations should engage in community affairs. She also expressed her determination to represent marginalized groups regardless of white privilege, and use her background and experience to serve the city.

Cary, the urban planner and activist who is the largest donor of her own campaign, claimed that her wealth could save her time collecting donations and allow her to instead concentrate more on contributing to the city. Her proposal to collect real estate tax from non-residents and build four times more affordable housing won prolonged applause.

Nikkita was asked who would she nominate as the head of Seattle department of transportation if she was elected. She planned to work with her competitors and do a national search for suitable candidates. She also wanted to prioritize more urgent tasks and allocate the city budget wisely in order to pay for more homeless shelters.

In the final audience vote, Nikkita won Candidate Survivor.

Photo credit: Anthony Morrow

Candidate Survivor is a fantastic event which helps voters get to know their mayoral hopefuls in a fun and authentic way. It’s a great opportunity for people unfamiliar with local politics to get a rough picture of each candidate’s proposals and personalities… and maybe see a politician vape out of a musical instrument.

Check out the buzz from the event on The Stranger, Seattle Times, Seattle PI, and Seattle Met!

This blog post was written by Bus Duke Engage interns, Debra and Anqi.

Why Seattle Needs an Income Tax

Why Seattle Needs an Income Tax

Thirsty Thursday blog post in the house! #knowledgeresponsibly

Next Monday, July 10th, the City Council will vote on an ordinance considering a city-wide income tax on our wealthiest residents. Now, I hear you, you don’t want more taxes! You have the highest rents in the world, the most regressive tax system in America, not to mention that you have to sell a limb to pay for each year of college. This tax, however, will start addressing some of these issues.

By taxing the highest earners in the city – those who earn more than $250,000 a year – the city will be able to generate more than $125 million in revenue. This tax will reverse the regressive path that our state have taken. We will take the burden off of low-income folks and start paying for our services more fairly. As we determine how the tax revenue will be used, it is our job to make it go towards issues that young people care about: debt-free community college, rent control, homelessness etc. We at the Washington Bus have been working tirelessly to make sure that happens, lobbying city council members, testifying at committee meetings, and informing y’all about the income tax that could actively combat these problems!

Young people in Seattle are struggling economically, and it is unfair to exacerbate the situation by forcing students to choose between attaining their education and staying afloat financially.

Those who prioritize their education are shackled with years of interest payments and are paying off these loans for decades. Even with successful and stable careers, these loans continue to drain funds from individuals. This prevents them from devoting portions of their income to savings, retirement plans, homes, and their families. Not to mention being strapped for cash means no opportunities for fun, and everyone deserves the chance to kick back and have a fun night in the city.

Isabelle & Sophia in front of City Hall after meeting with Councilmember Herbold about the income tax.

As two young adults growing up in Seattle, we have recently made trips to city hall where we were significantly outnumbered by people triple our age. This blatant disparity emphasizes how desperately we need young people to turn out for votes, meetings and town halls. Show your support on Monday at 2 p.m. and come to city hall and show support for the council vote on the ordinance! Your engagement and passion will change this city for decades to come and we would love to witness your power.

This blog post was written by Isabelle Yuan and Avidan Baral, the Bus’s 2 Summer Interns!

Introducing the Bustice League!

Introducing the Bustice League!

This week’s Hella Bus Blog Thirsty Thursday blog post comin’ at ya! #knowledgeresponsibly

We’ve got big news coming out of Buslandia, a place where dreams come true. Do you dream of 100% youth voter turnout? Do you want to befriend other rad civically engaged young people? Do you wish you could be a real-life superhero? Whatever your dream is, we’re proud to announce The Bustice League™, our brand spankin’ new volunteer program created with the stuff that dreams are made of.

Members of the Bustice League are the super-volunteers that help our voter registration and campaign work succeed. Super-volunteers commit to a certain number of volunteer hours per month. The opportunities are varied and endless–you could register voters at Bumbershoot, testify at city council, create a zine, or help out around the office. Joining the Bustice League gets you access to #firstdibs at music festival volunteer shifts, bus swag, an opportunity to build up your organizing skills, and of course, a once in a lifetime chance to change the world.

The Bustice League is an extension of our leadership development programs, seasonal internship, and sister organization’s summer fellowship. The Bustice League is open to people of all ages and experience levels. Have you already completed our fellowship program and want to get back on the Bus? Join the Bustice League! Did you just find out about us at Seattle Pride and want to learn more about volunteering? Join the Bustice League! We’ll have fun and meaningful ways for everyone to join.

As staff members, we commit to investing in you and your growth as a young political organizer with a passion for justice. We’ll also plan regular social events (happy hour, anyone?) for Bustice League members.
If you like what you’ve read so far and want to become a defender of democracy, an advocate for justice, and a mighty political organizer, you should join the Bustice League! Come to our official launch party at the Washington Bus office in Pioneer Square on July 6 from 6-8 pm. We’ll bring the snacks, and you can bring your friends. Deal? Check out the Facebook event here and don’t forget to RSVP! If you can’t come to the launch party, but want to learn more about joining the Bustice League, shoot me an e-mail at sophia@washingtonbus.org.

This blog post was written by Sophia Hoffacker, the Bus’s own Field Coordinator.

Say Her Name.

Say Her Name.

On Sunday Charleena Lyles was shot and killed by Seattle Police in her home after calling to report a burglary. It is a devastating loss for her family, children, and the community.

Original photo: http://www.thestranger.com/slog/2017/06/19/25225266/charleena-lyles-victim-of-spd-shooting-remembered-as-life-of-the-party

Institutional, systemic racism, under-resourcing of mental health services, and insufficient training in implicit bias, crisis intervention, and de-escalation tactics all contribute to tragedies like this. We need to work together to challenge and change our systems and undo institutional oppression to stop losing lives of people of color and other oppressed communities.

Although the shooting is under investigation by SPD’s Force Investigation Team, history has shown justice is so rarely served for victims of police violence. In Washington State especially, due to wording in existing statutes it is nearly impossible to convict a police officer for a fatal use of force because the prosecution has to prove malicious intent. Even if an officer is confirmed to have committed a wrongful killing, it is extremely hard to prove evil intent. This year, the Washington Bus Education Fund will be partnering with De-Escalate Washington through our Fellowship to change the legal language on this statute so victims of fatal police shootings can get the justice they deserve. The group’s Initiative 940 will also create statewide standards for de-escalation and crisis intervention training for officers.

Looking for ways to support Charleena?

Donate online here to the GoFundMe page created to support her family, including her 4 children.

Looking for ways to get engaged further?

Attend the BlackLivesMatter March for Justice tonight at 6pm at Westlake Park.

Attend the Trans Pride March: Black Lives Matter contingent tomorrow at 5pm at the Capitol Hill Light Rail Station.

Sign up to volunteer with the Bus to fight for justice alongside our Fellows with De-Escalate Washington and Washington Won’t Discriminate.

Keep up with the conversation on social media #CharleenaLyles #SayHerName #BlackLivesMatter

Sa(you)want Rent Control?

Sa(you)want Rent Control?

Last week, nearly a thousand people gathered in Town Hall to witness the debate on rent control. The atmosphere was tense and the crowds were restless, highlighting how pressing the issue of housing affordability in Seattle has become.

Seattle City Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata led the argument in favor of rent control. Both Sawant and Licata described the severe burden that the increasing rent prices are placing on low-income households, and called for the need to limit these large price hikes through the rent control policy.

“The housing market is broken, and needs to be fixed,” Licata stated, “Without rent control, there is no answer to these skyrocketing rents.”

State Rep. Matt Manweller and Roger Valdez, a developer lobbyist, painted a far more negative side of rent control. They explored rent control in cities such as San Francisco and New York, linking the policy with the rise of dilapidated housing and the lack of housing growth in these areas. For them, the problem is centered on the widening disparity between supply and demand, and rent control does not address this.

“Rent control does not work,” Valdez asserted, “Build more housing – it’s that simple.”

However, addressing housing affordable is never that simple. Housing affordability has been a growing problem in Seattle since the late-1970s, and is only getting worse. Even so, history and experts are not on the side of rent control.

The debate was held in a very crowded Town Hall on July 20th, 2015.

In a rare consensus, nearly 93 percent of economists agree that rent control creates more problems than it solves. Nevertheless, Sawant and Licata are convinced that it can work.

“At end of the day, we can recite all facts, but this is about vision,” Sawant concluded, “if you want Seattle to be a vibrant, dynamic, and culturally diverse city, then we will need policies like rent control.”

Each city is unique, and it is impossible to predict whether such a policy would work. However, if any city could break the pattern, my bet is on Seattle.

This blog post was written by Allen, a rising senior at Duke University and the Bus’ 2015 DukeEngage Intern.

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