A third candidate launches bid for Congress in WA 6th District

Kate Dean
Kate Dean, a Jefferson County Commissioner, is one of the Democratic candidates running to replace U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-WA 6, who announced he will not run for reelection in 2024. 

A third Democrat has announced a bid for the seat of outgoing U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, who is not seeking reelection after more than a decade in Congress.

Jefferson County Commissioner Kate Dean announced her bid Tuesday. Dean has been on the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners since 2017 and also serves on the Washington State Board of Health and the Puget Sound Partnership Leadership Council. Dean joins Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and State Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, as confirming their candidacies in the race for Washington’s 6th Congressional District.

Kilmer’s decision to not run for reelection prompted Franz, state Commissioner of Public Lands since 2017, to drop her 2024 bid for governor to run to replace Kilmer in Congress. Randall, the State Senate Deputy Majority Leader, announced she also would run for the seat about two weeks after Kilmer’s announcement.

Republican State Sen. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, also announced last month that he was exploring a run for Kilmer’s seat.

Washington’s 6th Congressional District covers the Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas and stretches into parts of Tacoma. Kilmer, a Democrat, was first elected to represent the district in 2012. The next elections for the U.S. House of Representatives will be in 2024, and the newly elected representative will start a two-year term in January 2025.

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AI task force will advise the WA Legislature on the emerging tech

man sitting at a computer showing a new artificial intelligence tool for generating images

At a September 2023 company event in New York, Jared Andersen, director of product marketing for Bing Chat at Microsoft, shows a new artificial intelligence tool for generating images on Microsoft’s Bing Chat Enterprise. (AP Photo/Cora Lewis)

The Washington House has greenlighted the creation of a task force to study artificial intelligence issues for the Legislature.

Senate Bill 5838, sponsored by Sen. Joe Nguyen, D-White Center, passed late Thursday 68-28 and will go back to the Senate for a vote on the House’s minor tweaks.

The bill calls for the creation of a 42-person task force, to begin meeting this year, to come up with recommendations on how the Legislature and state government should address AI issues. Preliminary recommendations on future legislation and regulations would be due to the governor’s office and to the Legislature by Dec. 31, 2024 and Dec. 1, 2025, with a final report due July 1, 2026.

Participants in the task force would include state government officials and representatives of universities, technology associations, business groups, labor and community advocate organizations. The task force must meet at least twice annually. The Washington Attorney General’s Office will coordinate its work.

“I believe the rapid development of artificial intelligence will bring about one  of the most momentous developments in technology. It will alter the world and we will see massive changes in society,” said Rep. Clyde Shavers, D-Oak Harbor, on the House floor. “We often forget or ignore the enormous challenges that come with these great technological advances. … Right now, companies are either self-regulating or not subject to adequate oversight, and we need both now.”  

Rep. Travis Couture, R-Allyn, added: “People don’t realize artificial intelligence touches their lives. … There are risks and opportunities.”

Couture acknowledged some GOP representatives opposed the bill because they object to the attorney general’s office being in charge.

It’s a new era for Seattle’s news and original productions landscape. What we once knew as Crosscut and KCTS 9 are evolving into Cascade PBS starting today. 

What will this mean for readers of Crosscut.com and those who have followed our original programs like Mossback’s Northwest or our podcasts such as Crosscut Reports? Simply, you’ll soon have one place to find all of our award-winning independent news coverage as well as our award-winning local original production work. 

The move away from the Crosscut name does not mean a move away from impactful journalism. Important stories by our political team and investigations team, in addition to our original production work that you’ve come to know and depend on, will remain at the forefront of what we do. It’s the work that has continued ever since Crosscut joined KCTS 9 in 2015

When the company made the initial announcement of our new transition last year, we made it clear that bringing KCTS 9 and Crosscut under one banner “reflects two important things: the regional community we serve, and the quality PBS programming and local news you rely on.” 

For now, you’ll still be able to find our work here at Crosscut.com, but later this year we’ll be launching a new site, CascadePBS.org, the new digital home for our local news and original productions. 

This is an exciting move, and we are ready to embrace change to help us continue to serve our community with the thoughtful and impactful local coverage you’ve come to expect from our editorial team. 

WA moves toward partnership with CA, Quebec cap-and-trade systems

filling up a vehicle with gas

A motorist fills up the tank of a vehicle at a Shell station Wednesday, July 5, 2023, in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Washington Legislature has voted along party lines to adjust its carbon pricing system to make it compatible with the cap-and-trade systems in California and Quebec.

House approved Senate Bill 6058, on a vote of 57-39 Thursday. The Senate passed the measure on Feb. 12. Now the two houses will have to reconcile minor differences in the bills they passed before it can be sent to the governor's desk.

Washington is negotiating with California and Quebec on meshing their three carbon markets. Supporters of the move expect a bigger market would bring down carbon emission auction prices, which would lead to lower fuel costs.

The earliest that the proposed alliance could take place is 2025. Lurking in the background is a November referendum on whether to repeal Washington’s cap-and-invest program, which is blamed for some gas price increases.

Washington’s carbon polluters, including oil companies, bid every three months on the amounts of carbon emissions they can release. The volume of allowances is limited, which has driven up auction bids. Washington’s carbon auction prices have been higher than those in California. This past year, however, California’s gas prices have been frequently, but not always, higher than Washington’s.

The cap-and-invest system is one of numerous factors affecting the rise and fall in Washington’s gas prices. 

Republicans opposed the bill Thursday, spending the majority of a more than four hour debate slamming the program and its association with gas prices. Republicans also said they did not like tying Washington’s program with a much larger California economy and its own unique ups and downs. They also voiced skepticism about claims that a larger market would decrease gas prices in the Evergreen State.

“We’re going into an agreement without a clear understanding of the partners we want a relationship with,” said Rep. Keith Goehner, R-Dryden.

“Fools rush in. We should not rush into any linkage,” said Rep Jim Walsh, R-Abderdeen, who is also one of the leaders of the initiative to repeal Washington’s cap-and-invest program.

Majority Leader Joe Fitzgibbon, D-West Seattle, noted that a common argument against Washington’s efforts to combat climate change is that one state’s efforts won’t have an effect on global warming. He said a Washington-California-Quebec market would have a greater impact on reducing carbon emissions.

Fitzgibbon also noted New York, Massachusetts and Maryland are watching Washington and this potential alliance with thoughts about creating their own cap-and-trade programs to eventually join this bigger market.

The biggest change from SB 6058 would be allowing a single bidder in a quarterly auction to obtain up to 25 percent of the allowances for sale. Currently, the limit for a single auction is 10 percent. However, a single corporation would still be limited to obtaining no more than 10 percent of allowances offered in a calendar year.

WA bill would make it harder to shut down public libraries

A library shelf's tag for LGBTQ+ books is prominently displayed.

A library tag shows where the books about LGBTQ+ topics are shelved at the Olympia Timberland Library on February 26, 2024. (Scarlet Hansen/Crosscut) 

State lawmakers are considering making it harder to shut down public libraries, after at least one attempt last year to close a rural library district in Eastern Washington. Senate Bill 5824 aims to address growing censorship and book bannings by requiring a larger percentage of voters to call for the dissolution of a library district and ensuring that all voters served by the library can weigh in.

In 2023, a group in Columbia County tried to close a rural library district after it refused to remove LGBTQ+ books.

A library district, which generally provides library services to areas outside incorporated towns and cities, can currently be shut down if a petition to put this proposal on a ballot is signed by at least 10% of voters outside of unincorporated cities and towns, and if the majority of voters pass the measure. In Columbia County’s case, the library district also provided service to the people within the city limits of Dayton, where the library was located. 

Elise Severe, the Chair of Neighbors United for Progress, which challenged the petition to dissolve the Columbia County Rural Library District, told a Senate State Government and Elections public hearing earlier this year that two-thirds of the Columbia County library taxpayers wouldn’t have been able to vote on the matter because they lived in incorporated cities and thus were excluded. Severe said her organization went to court and convinced a judge to block the ballot measure.

State Rep. Leonard Christian, R-Spokane Valley, made a similar point. “I think we had a tea party a few hundred years ago about taxation without representation and I think we’re in the same situation here,” Christian said in support of the bill at a House State Government and Tribal Relations executive session on Feb. 21.

The bill would increase the percentage of voter signatures needed to file a petition to dissolve a library district from 10% of voters outside of incorporated towns and cities to 25% of all eligible voters served by the library district. Proponents say this will ensure that those who use libraries can have a voice when it comes to dissolution.

The bill would also make it harder to shut down city, county and town libraries by changing the number of signatures required to file a petition to dissolve a library from 100 taxpayers to 25% of qualified voters.

“We don’t want to be a leader in closing down libraries and banning books,” said prime sponsor Sen. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia. 

The bill overwhelmingly passed both chambers of the Legislature, but heads back to the Senate for another vote because of an amendment made in the House. If the amendment is approved, the bill would head to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk to be signed into law.

A watchdog group reports that Washington’s public agencies are making it harder for the public to gain access to information, eroding the state’s Public Records Act. 

The Washington Coalition for Open Government, a group that pushes for public access to government information, released its report this week, revealing several key findings, including longer wait times for records than in previous years and an increase in exemptions in public records law.

The Coalition found that public officials and agencies often obstruct people requesting public information — for example, creating long administrative appeals for denials and imposing deadlines to pay fees before a requester can access records. Sometimes agencies take a lengthy time to respond to requests, or simply fail to respond altogether. 

Data from the report shows that requesters are waiting longer than in previous years to receive information: In 2019, people waited an average of 15 days, which increased to 23 days in 2022. 

Public officials are also becoming creative with ways to withhold public information, like using “legislative privilege” or releasing redacted and blacked-out documents in response to requests. None of the officials that violated the act were held accountable by the public records act. 

From 2012 to 2022, the list of exemptions for disclosing public records has increased more than 30%. 

The report also found that agencies also fail at maintaining and organizing records. The Coalition said agencies spend more time and money searching for documents due to this disorganization.

Not only is their document organization inadequate, but the Coalition found that staff members of these agencies are often improperly trained on how to handle public records. The training that public employees receive from the Office of the Attorney General creates bias and tilts them to favor nondisclosure over transparency, according to the report.

Recommendations from the study include making data accessible to people in a timely manner. They also ask for the government to act transparently and implement pro-transparency recommendations from the Attorney General’s Public Records Exemptions Accountability Committee. 

The crowd of Republicans seeking outgoing U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ seat in the 5th Congressional District is growing. The candidates come to the race with various levels of local, state and national government experience. 

McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, announced earlier this month she would not seek reelection after two decades in Congress. The 5th Congressional District covers 16,054 square miles in the easternmost part of the state and spans from Canada to the Idaho and Oregon borders. 

Among them is Spokane City Councilman Jonathan Bingle. A former pastor and founder/owner of the businesses Bent Trivia and Bent Events, he is a notable conservative in a City Council that recently elected progressives for mayor and Council president. 

Also running is State Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber. Maycumber, R-Republic, has represented the 7th Legislative District since 2017 and is the current House Republican Floor Leader.  

Ferry County Commissioner Brian Dansel also has filed documents with the Federal Election Commission. Dansel was appointed to the commissioner position in 2023 and also served in the position from 2010 to 2013, when he was elected to the Washington State Senate. Most recently, he worked in the Trump administration as a special assistant to former Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. 

Cathy McMorris Rodgers
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (U.S. House of Representatives)

Rene Holaday, a radio host and former aide to former State Rep. Matt Shea, also confirmed her candidacy on Radio Free Redoubt, a broadcast outlet that describes itself as an “emerging safe haven and refuge for God-fearing, Liberty-loving patriots.” 

Another Republican candidate is John Guenther, a retired state employee on another election run after running for U.S. Senate in 2022, placing fourth in the primary behind Sen. Patty Murray and Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley. Rounding out the Republican field is Anthony Jensen. 

The Republicans join Democratic candidates who earlier announced their campaigns: Ann Marie Danimus, Carmela Conroy, and Bernadine Bank. McMorris Rodgers has handily defeated Democratic opponents since her first Congressional election in 2004. Lisa Brown, former State Senator and Commerce director, came closest when she received 45% of votes in her loss to McMorris Rodgers in 2018. Brown recently started her first term as Spokane mayor.

Former Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward, whom Brown defeated in the general election in November, told The Spokesman-Review that she was considering joining the Congressional race. 

Hundreds of protesters gathered on the Capitol steps in Olympia on Tuesday afternoon to call for a ceasefire in Gaza and raise awareness of increased discrimination in Washington. 

The event was organized by the Washington Coalition for Peace and Justice, a coalition of Palestinian-Americans and allies working to enhance the lives of Palestinians across Washington.

No state legislators attended or spoke at the rally, sparking criticism from activists.

Although some Washington cities have passed ceasefire resolutions, including Seattle, Olympia and Bellingham, the Coalition is calling on the Washington Legislature to pass one at the state level, saying demonstrations like this are needed to pressure the federal government to do the same.

“I’m angry that we have to be here begging for the absolute bare minimum, which is to get the representatives, who swore to represent our interests, to say ceasefire,” author Ijeoma Oluo said.

Speakers also highlighted increased discrimination and hate crimes, as tensions between Israel and Palestine intensify. CAIR Washington reported receiving a staggering 2,171 complaints of Islamophobia since Oct. 7, while the Anti-Defamation League of the Pacific Northwest has seen over a 250% increase in antisemitic incidents since last year.

In this landscape, the Coalition says it will continue to promote legislation that protects their safety and freedom of speech and raise awareness about how the deaths of over 29,000 Palestinians in Gaza during the war with Israel have impacted their communities.

“Our communities face real threats and violence as evidenced by rising hate crimes nationally and locally,” the organization said in a media statement.

PNW filmmakers — want $40K to make a docuseries? Pitch to Origins

We’re looking for a local documentarian to tell regional Washington narratives for season three. You pitch the story, we’ll provide the funds.

audience watching discussion after screening at SIFF theater

Photos from the “Crosscut Origins: Refuge After War” screening at SIFF Uptown on February 28, 2023. (Photos by Michael McClinton/Crosscut)

Submissions for the next season of Cascade PBS’ Origins are now open. This is an opportunity for regional filmmakers to apply for funding to go toward a five-part short-form docuseries. The first season, “Refuge After War,” told the story of the parallel paths and shared experiences of Vietnamese and Afghan refugees resettling in our community. The second season, “Lost at SEA,” centers on the personal stories of growing up Black in Seattle. With submissions now open, we’re looking for season three. 
 
Each year, the stories told in Origins reflect the makeup of our region from an insider’s perspective: stories grounded in ancestry, connection, culture, influence and rootedness. Stories that reflect our place, values and people. In that spirit, the key requirement is that the filmmaker needs to be part of the community they are documenting (i.e., Indigenous stories told by Indigenous filmmakers, Latinx stories told by Latinx filmmakers, etc.). 
 
The winning project will be awarded $40,000 toward their production costs. Our Original Productions team will also support the filmmaker through the process. From identifying the project budget and talking through the concept all the way to scripting and editing, we are here to support and advise to ensure the project stays on track. 

This is a call for proposals from filmmakers of all experience levels. Submissions are open from February 14 to April 17, 2024. Whether you’re a budding director early in your career or a seasoned producer with years of experience, we invite all to submit pitches for our panel of judges to consider. We will announce the winner on opening night of the Seattle International Film Festival in May, an exciting way to kick off the project and get the filmmaker some early publicity.  
 
Join us for a screening of this year’s docuseries, Origins: Lost at SEA, on March 5, followed by a discussion with filmmaker Lady Scribe and key participants who shared their stories this season. 

WA lawmakers consider recognizing Lunar New Year holiday

Dancers wearing a traditional Chinese lion costume dance in a park.

The lion dance is performed by Mak Fai Lion and Dragon Dancers in Seattle’s Hing Hay Park on Feb. 4, 2023. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

Lunar New Year, one of the most important annual celebrations in many Asian cultures, could become recognized by Washington, as lawmakers consider a proposal to mark the holiday.

If passed, Washington would join California, Colorado, New York and New Jersey in recognizing the holiday at the legislative level. While Washington’s proposal would recognize the holiday, it wouldn’t make it an official state holiday.

The bill has passed the state House and is being considered in the Senate. Rep. My-Linh Thai, D-Bellevue, the bill’s main sponsor, emigrated with her family as refugees from Vietnam, which celebrates Tết. 

Bill sponsors say it is meant to honor the cultural traditions and contributions of the state’s Asian American communities, as well as acknowledge the discrimination and violence the communities still face. 

Lunar New Year is celebrated by East and Southeast Asian countries including China, Korea and Vietnam. Families celebrate the holiday by making offerings to honor their ancestors, exchanging red envelopes of money as gifts, lion dancing and other activities. 

The bill will not pass in time for this year’s Lunar New Year, which is Feb. 10. The start date of the Lunar New Year is based each year on the cycles of the moon and its duration varies by culture. 

Rep. Thai introduced similar legislation last year which would have made it a state legal holiday, but due to its price tag and lack of community support it fell through. Washington’s 11 paid state legal holidays include Juneteenth and Native American Heritage Day, and its 19 legislatively recognized days include Korean-American Day (Jan. 13), Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day (March 30), Cesar Chavez Day (March 31), Columbus Day (still an official federal holiday in October, but not an official state holiday) and others. 

Instead of a day off, the legislation advises government agencies and schools to celebrate Lunar New Year by creating programs and resources for their organizations. It passed in the House in January and is being considered in the Senate.

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, announced on Thursday that she will not seek reelection in Washington’s 5th District after 20 years in the seat.

McMorris Rodgers said in a statement that the time has come for her to find new ways to serve the people of Eastern Washington.

“After much prayer and reflection I’ve decided the time has come to serve them in new ways. I will not be running for re-election to the People's House,” she said in a statement released on Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (U.S. House of Representatives)
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (U.S. House of Representatives)

McMorris Rodgers is one of two Republicans among Washington’s 10 delegates in the House of Representatives. She represents Washington’s 5th Congressional District, which covers 16,053 square miles in the easternmost part of the state, spanning from Canada to Idaho and Oregon.

She was the sole no-vote in Washington’s Congressional delegation to impeach former President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection. The state’s other two Republican representatives at the time voted to impeach.

McMorris Rodgers was elected to her position in Congress in 2004, most recently serving as Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. She formerly was chair of the House Republican Conference from 2012 to 2018.

So far, three Democrats have started to raise money to run for the 5th District seat, according to the Federal Election Commission: Ann Marie Danimus, who has run for the seat before; Carmela Conroy, a former U.S. diplomat; and Bernadine Bank, a physician.

Late last year, U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, announced that he would not run for reelection. His seat has attracted several candidates.