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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 18, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 51
SGN exclusive interview: State Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, candidate for Congress
Section One
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SGN exclusive interview: State Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, candidate for Congress

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Everything you need to know about Brady Walkinshaw is summed up in a brief exchange from a much longer conversation I recently had with him. Walkinshaw is the young 43rd District representative who is challenging long-time incumbent Jim McDermott for his congressional seat.

'You must have made a good impression on your colleagues in Olympia,' I said. 'Thirteen of them have already endorsed you. Why do you think they like you so much?'

Walkinshaw smiled.

'That question doesn't lend itself to a very self-effacing answer,' he said.

'Congressmen aren't usually self-effacing,' I replied.

'Maybe they should be!' he exclaimed. 'Congress needs to be a place for self-effacing people. A good politician is someone who is a good partner. I don't like to go off and do things on my own. I like to build coalitions.'

Walkinshaw came to the State House in 2013, after then-Sen. Ed Murray was elected mayor of Seattle and Jamie Pedersen took Murray's Senate seat, leaving a vacancy in the House.

Walkinshaw quickly established himself as a trusted member of the Democratic caucus and scored a major triumph in February when he put together a bipartisan coalition to pass 'Joel's Law.'

Named for Joel Reuter, killed by a police sniper during a manic episode in 2013, the law makes it easier for family members to intervene and seek care for a mentally ill person. The shooting took place in Walkinshaw's Capitol Hill district, and he made the measure a priority for the 2015 session.

While Joel's Law illustrates Walkinshaw's ability to build coalitions, even with political rivals, he says he has no illusions that all progressive legislation can be passed on a bipartisan basis.

'There are two tracks to making progressive changes,' he told me. 'With some bills - mental health issues, even criminal justice reform - you can work on a bipartisan basis.

'But with other issues - a fair tax system or income inequality - you just have to win a majority and beat them. No Republican is going to be there for those things.'

Walkinshaw believes that Democrats can recapture a majority in the U.S. Congress, but not soon. 'It might take five or ten years,' he said.

And that's why he decided to take on the venerable Jim McDermott in 2016. Now 78, McDermott will be out of the picture by the time Democrats take back Congress, Walkinshaw argues. A younger candidate replacing McDermott now will have accumulated all-important seniority - maybe even a leadership position - in ten years, he says.

'Here's what excites me,' he says, leaning forward across the café table.

'Our LGBT representation in Congress is up to six or seven seats. But a lot of them are not deeply safe seats - like this one is. This seat is safe.

'So someone in this seat could be at the forefront of so many progressive issues. Trans health issues. Gender identity is one of the most important conversations at the federal level. Or youth suicide and homelessness.

'I'm committed heart and soul to this,' he added.

McDermott was one of only a handful of congressmembers to vote against the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Walkinshaw says he 'respects,' even 'admires,' McDermott for his stand, and he pledges to be equally steadfast in opposing new calls for military action in the region.

'My grandparents were Quakers,' he told me. 'My father missed the Vietnam draft by just a few weeks, but had he been drafted he told me he would have been a conscientious objector. I remember going to antiwar rallies when I was quite young. I'm there.'

'If you're elected, and in your first week on the job, President Hillary Clinton calls you and asks you to vote for an AUMF [authorization of the use of military force] to go after ISIS, how do you say no?' I asked.

'No,' Walkinshaw said simply, 'that's not where the district is.'

Another contentious federal issue is trade policy. As a Fulbright scholar and former Gates Foundation officer specializing in international food programs, Walkinshaw has a special interest in U.S. trade policy.

He is opposed to the giant Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal negotiated by the Obama administration.

'I spent time in urban slums in Honduras with communities that had been negatively impacted by [previous trade deals] NAFTA and CAFTA,' Walkinshaw explained.

'They cultivate conditions of instability. They enable drug gangs, and they lead to what we saw recently - the mass immigration of young people seeking safety in the U.S.

'Labor and environmental protections are not in place in the TPP. My professional life has been spent on economic development issues. I'd hate to see trade treaties sparking a race to the bottom.'

'It's time for the next progressive leader,' Walkinshaw said, summing up. 'Democrats win when we lead on issues, but the Democratic Party hasn't put forward a strong economic policy since the Reagan era.

'Our strategy should be to put out a compelling vision that people want, a vision of a society that we all want to live in.'

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