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"The people are not being listened to": Nicolaus Sleister on his run for US Senate

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Photo courtesy of Citizens for Nicolaus Sleister
Photo courtesy of Citizens for Nicolaus Sleister

The Senate is full of career politicians with largely unchallenged incumbency. It is no small task to attempt to replace them.

Pierce County local Nicolaus Sleister does not have a background in politics but is planning to run for US Senate. He discontented with the corporate status quo of campaign influence and contradictory stakes. Though he works in corporate security, he aspires to garner political influence via community funding.

Over a Zoom call, I chatted with him about his platform, goals, and burgeoning political aspirations.

Photo courtesy of Citizens for Nicolaus Sleister  

Nick Rapp: When did you first get involved with politics? What was your political awakening?

Nicolaus Sleister: My political awakening was when George Floyd was killed. I kept thinking about my husband and my son and the kind of the things that my husband's already gone through here in Washington — being targeted by some of the county sheriff's deputies and stuff like that out here [in Pierce County]...

I had just missed the filing date [for the county board]. ...I think it was just kind of a sign that I missed that because... my mother-in-law... was like, "Why don't you run for the Senate? These are the things that you're wanting to work toward. You can impact more by being in the Senate." I started looking into that and realized that Patty Murray hasn't had a challenger — or a strong challenger — in 30 years. And in those 30 years, she's done some questionable things.

I've watched the presidential campaigns. I was very involved with that, but [in terms of] learning exactly what I wanted to run on the platform, I knew I wanted to run on racial justice and police reform. But what else was there? I added in Gay marriage, because that was one thing that impacted me and my husband. ...We were impacted on two different sides: the side of the Supreme Court ruling and then also Obama removing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

And I realized that a lot of people were impacted, from the time the Defense of Marriage Act was signed all the way to when the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. But just like we've seen with abortion, they are willing to change that, especially with the conservative justices. And right now, we don't have a law in place that protects our community.

NR: Who are some of the politicians that inspire you?

NS: I was a huge fan of Pete Buttigieg. I really liked his policies, his way of thinking, his speaking, and his qualifications. He was one of the people that inspired me most. At the time we were [living] in Indiana, [Buttigieg's campaign] was ramping up. And from there it was just watching him going from mayor to presidential candidate, which I would never have done. I jumped in with no political experience to the US Senate, but the presidency is a whole different thing. So, I applaud him on that. But he was the biggest push, along with Amy Klobuchar... and Elizabeth Warren.

I am for Medicare for all. I want to cancel student debt. There's a whole bunch of things that I'm realizing are impacting more and more people, especially now. And once I started diving in, once I got running, it really opened my eyes to how many inequities and inequalities are in our communities and [their] impact [on] the people here in Washington that are being ignored.

NR: Your platform is strongly rooted in ending corporate politics. What does that look like to you?

NS: So, the end of corporate politics is getting corporations completely out of politics. So that means changing campaign finance laws to where they cannot donate at all: they can't create PACs... their executive officers can't donate to political campaigns. Because right now, you've got CEOs and corporations putting in millions of dollars into campaigns and influencing our policies... you've got multiple pharmaceutical companies donating to Patty [Murray], you've got the Koch brothers donating to Tiffany Smiley. I'm waiting on the FEC filings to come out for this last quarter.

I'm curious, now that we're ramping up into this campaign season, how much money has actually been pushed by these corporations and [Big] Pharma. We're not going to get Medicare for all or the Green New Deal with these companies continuously putting money into politics.

Not only that, it's about the people. And right now, the people are not being listened to — nobody's being heard over corporations. I mean, we've got Facebook, Tesla, Amazon, Boeing — all these giant corporations are just throwing money into our politics, and they're not even paying their fair share in taxes. So why should they even have a voice in our politics if they're not going to contribute to the growth of the country?

NR: How do you think having a younger crowd would influence the Senate?

NS: Just take the Build Back Better plan, for example. The plan is to build roads and bridges and infrastructure. But we're looking at it in terms of what we have right this second, not what we could have. And to me, infrastructure and climate change go hand in hand, because if we don't use environmentally friendly products to build our roads, if we do what we did last time and then just let it degrade as we have, we'll continue to go through the same cycles. We'll have wildfires that are caused by our infrastructure. The Sumner Grade fire down here that evacuated part of Sumner and Bonnie Lake — that was caused by a transformer that blew, that was on the ground.

So, if we work on building our infrastructure in a better way, in a more environmentally friendly way, in a safer way for our environment and our people — we can do that. But with our current stance, they're thinking of the solutions of yesterday and not the solutions of tomorrow. And the younger generation is looking toward the future.

NR: I know police accountability is a big-ticket item you're pushing for. What do you think are the most important changes to the training and reforming of police forces in the US that are needed?

NS: The biggest... is, one, making sure that we have the right people getting these jobs. And that is making sure that we do testing and training [for] anti-bias and [with] polygraphs. We can't stop everything [bad]. I'm not going to say we will, but I think we can dramatically reduce it, and we can teach many who may just be ignorant on how to actually be a human being and not a power figure — to see the entire community as a whole. So: training and testing and more thorough background checks.

But also, we need to increase the training of police officers to two years at a minimum. We're not going to hand a doctor a scalpel after two months of training and say, "Here you go." And we shouldn't be handing a police officer gun or a badge two months after training and say, "Here you go." Even if it's six months, that's not long enough. We're putting our lives in the hands of our surgeons, and we're holding them accountable. We should be holding the police accountable as well.

NR: You've mentioned that there should be some reallocation of funds. What would your ideal reallocation look like?

NS: Reallocation of funds is pushing money toward our communities to invest in their actual development. For example, a study came out last year that took place in Seattle and Portland that showed that the areas that were historically redlined were, during the heat wave last year, still much hotter because of the lack of parks, greenery, and natural shade that is provided and the amount of pavement that we have around them.

So, investing in our communities to make them more accessible for children and our communities to actually play in. Also, investing in these will help lower temperatures [and] save people's lives, because here in Washington, [air conditioning] is not a common thing in a household, it's not standard.

We also need to invest in community programs... even sports and other things, to help drive our communities in a positive way rather than saturating them with police. I feel that saturating a community with police is only going to increase crime, because now you're insinuating that most people in this community or these communities are criminals, and 99% of them are not.

NR: Do you have any upcoming campaign events that you're excited about?

NS: We're working on campaign events, but I've been out in the community the last couple of weekends trying to gather signatures [to get] on the ballot. I need 2,500 signatures. It's a little difficult right now, but we're getting there. We have alternate plans to find ways to get on the ballot.

And I host a town hall every other Saturday at 4:00 p.m. My goal there is for people to have an opportunity to come online, so they don't have to go anywhere, and they have access to ask me questions. I'm an open book. I'm willing to answer questions. I'm willing to learn from the community, especially what issues are impacting them... I also have times on Sundays that individuals can book on my website for a one-on-one for 25 minutes.

I'm going [with] the approach that I believe in, which is that people come first, and the people should be listened to.