Q&A with State Rep. Brady Walkinshaw (D - Seattle)

Brady Walkinshaw has represented the 43rd Legislative District in the State House since 2014, after spending most of the previous decade  in a number of different roles, serving as an AmeriCorps volunteer in a public school in New Jersey, studying as a Fulbright Scholar in Honduras, and working on issues of food security in Ethiopia and Brazil. He finished second in the August primary to advance to the November general election. 

Q: On primary night, you’re sitting in third place. What’s going through your mind at that point?

Walkinshaw: Our campaign made far and away the fastest gains in our votes over the course of July. I went into the race as the most unknown candidate, and we bounced in our polls by almost 20 points, about 15 points going into the Aug. 2 primary, so I knew when we were 580 votes down on election night, I knew that a lot of younger voters would be voting late, we knew that a lot of progressive voters would also be voting later, so when those numbers came out we were obviously anxious, but I also had cause for optimism.

Q: How do you keep that momentum going toward November?

Walkinshaw: We’re in a great spot. I think the most important thing, I think this is what’s so great about this race, is we’re in a great position I think to continue that growth curve. Still, our name ID, voters are just starting to get to know me, they’re starting to learn about my vision, and my vision is really based on four key things. It’s a vision of delivering and putting our environment and our climate first. Our campaign has put environment and climate issues on the map in this race from the very very beginning. The second is my style of leadership, which I think as people start to look at the results that I’ve delivered working in the legislature, it’s a contrast with my opponent. Whether it’s significant reforms for our mental health system, our criminal justice system, picking up the issue of opiates and chemical dependency, issues around housing and transit. These are issues that I’ve worked on and delivered in divided government, and I think that’s what people want. I think our district would like to have a workhorse that is dedicated to the issues that we face in our community, and that’s what a legislator is. We want a legislator that responds to our needs in the community.

Q: For someone looking at this race broadly, they may feel that the district has already decided they want another progressive democrat. How do you go about differentiating yourself in a race of progressive democrats?

Walkinshaw: Let’s just start with the obvious: We have two progressive democrats running for this seat. And I think that once we decide that, we agree on the need to expand Social Security, we agree on the need to stand up strongly and boldly to protect women’s reproductive rights and stand for gender pay equity, we agree. Here’s what makes us different: I have a track record of delivering in the legislature that has led to real results in our community. And we can go down those lists, but those have been issues of criminal justice reform, mental health reform, chemical dependency, tough issues that I’ve been able to work through divided government. And the way that I’ve done that is by working together. I’ve been able to get support from Democrats and Republicans alike to make progress. The second is climate and the environment. That differentiates us. Climate and the environment would be my top priority, I think that if our generation, and I think that if we as a community don’t respond to and tackle the warming climate, we won’t have a future, and I think the opportunity to shift to a low carbon economy is a huge opportunity. The third thing that makes us different is, from the beginning, I have talked about the need for a member of Congress to think about how our own community in Seattle and how federal policy can make our home more equitable but also support economic growth, and that’s something I really believe, whether that’s funding a good transit system and accelerating the delivery of light rail, whether that’s securing funding for the replacement of the Ballard Locks, whether that’s cleaning up the Puget Sound, those are issues that we need a Congress member who’s going to be able to deliver on.

Q: You’ve been at this for about nine months now, what do you feel you’ve learned over the course of the campaign?

Walkinshaw: A couple things. One is I have been so excited by the enthusiasm by so many of the supporters behind our campaign. I think that our message, which is about leadership with the courage to work together and the belief that we need less fighting in politics and frankly more winning on progressive values, that has carried, and I think that that reflects how I approach the political process. It reflects why I’ve had the endorsements of dozens of my colleagues in the state legislature, it reflects the record that I bring to the table, and I believe that that record and that experience and that ability to deliver progressive results is what distinguishes me, and also I think our focus on the environment and our climate. And that’s the other thing I’ve learned. I’ve learned that our district cares so deeply, I’ve been excited to find that my passion around climate and environment is widely shared in the Seventh Congressional District of Washington State. We want to elect a climate leader.

Q: Is there anything that has surprised you about the issues that are at the forefront of people’s minds?

Walkinshaw: You know, there are a set of everyday issues that we’re struggling with here in the central Puget Sound. Issues like homelessness, funding for education, gridlock in our transportation system, lack and the failure of the federal government to adequately fund our mental health system. And when we feel those everyday concerns here, sometimes we forget that the source of those concerns has frankly been a federal government that’s been systematically divesting in its support to local communities. I believe that we need a federal government that reinvests, that recommits to funding mental health, a federal government that recommits to funding public education, a federal government that recommits to playing a role in local development, and I think that’s something that through the course of my lifetime has changed, basically since the beginning of the Reagan administration, but I believe that we need a federal government that delivers locally again, and responds to the equity issues, the social justice issues, the economic development issues, that we face in cities today in America.

Q: The big news a couple of weeks ago was that Joe McDermott decided to back your campaign. Where do you feel you overlapped with him on the main issues and how do you court those voters now?

Walkinshaw: We were thrilled to have Joe McDermott’s endorsement. I actually think it’s incredibly telling to spend so much time with your two opponents in a race, and then have the other opponent come around and endorse you. I think that speaks to my ability to build bridges, even when I’m competing with people in a race, which speaks to my core values of bringing people together. Councilmember McDermott did a great job at putting at the forefront of this race issues of campaign finance reform and gun responsibility. And he challenged the rest of us not to accept funding from independent expenditures, which on behalf of Sen. Jayapal, she received over six figures in independent expenditures in the primary ... I offered to support Joe’s effort to put in place a people’s pledge on this campaign to keep out outside spending. I offered to do that in the primary, but that wasn’t agreed to, so I think that Councilmember McDermott brought very important issues the forefront of the race, and I’m thrilled to be working with him hand and hand as we go into the general.

Q: Obviously, you’re aiming to replace someone that’s been in Congress almost three decades. How do you assuage the concern of voters on either side that whoever they elect won’t have that kind of clout or experience in Washington D.C.?

Walkinshaw: Congress, as is the State House, there’s 435 members. You create change over the longterm, and Congressman McDermott built up 28 years of seniority in the U.S. House and in the last six years of his tenure there was able to make really important changes to our country’s foster care system because of that seniority and his role of the Subcommittee Chair of the Health Care Committee on Ways and Means. I see this congressional seat as an opportunity for all of us as a community to elect someone who will work hard for their constituents over the long term and be in a position for our community to really shape our own development, not just in two, four years but 10-15 years down the road, so that when we do have major needs from the federal government here at home, whether it’s rapid rail expansion, whether it’s looking at the replacement of the Ballard Locks, whether it’s thinking about how we get federal funds for the Duwamish cleanup, those are issues that we need someone who’s gonna stay the course, and do the work, to deliver back home.


Q: What would the first 100 days in office look like for you?

Walkinshaw: Well, the first 100 days on my end would be supporting the first days of the next President of the United States, Hillary Clinton. I think I would do the first thing that I did when I came into the state house, which I think has made me effective in the state legislature, which is to start building relationships not just with my own colleagues, but reach across the aisle to people who may not always agree with me, to start building bridges, because I think that’s is the kind of leadership that’s allowed me to pass legislation like Joel’s Law, which changed our mental health system. It’s what’s allowed me to pass legislation like the Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity, which has opened up hundreds of thousands of jobs in this great state to people with convictions in their past. It’s whats allowed me to forge progress on opiate addiction in Washington State by working across the aisle. So I think that that is what I would do in the first 100 days, is start investing in those relationships which in the short term can even start to yield results. There is a mental health bill sitting in Congress right now, which is bipartisan, Congressman Jim McDermott worked on it a great deal and actually it contains elements on the mental health reform work that I did in here Washington State, so I would love to support the passage of that mental health reform omnibus, which is sitting in Congress right now, and continue to support efforts of that nature. I also would be join the Congressional Progressive Caucus, I would join efforts of the Congressional Climate Caucus, where I believe we need more leadership as well from a place like Seattle. So I think that’s what it would look like.

Q: What do you feel you learned as the 43rd Rep. as part of the larger 7th Congressional District?

Walkinshaw: When you represent the 43rd District in Washington State, the 43rd District is the most progressive district in Washington State, so there’s 49 districts, the 43rd’s the most progressive. There’s a lot in common between the 43rd to our state, to what the 7th Congressional District can be for our country.  It’s the center of a really important economic hub, it’s the core of Seattle, it represents higher education institutions, it represents hospitals, it represents incredible research facilities, it’s also been the source leadership on strong progressive values. I think it’s important that as a leader from the 7th Congressional, I would see my challenge to be, how do I serve my constituents and our values, and work over the short and the long term to stand for those values nationally so that those values can move into the main stream? And a perfect example of that is putting a federal price on carbon. That is a value that we share in the 7th Congressional District of Washington. We would like to see a federal price put on carbon, and the challenge for our next member of Congress should be, how can we take something that’s not in the national mainstream today, and say we need to put a federal price on carbon and take decisive action on climate and the environment. The same is true around standing up for reproductive justice and reproductive rights. Those are values that we share deeply here in the 7th Congressional, and we need leadership that’s going to move those into the mainstream nationally.

Q: Besides the scope of going from State House to House of Representatives, what do yo use as the similarities and differences of that body, and how do you see your experience helping you as you make that transition.

Walkinshaw: I think that some of the same approaches are ones that I would employ, I would employ in Congress. A legislative body, it’s about collaboration, and it’s about leadership with the courage to work with others and be able to build the relationships that actually moves things forward, and that’s how I have been able to make progress and deliver a legislative record that is quite distinct from my opponent’s in the last three years in Olympia, is because I’ve been able to work effectively with others and move legislation forward across a range of issues from health care to reproductive rights to transportation, and that’s about building bridges, that’s the same that I would take in Congress. There’s 435 members in Congress, and I think effective leaders are those who are able to find common ground and able to stitch together really good policy through a legislative process.

Q: There's two months between now and Election Day, and 40 percent of those voting in the primary didn't vote for you or your opponent. How do you go about courting those voters in the general?

Walkinshaw: A couple of things. One, 196,000 voted in the primary election. The general electorate will likely be over 400,000, so you have twice as many people voting in the general electorate. I am really excited about this race because what we’re going to see over the next 10-11 weeks is the chance to have a really substantive debate about what a member of Congress representing this community can do for the country and also what we need partnership back on here locally. So that’s what the next 11 weeks look like for us, it looks like knocking on tens of thousands of doors, it looks like having good substantive issue based debates about our leadership and what we can do, and the last and most important is about getting out our message. And our message is we need a leader on climate from our home and that’s why I’m running for Congress. We need a leader who has the courage and the ability to work with others to actually deliver meaningful legislative results, which is my record, and we need a leader who will be able to put forward a strong Northwest progressive agenda for what our future looks like here in the Northwest, and what it means to have a strong effective federal partner to realize that.

Q: We’ll end with this. In 30 seconds, what is your pitch to the people of the 7th District?

Walkinshaw: The leadership that I will bring for our community, working hand in hand with our community, will allow us to move forward very important environment and climate legislation in the future, and I firmly believe that we need that federal partner who’s going to work to make our community more equitable, continue to be economically vibrant, to be more just, and that can come by a strong effective federal partner who’s able to work locally.


For more information on Walkinshaw's campaign, visit www.bradywalkinshaw.com