A crowd of liberal, tipsy youth gathered Monday to evaluate candidates in one of the most politically active districts in the state.
The young, loud and progressive of Legislative District 36 gathered for beer, laughter and very little standing room at Belltown’s Spitfire Monday evening to scrutinize candidates for the 36th LD’s Candidate Forum, hosted by The Stranger.
The six candidates battled it out “Weakest Link” game show-style for a district that hasn’t elected a Republican since the early 1980s. The district, which includes Magnolia, Phinney Ridge, Queen Anne and parts of Ballard, Belltown, Greenwood and Fremont, holds the highest number of registered voters in the state.
The forum was co-hosted by retiring incumbent Mary Lou Dickerson, who has held the seat for the past 18 years.
“We’re in an urban center, we have people who really care about politics, who understand how important it is to get involved,” Dickerson said. “It also helps that we got a lot of young candidates who can get their people out.”
Most candidates seemed to bring their A-game as they debated a range of policy issues—income tax, gay rights and sustainability included. At the end of each round of issue discussion, people in attendance text messaged their votes among the respective candidates.
The first round of text voting eliminated Gael Tarleton, who serves as Port of Seattle commissioner and raised an impressive $20,000 in just two days.
“I was sort of surprised she got out so early,” said attendee Jim Guerber. “I sort of thought of her as a front runner.”
Guerber came in support of Noel Frame, who is head of Progressive Majority of Washington state. Monday evening she advocated for strong public education, citing it as her biggest policy issue.
By the end of the night, Guerber was impressed with the others, too.
“If you’re a voter in the 36th, you’ve got a tough choice to make,” he said.
When the topic of gay rights came up, Evan Clifthorne was questioned about his work as former aid to Paul Shinn, a Democrat who voted against same-sex marriage. At the forum he strongly expressed that he supported same-sex marriage.
“I’ll say right off the bat, just because I worked for somebody who disagreed with me on this policy does not mean those are my views,” he said.
Sahar Fathi was the last candidate standing at the end of the night. Fathi, 28, has gained attention for her accomplishments at a relatively young age and for her potential to become the first Iranian-American woman to serve in any state legislature. At the forum, she advocated for poverty alleviation and racial equality issues.
Her popularity among the largely 20s and 30s crowd was also apparent—yet Alice Woldt and Pat McCoy, two folks from the 60s-and-up generation, were also listening carefully.
“There are areas of this district that are not as progressive as they are and not as young,” Woldt said. “There are quite a few elderly people who live in the district with different priorities.”
Both liked Fathi’s energy, but agreed that alternative issues, such as Social Security may be more important for the 36th’s senior population.
“There are quite a few elderly people who live in the district who are excellent voters,” Woldt said. “They have different priorities.”
Attendee Garrett Baker said that impressing every attendee was an impossible task.
“The candidates have to be very knowledgeable,” he said. “This district is well-educated and well-versed on the issues—they’ve got to speak in depth about what they care about.”