A Plea. Local Politics and Money
This is quite a story, but it's long. The plea is to help out a great progressive candidate settle campaign debt. Think of this as an email version of GoFundMe .(Except this isn't "Me") Click here to donate.
I supported Naghmana Sherazi's candidacy for Spokane City Council, Position 1 of District 1 (NE Spokane, N of I-90, E of Division, i.e. Hillyard plus). This seat was just vacated by the hard right Mike Fagan. Fagan term limited out of the seat after two 4 year terms. However, do not conclude District 1 is all Matt Shea-style hard-right Republican. Consider that the other City Council seat from District 1 is occupied by Kate Burke, one of the most progressive voices on the City Council. (Kate was elected to her seat in 2917 over Tim Benn, an acolyte of Fagan, 4799 to 3430 votes.)
Spokane District 1, while containing nearly the same population, consistently lags the other two City of Spokane Districts in civic engagement in voting. For example, in this August's Primary election only slightly more than 9000 votes were cast in District 1 in contrast to roughly 16,000 and 18,000 in the other two districts. In District 1, even more so than the rest of Spokane, elections are determined by the level of voter motivation to actually cast a ballot.
I met Naghmana Sherazi at several local functions and fundraisers. She is bright, energetic, personable, and embedded in local community service organizations. (Click on her name above to read her bio.) I expected her story would resonate at the doorstep with registered voters who had been too discouraged or pre-occupied with making ends meet to participate in previous local primary elections. I knew she was committed to meeting as many of these voters as possible. Indeed, over the Primary campaign she knocked on over 6,000 doors. Kate Burke's success against Tim Benn for the other District 1 seat in 2017 offered a lot of hope.
So what happened?
Running for office is complicated, even on a local level. It requires attention to accounting detail, website development and management, fundraising, and hours and hours knocking on doors and talking with potential voters. Even local candidacy is not for the naive, disorganized, or faint of heart. With help and encouragement from Emerge Washington, a group dedicated to helping progressive women run for office, Naghmana filed with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) on March 14th.
Jerrall Haynes, a sitting member of the Spokane School District 81 School Board, filed with the PDC nine days later on March 23. Another progressive-leaning candidate with diversity credentials, Jerrall trailed Naghmana in fundraising (12K to Naghmana's 21K) but persisted in his candidacy. The local Democratic Party, faced with limited funds and two appealing candidates, stood back and waited for the results of the Primary.
Meanwhile, the two main Republican candidates for the District 1 seat, Michael Cathcart and Tim Benn, filed with the PDC on May 20 and May 29. two months after Naghmana and Jerrall. Benn is Mike Fagan's protege. Cathcart is a builder who, among other things, sits in on the Governmental Affairs Committee meetings of the Spokane Association of Realtors, the group whose "independent" PAC spent $9,615.78 in "independent" support of his candidacy.
The primary results?
Tim Benn 2,370
Michael Cathcart 2,121
Naghmana Sherazi 1,612
Jerrall Haynes 1,166
Benn activated Mike Fagan's far right base. Cathcart benefited by his connections with the Realtors (all perfectly legal and "independent", of course.). Naghmana and Jerrall awakened a bunch of disaffected voters by knocking on doors, turning out a lot of folks who ordinarily don't pay attention to the primaries. BUT: they split the progressive vote. Now District 1 has a choice between two Republican political insiders, one with the support of builders and the Realtors' PAC, the other with the support of the Matt Shea-allied far right. It is a sad choice delivered to the General Election ballot.
I saw Naghmana again at a PJALS function last week. She remains enthusiastic about her efforts and sounds wants to remain engaged, but her campaign is $6000 in debt (not yet reflected on the PDC website). A single wealthy donor cannot swoop in and pay off this debt, even if one were available. By law, the maximum any one individual can contribute to a candidate for the Primary is $500. Unlike a Michael Cathcart or an Andrew Rathbun (see P.S. below), Naghmana cannot afford to self-fund the campaign debt. She is a single mother of a teenager, living in an apartment. Her full time position as the Office Manager and Community Coordinator for the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Gonzaga yields gross pay of $36,000 a year. She holds a Masters Degree and is working on a Ph.D.
I want this Naghmana's political enthusiasm to live on to run another day. I want her creditors to be made whole in a timely fashion without her paying the debt out of her wages. I encourage you to donate what you can here or send a check made out to People for Naghmana and send it to People for Naghmana, 8711 N. Colton St., Apt C, Spokane, WA 99218. (Donations to political campaigns are not deductible.)
I personally lack the temperament and fortitude to run for office. That makes it more important for me to support good people who have those qualities and share my values, people like Naghmana, with the skills to be effective and the enthusiasm and faith in our governmental processes to step forward and run.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. Read of the Rathbun shenanigans here. He has contributed 29K to his own campaign. He already used his personal wealth to break open the campaign cash box for Nadine Woodward's mayoral campaign--before he shifted and settled in to oppose Karen Stratton in District 3 (NW Spokane). Rathbun is a Spokane landlord who (like Cathcart, Woodward, and Wendle) is supported by the mega-expenditures of the WA Realtors PAC. ("independent" expenditures...of course)
P.P.S. Naghmana was born in Pakistan and grew up in Karachi. She has six brothers and sisters. Her dad was a commercial airline pilot whose position afforded Naghmana and her siblings the chance to see some of the world. She moved permanently to the United States in 2008. She embarked on her City Council campaign less than a year after she became a naturalized citizen of the U.S., exhibiting a level of civic enthusiasm few U.S. natives possess.