First up in our candidate Q-and-As: Zachary DeWolf (District 3), Melissa Hall (District 6) and Christopher Peguero (District 2).
What did running for office teach you about your district and its constituents?
DeWolf: “I am reminded of one of my favorite James Baldwin quotes: ‘I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for that reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.’ I got this intriguing sense that whether, for example, people had compassionate or even sometimes harmfully problematic views on homelessness, deep down every single person had a love for this city. The work of a leader is harnessing all that energy into something good for our neighborhoods, our district, and our city.”
Hall: “I was impressed by how kind and how well informed people where whenever I talked to Seattleites.”
Peguero: “I learned how incredibly important addressing the issues of economic disparity, gentrification, displacement and environmental crisis is for our communities as the cost of living continues to grow in our city and district. Also, in order for our black/indigenous and communities of color, immigrant and refugee, limited English proficient and low income communities to thrive and prosper in place, we must work collectively together regardless of default divisive political processes. Our communities cannot afford any other alternative.”
What did you learn about Seattle?
DeWolf: “Running merely reinforced what I learned during my successful [Seattle School Board] run in 2017: We have an enormously diverse and incredible district both in terms of our neighbors and our geography. There are unique characters and a lot of hills. And it’s a very progressive district — though people want to see the progress part of that word more in our leaders’ actions. The best part about Democracy Vouchers, too, was how many new people we encouraged to get involved in local politics. Though, at almost 50% turn out, we can do better. People forget: Government is merely what we all agree to do together. But people lead busy lives, whether because they have more than one job, they have kids, they have family or friends, or they just haven’t ever seen their government work for them.”
Hall: “That this is the first place I have lived where I can run for office and not have my personal life be an issue, well except for that one email about using my kid as an election prop.”
Peguero: “I learned that growing economic disparity is making our city more conservative. Our city really needs to address racial disparity in a meaningful and transformative way.”
If you had the chance to do your campaign over again, would you do anything different to make it into the general?
DeWolf: “I never wavered from my values, I didn’t pander or change my ideas based on the audience, and I was authentic and spoke from my heart and from my years of serving my community: I raised a lot of resources in the shortest amount of time, I knocked on more than 10,000 doors, received a long list of endorsements, and I met neighbors from all across our district — putting my blood, sweat, and tears into this race. So, no, I wouldn’t change a thing. I wasn’t meant to make it this time — and for me, I always think about young people, especially other young queer people or young Native kids out there: you stay true to who you are, you fight like hell for what you believe in, and win or lose, at least you put yourself out there. When you fall, you get right back up with your head high and keep leaving the world better than you found it. Even more, the countless messages of support, from other queer people or young people who never voted who humbled me by saying I inspired them in some way, is reward enough for me right now.”
Hall: “Taken out a personal loan for the campaign early on because the approval cycle for democracy vouchers made everything more fraught.”
Peguero: “Start earlier, have enough resources to work part time or not at all (that's getting harder to do in an increasingly expensive city for working families), get key endorsements early, door knock, door knock, door knock!”
Would you consider running for office again?
DeWolf: “We have 4,280 students experiencing homelessness in Seattle Public Schools. And students in our schools are smart as hell — they tell us that they are concerned about a world that needs to dramatically and adequately address the climate crisis as it narrows the horizon on their future. If our electeds can’t commit to the seven generations principle — that what we do now must have positive and sustainable impacts for today and seven generations into the future — then damn right! Our futures are on the line. For now, I’m going to continue doing what the more than 124,000 people in 2017 elected me to do: make sure we’re bringing high quality education to every child so that they may reach their full potential.”
Hall: “Oh, probably not. It is hugely validating to know I can, but that doesn't mean I should. I am not great at being a public person and some people will never see me as a legitimate Seattleite. A deep passion for city governance and land use law is not really enough to be elected and not having the physical ability to knock on a lot of doors and show up everywhere probably means I can't do what people expect of a candidate. But I got to do a thing I didn't think would ever be possible for me and fulfilling a dream is nothing to regret.”
Peguero: “Yes! I feel that I have a lot to offer from life (full-time working social justice/environmentalist, Latinx and Indigenous queer dad of two) and work experience as a public servant - I'd like to consider it again!”
This is the first of several candidate exit interview Q&As that will run in the Crosscut Elections newsletter. Stay tuned for more dispatches over the next several weeks.