Community members gathered in the Seattle Central Public Library auditorium on July 14 to hear Pramila Jayapal, Joe McDermott, and Brady Walkinshaw debate their candidacy for Congress.
Jayapal is in her first term as state senator from the 37th Legislative District representing Southeast Seattle. McDermott is the King County Council Chair and has represented Vashon Island and West Seattle for six years. And Walkinshaw is in his first full term as a state representative from the 43rd Legislative District representing Capitol Hill and parts of Downtown Seattle.
Seattle City Club and the Downtown Seattle Association hosted the debate with moderators C.R. Douglas, a Q13 Fox News political analyst, and Essex Porter, a KIRO 7 News reporter.
Amid a largely undecided audience, the three candidates tried to differentiate themselves from each other despite their similar policies.
In her opening statement, Jayapal expressed her passion for immigration reform and racial justice, calling on her experience as an activist helping to create One America, formerly the Hate Free Zone, the largest immigrant rights advocacy organization after the September 11 attacks.
“I realize we need more of us in government representing regular working people across this country, across this district, across this state and that’s why I ran for Congress,” Jayapal said.
Joe McDermott called attention to his 10-year experience in the Legislature and 5-year experience serving on the King County Council. In the Legislature, he helped pass campaign finance reform, extended the light rail, and fought for marriage equality. He also noted his leadership on the council to support anti-gun violence policies and programs.
Brady Walkinshaw started off with his experience coming from a working class family and his dedication to providing the country with a more sustainable and nutritious food source. He drew on his track record in passing legislation on criminal justice, combating addiction, and addressing homelessness.
The first question of the night was not on the agenda until moments before when news broke of the terrorist attack in Nice, France. Porter said the reports at the hour of the debate were that 75 people had been killed when a large truck drove into a crowd of Bastille Day celebrators (later reports would confirm that 84 were killed).
“Each of our candidates came to this race with priorities on their minds, but the news can change those priorities and the priorities of voters,” Porter said.
In response, Walkinshaw called for an end to long-term military intervention abroad. He said, “We need to continue to acknowledge that ISIS is an incredible threat and at the same time be aware that a lot of actions we take abroad can have really negative implications over the long term.”
Jayapal called for building international coalitions along with investing in health, human services, jobs, and infrastructure in those countries where people are being recruited into terrorism so that they have other options.
McDermott held a similar view, calling to take the values of human rights we hold in the United States and to promote them abroad to reduce terrorist recruitment.
While on the subject of gun violence, all candidates stated that they would support a federal law that would require the FBI and Department of Justice to conduct investigations after every police shooting. All supported a ban of open carry and assault rifles across the state.
McDermott called these policies an “appropriate response” in the short term but also said that society needs to address institutional racism in the long term. He cited his commitment to gun control from the beginning with his work as the chair of the King County Board of Health.
Walkinshaw stated that criminal justice reform is one of his top priorities and is working now on legislation for this year’s ballot that will allow prosecution of officers in police shootings.
Jayapal drew on her “A-Plus” rating from the Washington Association for Gun Responsibility for her work with a child safety bill and called for action to lower the standard of proof to prosecute police officers.
All three candidates agreed with a $15 minimum wage. All candidates also expressed their concern about the housing crisis in Seattle as an immediate issue. They agreed on low barrier shelters and funding for the McKinney-Vento Act, which supports homeless students through their K-12 education, as part of the solution.
Both McDermott and Walkinshaw are running to serve on the transportation and infrastructure committees while Jayapal is running to serve on health care, transportation, and foreign policy.