Jeanne Kohl-Welles

The Stranger: The Stranger’s Endorsements for the November 5, 2019, General Election

By: The Stranger Election Control Board

King County Council member Jeanne Kohl-Welles was a solid Democrat during her 20 years in Olympia, and she’s voted the way we’ve wanted since being elected to the county council in 2015. Her opponent, Abigail Doerr, claims we need new energy in this county council seat, too, but the SECB is a little confused by Doerr’s claims. More on that in a moment.

In her first term, Kohl-Welles spearheaded countywide legislation on just cause evictions, proposed a renters commission, launched an affordable childcare task force, and proposed a law requiring the county executive to create a green jobs strategy. She and her council colleague Rod Dembowski have also introduced legislation to speed up the process for converting King County Metro’s buses to a zero-emission, carbon-neutral fleet.

Kohl-Welles has also found creative legislative ways to lower transit costs for the most vulnerable. As someone with a spot on the budget committee (rare for a council member in their first term), this year Kohl-Welles added a proviso that creates an income-based fare, which would “amount to zero fare for a lot of people,” she told the SECB. (Kohl-Welles also cosponsored legislation that restructured Metro’s fare-enforcement practices in ways that basically led to fewer instances of harassment of homeless people.)

Doerr, her opponent, is the former advocacy director at Transportation Choices Coalition and a former legislative assistant to Seattle City Council member Sally Bagshaw. We liked a lot of what she had to say. Her campaign is all about improving transit and fighting climate change. She knows something about both, having run the successful campaign for Sound Transit 3 and the sadly unsuccessful campaign for last year’s statewide carbon fee initiative. But if Doerr is thinking she’s going to get bigger stuff done, she didn’t show us how she was going to do that. She says she wants to make transit free and force big employers to provide ORCA cards to their employees. So do we! But Doerr didn’t have an answer when we asked her how, specifically, she could get it done as one of nine legislators on the council.

When we asked Doerr how she typically achieves her political aims, she said she’s always engaged in “coalition building.” She takes the “yes, and” approach. She didn’t say she was going to pack the council with protesters or engage in other sorts of messy, movement-style politicking, which is the only way major progressive change happens on that council. That was disappointing.

So were some baldly ageist swipes Doerr made against Kohl-Welles during our endorsement meeting, apparently thinking the SECB would blindly march behind Doerr just because she’s younger.

In her first term on the council, Kohl-Welles didn’t disappoint. She’s a seasoned legislator with a long track record of helping the most vulnerable, and she knows the 10,000 tricks you need to know and the 10,000 people you need to know in order to move legislation through county government. Doerr has a bright future, but we can’t get behind her on this one. Vote Kohl-Welles.

For the full list of endorsements and the full article, click here.

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