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PubliCola No-Brainer Endorsement #30: Joe Fitzgibbon

Thu, Oct 7, 2010

State Rep., 34th District, Position 2: PubliCola picks Joe Fitzgibbon

In the last few months, 34th district House candidate Joe Fitzgibbon has gotten a lot of support from local progressive bastions like the Sierra Club, Fuse, the Washington Bus, and Progressive Majority. He even got several shoutouts this morning, in fact, at the Washington Conservation Voters breakfast fundraiser, where just about every Seattle progressive was on hand.

Progressives adore Fitzgibbon because of his super-informed opinions on progressive issues, which he picked up during his time as a legislative aide to progressive coalition leader state Rep. Sharon Nelson (D-34) (who got the WCV Legislator of the Year at this morning’s breakfast, by the way, and name-checked Fitzgibbon during her acceptance speech as one of two important men in her life.)

Fitzgibbon has pledged to reintroduce the vulnerable users bill, imposing harsher sentences on drivers who strike pedestrians or cyclists; push a bill taxing companies that pollute waterways with hazardous substances; and he says he’ll try to pass a bill forcing “limited-service pregnancy centers” to disclose the exact services they provide (for example, anti-choice rhetoric, instead of abortions).

His supporters are also excited by the Fitzgibbon paradox of youth and experience—at the age of 24, Fitzgibbon already chairs the planning commission in Burien, arguing for shoreline protection against irritable residents, and worked with Nelson to limit the predatory practices of payday lenders like Moneytree—overdue legislation in Olympia.

We, too, like Fitzgibbon’s policy-paper brains and 21st century agenda. (Here’s our primary endorsement.) But what we really like about his candidacy is this: He’s created an identifiable constituency of activists, environmentalists, and progressives who want action. Constituencies hold politicians accountable. Too often, sleepy legislators are sent to Olympia from Seattle’s 100 percent blasé Democratic base. Yes, we’re confident they’ll vote the right way on choice or whatever, but we hardly give them a defined mandate, or any backup.

We think a strong progressive constituency will empower Fitzgibbon to get right to work on his to-do list (which also includes support for tax reform a la a state income tax and a value-added tax.)

In our endorsement interview, Fitzgibbon said the most valuable lesson he learned while working under Rep. Nelson was to gather like-minded legislators under a shared idea. “Persuasion is less of the equation,” Fitzgibbon says. “You have to mobilize allies and stakeholders.”

Consider us mobilized, Joe. But also consider us stakeholders. You’ve revved us up. Now you’re accountable.

We don’t have much to complain about with regard to Fitzgibbon’s opponent, Mike Heavey, an aide to County Council Member Jan Drago. In fact, Heavey lines up with PubliCola on one of our big editorial issues—education reform. Heavey’s been outspoken, arguing for holding teachers more accountable. Here, Heavey departs most starkly from Fitzgibbon, who’s in lockstep with the Democratic/teachers’ union establishment. We applaud Heavey for siding with ed reformers on these tough issues. As Heavey said in our endorsement interview, “It comes down to the teachers union, and they’re really uncomfortable with using students’ growth data.”

That said, this one is another PubliCola “No-Brainer.” Fitzgibbon’s given voters a real opportunity to up the ante in Olympia: Seattle liberals, all in.

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