Previously I interviewed Wesley Irwin via Skype but the next day my computer died and I have yet to recover my work.
In the meantime, I sent Mr. Irwin the same questions I had asked him during our interview and to follow is his response to my questions.
- Why did you decide to run for the office of Washington State House Representative and take on incumbent Ruth Kagi who has held the office for 18 years?
I decided to run for office because I couldn’t sit by and watch my 32nd LD representative, Ruth Kagi, continue to vote against the interests of public school children and teachers. Rep. Kagi has run without a Democratic Party challenger in 8 elections, every one until this one. I am happy to be a progressive challenger (Berniecrat) who will fight to fully fund public education in Washington State by rolling back corporate tax cuts and tax cuts for the wealthy, which accounts for nearly 36 billion dollars in lost revenue for our state each year. This is roughly 4 times what we need to adequately fund Public Education for the entire state. Whether I win or not, progressive solutions to the education funding crisis must be discussed and so far our campaign is doing a great job of educating people about the issues and providing progressive alternatives to the status quo.
- Members of the 32nd Democratic Legislative District did not endorse Ruth Kagi which is rare for an incumbent. Why do you think that happened?
Ruth Kagi and I received a tie vote at the 32nd legislative district endorsement meeting (29-29), resulting in “no endorsement” of her candidacy. This shows the power of speaking the truth in local politics. My campaign was able to rally democrats around the idea of creating class sizes of 16 instead of 32, paying teachers a living wage, ending “stress testing”, and building hundreds of new schools while hiring an additional 1,000 teachers across the state. There was also a lot of opposition to Kagi’s vote for charter schools, which is in opposition to the Washington State Democratic Party platform as well as the Washington State Constitution, according to the Washington State Supreme Court (McCleary decision). Kagi did not request feedback from the Democrats in her district before her vote. She has refused to call her vote a mistake and continues to push for more charter schools and further privatization of public funds for education. Our campaign also received the sole endorsement of the Washington State Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus in our race.
- Ruth Kagi’s public allies defend Kagi’s vote for charter school funding as being not a big deal. Why do you disagree?
To vote for charter schools and to allocate public funds for charter schools at a time when the Washington State Legislature is being fined $100,000 per day for not funding public education is disgusting, and shows a huge disconnect in priorities between some of our legislators and the needs of our one million Washington State public school children. This is a really big deal. Charters have failed in many parts of the country already because they lack oversight and accountability. I am opposed to education being run as a business. Period. Every student deserves a good education regardless of their economic background, and it is Washington’s “Paramount Duty” to make sure our children get the education they deserve. That means a massive increase in funding PUBLIC education.
- In the last three years you have worked in three of the most important social justice movements; working on Sawant’s successful campaign for City Council, the fight for a $15 per hour minimum wage and Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign. What have you learned working on those campaigns that can help us move forward?
I have been inspired to work on these social justice campaigns, as well as with Black Lives Matter, and I’ve learned a lot in the process. It’s inspiring to see social justice movements like these taking off around the country. I believe we are in a revolutionary time period and that the work each of us do in our daily lives matters a lot, probably more than in any other time period since the Civil Rights Movement in U.S. history. Now is the time to take our Democratic Republic back for the interests of ALL of our people, not just the corporations and the wealthy. We need fundamental changes in so many areas- campaign finance reform, education, climate change, living wages, gender, racial, and LGBTQ equality- it’s up to us to make sure that our children live in a world that is cleaner and safer than the one we inherited. It is not too late to make that vision a reality if we work together.
Are there any additional remarks you would like to make?
I would like to say that although I believe that education is the key to a better world and is the fundamental issue in regards to individual happiness and growth, as well as social consciousness and understanding, we also must address climate change now if we’re going to survive on this planet. To deny science and the real threat that our actions on this Earth present is a reflection of a kind of cultural insanity. The ideology of predatory capitalism has brought us to the brink of extinction and we must take control of our government, back from multinational corporations (by overturning Citizen’s United), and begin to do the difficult work of teaching a new generation how to be stewards of the Earth. My campaign is proposing a massive investment in public transportation including extensive light rail, solar powered public schools, and an end to the fossil fuel economy within one generation. We need to think BIG in order to accomplish these tasks. With a shifting of priorities towards investments in education, and science-based solutions, we can do it.
Facebook: Wesley Irwin for State House
April 13, 2016 Wesley Irwin’s announcement of candidacy for State House position number 2 in the 32nd legislative district.
Submitted by Dora Taylor
For more on Irwin’s opponent, see: