Jess Spear is a climate scientist and a socialist.
She is running in the 43rd District for the State House against Frank Chopp, a 20-year Democrat and current Speaker of the House.
She announced it officially today at Seattle Central Community College, as her good pal Kshama Sawant stood next to her smiling.
Sawant and Spear are buddies because she left her scientific research to help run Sawant's victorious Socialist Alternative campaign for City Council last year. She also spent much of that time as Organizing Director of the $15 Now campaign, which is somehow magically about to pass just a year after it began, to the collective bewilderment of the rest of the United States.
But before all that, Spear used to work for the US Geological Survey and later, the Burke Museum at the University of Washington.
Her research looked at microfossils called “foraminifera" (below).
Photo from Jess Spear
“They live in the ocean and provide an indication of changes in the hydrological cycle, changes in ocean temperature, and basically give us an overall picture of what past climate looks like,” Spear explained to me.
“Knowing what past climate was like gives us a better understanding of future climate change, so you can tease apart natural variability from what humans are causing.”
Just weeks ago, the largest federally funded National Climate Assessment was released, which outlined specific regional impacts of climate change in the United States.
Seattle, it turns out, will likely have a flooded waterfront by year 2100 every time high tide comes in. Most of our tree species will be gone as well, and our snowpack, which provides our drinking water, will melt much quicker and sooner.
One of Spears biggest ambitions, informed by her research and that of the National Climate Assessment, is pushing for renewable energy infrastructure projects in Washington.
"We need to immediately expand solar and wind power," she said. "The political establishment has been dragging their feet for 30 years saying they don't want to tinker too much, it might 'hurt the economy.' We now have solar panels that are so strong you can put them on roads. We could be putting them on the 520 to make electricity that we could sell to surrounding counties so we wouldn't have to toll ordinary working people."
Above: An explanation of solar roadway technology from its creators.
"We have green jobs waiting and people who are trained to do that in Washington right now. There's so many things we could be doing right now but there's nobody advocating for them. We can tax corporations and the super rich to pay for this, not ask working people to pay more in taxes."
Beyond ecologically minded policies, this is the other major promise Spear is running on—ending what she calls "corporate welfare," closing corporate tax loopholes, and reforming our tax system so that corporations and the "super rich" pay for projects like mass transit and renewable energy instead of ordinary workers.
According to Spear, one of the biggest things that made her realize she wanted to challenge Chopp is the fact that he and the Democrats in the House decided to give Boeing $8.7 billion dollars in tax breaks last year after the company suddenly threatened to leave Washington State.
Immediately after that, Boeing went on to bully its workers into signing a surprise contract to freeze their pensions, or else face the company potentially up and leaving Washington State behind to go somewhere else in the U.S. that wouldn't put up a fight to the company's agressive, surprise blitzkriegs for concessions.
After the Boeing machinists overwhelmingly rejected the first surprise contract, they narrowly voted months later to accept Boeing's second proposed contract by an extremely narrow 51 percent.
That night, grown adults with muscular machinist arms from working on giant steel planes cried into each other's shoulders from the deal they were forced to make. It was either give up the pensions they were promised, or lose the jobs they were promised.
"Instead of leading the charge for a $12/hour minimum wage statewide, a transportation package, and desperately needed funding for education, Democrats held a special session late last year to force through a vote to give Boeing $8.7 billion in tax breaks. When was the last time the Democrats held a special session to fund transit, to deal with homelessness, to fund our schools or childcare, or fix our regressive tax system? We're running on ending corporate welfare," Spear said at her speech this morning. "They don't need any handouts. We are putting these tax burdens on working people."
Spear said there are "500 corporate tax loopholes" she wants to look at closing, which would save the state an estimated $6 billion dollars a year.
Spear is also bothered by rapidly rising rents, an issue that has been driving people into the streets to protest in both Capitol Hill and Ballard, where tenants at the Lockhaven apartments saw their rent double this year. Spear is looking to try and remove the statewide ban on rent controls.
"We want to cap the skyrocketing rent, so that it doesn't outmatch inflation so families won't have to worry about being forced out of their homes and neighborhoods when the lease is up," Spear said. Spear is also interested in abolishing the sales tax in Washington State in an effort to remedy what she calls "the most regressive tax system in the country."
"Frank Chopp led the way to giving Boeing, one of the largest corporations in the world, a historic $8.7 billion handout. Chopp couldn’t even get $12/hour from a committee even though there’s massive support statewide," Spear said at the end of her speech.
"We elected the first socialist to city council in over 100 years, and we are poised to win $15 in just one year. We’ve delivered. Frank Chopp during election time talks nice, but what has he delivered for working people?"