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Felon on the run

Jesse Miller

Meet a new (since last month) state House candidate in District 29 in Tacoma, Jesse Miller, a civic activist, at Olympia and locally, working behalf of the poor. She is outspoken about racism. She runs a business, albeit one unusual for a legislative candidate: A rap record label called Felony Entertainment. Her roster of community activism – a lengthy list – includes Social Justice Fund-Leaders Under 40, Chair of the Board for Statewide Poverty Action Network 2004-2008, Springbrook Project 2008-, member of Black Collective, The Matrons Club, Praxis Project, Vote For A Change Campaign, Accessing The American Dream Project, Hip Hop Pioneer.

And one more thing, in no way being hidden by the candidate: About 15 years ago she was convicted on a drug charge (cocaine delivery) and served two years in prison. She’s fulfilled all her obligations but, as the Felony Entertainment site quotes her: “’I found my options were slim,’ she said, noting employment offers were limited to flipping burgers and other minimum wage jobs. ‘That felony conviction followed me around’.”

The district is pretty solidly Democratic, but this is a very edgy candidate for the Democrats anywhere in Washington, no?

Well no. She’s running as a Republican, challenging incumbent Democrat Steve Kirby, who actually was supportive of some of Miller’s proposals last term. (Miller has an interesting runthrough about the party choice on her Facebook page.)

A 2009 law opened the door to voting and even running for office for people who have a felony conviction in their background. Not everyone supported it; Representative Christopher Hurst (a Democrat, and a police detective) told the Tacoma News Tribune that a felony conviction “should be a lifetime disqualifier . . . There are plenty of other people who could run for public office.”

There are, but the kinds of people who wind up in most legislatures tend to be . . . a lot alike. And if a person has gone through the strenuous process of societal repayment, has stayed clean and is up front about the record – why exactly should the citizen be denied the run, and the voters given the option? The point of having a lot of people in a legislature – 147 in Washington’s case – is to collect a wide range of experiences, and people who have responded (hopefully successfully) in various ways.

A lot of material for discussion here.

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