Politics Slog’s Lobbyist of the Year!
posted by February 29 at 13:10 PMon
Not all lobbyists are old white guys in suits. Lobbyists can also be young women—gay women even.
Meet Kim Justice—yes, that’s really her name—who is, appropriately enough, the lobbyist for the Statewide Poverty Action Network.
You wouldn’t figure the young-looking Justice as a power player down in Olympia, but the 28-year-old did the heavy lifting on the central bill of this year’s progressive agenda—helping pass a piece of timely corporate accountability legislation to make sure mortgage brokers aren’t duping borrowers.
The bill, now bound to pass, sailed though the House consumer protection committee yesterday (one day before cutoff) after clearing the full Senate earlier this session.
Justice wasn’t always political. She was a music head in college (University of Missouri) where she worked at a radio station and studied mass communications. (She still loves music and says she loves going out “anywhere there’s live music.”)
She lives in Olympia during the session—her house, which she shares with a housing lobbyist, the Jewish Federation lobbyist, and the Children’s Alliance lobbyist, hosts an annual “gay party” for gay legislators, staffers, and allies. The rest of the year she lives in Seattle on Capitol Hill.
She created a political stir at her all-girls Catholic High School in St. Louis (Sisters of Leretto Nerinx Hall) in 1997, when her friends rallied around her cause to take her girlfriend to the junior prom. There was a petition drive, an all-school meeting, and Justice and her g.f. were allowed to go to the prom together—changing the rule that all couples had to be boy-girl.
Justice got her first dose of politics politics when, after a mentor at college convinced her to attend a program in Washington, D.C. on social justice (!) organizing, she was sent out to do political field work in Oklahoma (trying to stop a “right-to-work” initiative). Next, she hit Washington State, working to elect Rep. Brian Sullivan from the 21st District in Edmonds and later for Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina).
While working on these key tide-shifting races, she met Speaker Rep. Frank Chopp (D-43, Wallingford) and soon enough, she was working as his session aide in 2002.
After that session, she was hired by the Poverty Action Network to jump-start an electoral organizing component for the non-profit, engaging low-income voters in the details of state politics. Last year, she took on the group’s state lobbying responsibilities.
Asked how she approaches the job, Justice says she mimics what other successful lobbyists in Oly do: “Just be yourself and build personal relationships.” I imagine she took her cue from her excellently boisterous veteran lobbyist housemate Nick Federici, another Oly gem.
On next year’s docket? Justice says “we have every intention of working for payday loan oversight.” The issue, a hot topic last year, was MIA in Olympia this year (although not in other states). Justice says work went on behind the scenes on the issue this year to cultivate support. And, she hints, “we have a lot of support.”
Star legislators she praises this year for taking up the fight for consumer advocacy and low-income people include: Sens. Brian Weinstein (D-41, Mercer Island) and Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina) (they were the sponsors on the broker accountability bills); Rep. Eric Pettigrew (D-37, South Seattle) (who sponsored a renters rights bill), Rep. Jeannie Darnielle (D-27, Tacoma) (who also sponsored a renters’ rights bill); and Speaker Frank Chopp (D-43, Wallingford), who’s making a big stand to put more money into the statewide housing trust fund.
For those that are intimidated (or bored) by Olympia, Justice says they should come down and check it out. In fact, she brought down a friend one day who claimed to have no interest in local politics and said her friend was blown away by how accessible the legislators were (true) and how many important issues are at play (true).
Congratulations to Kim Justice, Slog’s lobbyist of the year.