Attorney and Activist David Hackney Announcing Run for District 11 Seat

by Chetanya Robinson

Attorney and activist David Hackney will announce today his run for Position 1 Representative in Washington’s 11th District, a seat held by incumbent Zack Hudgins. Both men are Democrats, as are Position 2 Representative Steve Bergquist and Senator Bob Hasegawa, the other legislators representing District 11. The District encompasses south Beacon Hill, South Park, Georgetown, Tukwila, and small parts of Kent and Renton.

Hackney, a renter living in Tukwila, refrained from criticizing Hudgin’s record directly, but implied the district needs a more attentive leader. “I’m not running against anyone,” Hackney said. “I think we need somebody to go out into the community, understand the concerns and problems they have, work with them to find solutions.”

A primary election is scheduled for August 4, 2020, with the general election held November 3. The filing deadline is May 15, 2020.

Hackney’s priorities include addressing income inequality, worker protections, the environment, gun responsibility, income tax, educational opportunities and healthcare. “Those are state-wide issues, but they’re more important in my district because the lower you are in socioeconomic status, the harder those issues hit you,” he said, noting that District 11 has a high proportion of working class residents and people of color.

Hackney has worked as an attorney for 25 years, including as a prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice.

“I was proud to be a prosecutor,” Hackney said, “because it’s the prosecutor who has the ultimate authority to assure that justice is done, that the laws are followed — civil rights laws, human rights laws, and criminal justice laws.”

As a federal prosecutor, Hackney spent time teaching trial advocacy to judges and prosecutors in Kosovo, and later worked on criminal justice reform in Uzbekistan, experiences that taught him about the importance of transparency and defendant rights in criminal justice reform, and holding prosecutors accountable.

“I thought we needed more people like me as prosecutors, and judges, because that’s how you reform the criminal justice system,” he added. “Reform comes from the inside out.”

Hackney currently works at a startup nonprofit that addresses income inequality, and serves on the Washington State Human Rights Commission and the boards of Tabor 100 and the Alliance for Gun Responsibility.

If elected, he is interested in serving on the Civil Rights & Judiciary committees, and others that oversee justice and gun control.

While Hackney considers incarceration “a necessary tool,” he said it is overused, and should not be used at all for nonviolent and low-level drug crimes. “It’s expensive, it’s a waste of human capital, it destroys lives, and it doesn’t give them an opportunity to come back to the community and be productive.”

He wants to end the practice of issuing Department of Corrections ID cards to people leaving the criminal justice system, believing it would be an obstacle to their finding housing and jobs, and could lead to re-offending: “When you can’t find a job, when you can’t find housing, you have few options to survive.”

Hackney considers Initiative 940, brought to the legislature in 2018 and passed, a recent success story in Olympia. The bill created a new standard to determine whether deadly force by law enforcement is justified, as well as mandatory de-escalation and mental health training for law enforcement.

He supports more community policing as a solution to prevent crime, rather than a militarized police force. “We need to have a better relationship between the police and the community,” hackney said. “People of color distrust the police, and that’s tragic.”

Hackney served on the state Human Rights Commission, which he believes is under-funded. He sees it as a valuable opportunity for people to take complaints related to discrimination in housing, public accomodations and access to finance. Given that people denied housing or a job can end up homeless, “these are not minor issues — these are life-changing opportunities for people who are suffering illegal and unfair discrimination,” Hackney said.

If elected, Hackney says he wants to fight for working-class people. He would support a state income tax, and is against regressive taxes, which in his view includes ride-share and soda taxes.

Hackney believes there’s a need for more skilled trades training and pre-apprenticeship programs to supply a workforce that can fix infrastructure in Seattle, including the Port, the University of Washington and elsewhere in the state. These are jobs that often pay well and can contribute to economic growth, he said, and are needed in District 11, which has many unemployed and under-employed residents.

Having worked as the lead employment lawyer for The Nature Conservancy, Hackney is concerned with climate change, maintaining a clean environment, and environmental racism.

“People have in essence stockpiled all the toxins near communities of color, because they’re poor and they haven’t had the representation needed to fight against it,” he said.

If elected, Hackney hopes the entire Democratic caucus would be his allies, but does not have specific legislators in mind who might be, though he praised the work of Rep. Javier Valdez, D-Seattle, for leading on the I-1000 affirmative action initiative, Rep. Noel Frame, D-Seattle as a leader on universal healthcare, and Sen. Bob Hasegawa of the 11th District as an influential labor leader.

Hackney’s support for worker protections, healthcare and education for all is personal.

Both Hackney’s grandfathers were union members, which he believes helped propel the family into the middle class. His paternal grandfather was in the first chartered labor union led by African Americans, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. “That took him from sharecrop farming to being able to own a home during the depression.”

While his parents didn’t finish college, they made sure Hackney and his siblings did. Hackney completed his undergraduate degree at Cornell University, before eventually attending a joint program with Harvard Law School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

His path through college became precarious when Hackney’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, and his father laid off from his job at the same time. When his father was rehired, health insurance refused to insure his mother. By the time she passed away, the family spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, and almost lost their home. Hackney was only able to finish college after he personally appealed for a loan from the college President’s office.

“Catastrophes line up like dominoes that can destroy your whole life,” Hackney said. “We need a safety net, or else everything you work for, everything you save for, everything you dream for, can be gone with a tragic accident or a tragic illness.”

Chetanya Robinson is a Seattle freelance journalist and an assistant editor at the International Examiner. He was born and raised in Seattle and earned a double major in journalism and Near Eastern languages from the University of Washington in 2016. His work has also appeared in Crosscut, the Seattle Weekly, KCTS9 Earthfix, Real Change News, The Seattle Globalist and more. He enjoys reporting on an eclectic variety of issues. You can find him on Twitter at @chetanyarobins.

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Featured image courtesy of David Hackney