Politics & Government

Capitol Happy Hour: Watch them all here

Politics is sometimes at its best when discussed at a bar, instead of in a Capitol hearing room.

That’s the concept behind our regular video series, Capitol Happy Hour, where I meet with Washington state politicians and talk to them at bars over tater tots.

In this episode, Washington's Secretary of State, Kim Wyman, gets emotional talking about how she dealt with her cancer diagnosis earlier this year.

Her advice to other cancer patients? "Don't go on the internet."

During her treatments, she and her supporters shared photos of goofy socks to boost her spirits. She tells us how that got started.

Wyman also explains how she dealt with a request from the Trump administration for voter registration data, and what she wishes she would have done differently.

Also, she talks about how she fell in love with Formula One racing and why in her view, it's way better than NASCAR.

Check out other episodes of Capitol Happy Hour below.

Gov. Inslee on his favorite TV shows, movies and tax plans

Washington’s governor describes himself as a big movie fan.

So it was no trouble for Jay Inslee to name a movie that he thinks describes the record-setting 193 days the Legislature just spent in session.

Yes, it’s a Keanu Reeves movie. But it sure wasn’t “Speed,” Inslee joked.

His pick? "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure."

He sat through my questions about his reputation for coming up with oddball phrases. (You know, like when he told a room full of reporters a few years ago that beer is the “beautiful amber nectar of the gods.” Or, more recently, that he was trying “everything ... short of waterboarding” to get lawmakers to reach an agreement. And let’s not forget when he referred to innovation as Washington’s “secret sauce.”)

His duties as governor have sadly kept him from keeping up with HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” he says. But they didn’t keep him from going to see “Dunkirk” in the theater a few days ago, or from watching plenty of episodes of “Call the Midwife” and “House of Cards.”

The Democrat in his second term also says he has ambitious plans to overhaul the state's tax system should Democrats regain control of the Legislature this fall. He explains why he thinks there's support in Washington for new taxes on carbon, as well as on income from capital gains.



How one lawmaker became an internet and karaoke sensation

Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-College Place, talks about what it was like to give a floor speech on gay marriage that ended up going viral five years ago. Walsh was one of the only Republicans who supported legalizing gay marriage at the time, and became somewhat of an online sensation.

"Somebody came in and said, 'You know your speech went viral,'" she recalls.

"And I said, oh my god, I'm sorry! ... I had no idea what that meant."

Walsh and I also talk about how lawmakers of both parties like to bond over karaoke, and what she likes to sing when they do.

Plus, what's she most excited to do when the Legislature finally passes a budget and adjourns after its marathon session?


Ann Rivers on handling bullies, 'House of Cards' and fighting distracted driving

State Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, talks about how the TV series “House of Cards” helped inspire one of her latest legislative successes. Plus, exactly how does Washington state’s Capitol compare to the conniving politics of that show?

Rivers also shares why she embraced a caricature of her as a vampira with fangs — a copy of which she now keeps in her Capitol office.

She later gives her take on whether the state is really headed toward a government shutdown, and her reaction to a male colleague referring to her as “trampy.”

“Sometimes you’ve just got to punch a bully in the nose,” she says.


Former state Sen. Don Benton on his new job in Washington, D.C.

Former Washington state senator Don Benton stops by to talk about his new job leading the U.S. Selective Service System.

During our interview, the Republican from Vancouver explains why the United States still requires men to register for the draft, even though there hasn’t been one since 1973.

He later addresses rumors he clashed with top officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (including EPA administrator Scott Pruitt) and attacks reports that said he was the first Selective Service director to not serve in the military. (He says he actually served in the Army three months.)

“Nearly all those reports were nothing but fake news, OK?” Benton says.

Benton also disputes accounts that he called another senator “a trashy, trampy-mouthed little girl,” and explains why he enjoys taking public transit in Washington, D.C., despite opposing light rail plans in his home district.


Past nicknames and old bar tales with Rep. Eileen Cody

State Rep. Eileen Cody, D-Seattle, joins me at The Spar to talk about the challenges of recruiting women to run for office, her nickname when she played basketball in high school, and the best snacks (and pranks) that help her survive multiple special sessions in Olympia.

While several decades ago few women took part in Washington’s Legislature, Cody — who chairs the House committee on health care— became a major player in state politics within a few years of first winning election in 1994.

“I guess because I’m six feet tall, guys don’t push me around,” she says.

During our chat, we also touch on how Congress’ efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act could affect Washington state.


A tale of a terrible mascot, a.k.a. state Rep. Drew Stokesbary

State Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, joins me to talk about the debate that’s raging in the Legislature over taxes and education.

He also explains why he couldn’t keep his job as his college’s mascot — and, what exactly is it like inside that Blue Devil suit?

“It is really hot, and it smells really disgustingly,” he says.

Lots of potato products are consumed in this video; consider yourself warned.


U.S. Rep. Kilmer on 'Star Wars' and confederate statues

In this episode, U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, stops by to explain why D.C. politicians always seem to be on the verge of a government shutdown ("it's nuts," he says) and why he keeps on running for re-election if Congress is so dysfunctional.

He later gives his thoughts on whether the U.S. Capitol should have statues of confederate leaders like Jefferson Davis, and why Democrats are having trouble winning elections in working-class areas like Grays Harbor County.

Plus, the 'Star Wars' fanatic talks about his favorite characters from the epic movie series, as well as ones he maybe wishes George Lucas had left out.

"Jar Jar is really unfortunate," Kilmer admits of the CGI character in "Star Wars: Episode I."

We also debate our favorite dipping sauces for tater tots.



Talking fashion, taxes and weed with Sen. Reuven Carlyle

I sit down with state Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, to talk about why the Legislature can’t seem to agree on the best way to fix the way the state pays for schools.

But first, we talk about what everyone really wants to know: Where does he find all those plaid blazers he wears at the Capitol, and what’s it like being the de facto fashionista of the Legislature?

“It's not very difficult to be seen as a fashionista down here,” Carlyle says.

Carlyle also talks about why he underestimated how much money Washington residents would spend on legal marijuana, and whether the Legislature will adjourn before or after the debut of flying cars.


Eating totchos and finding real news with Sen. Marko Liias

In the back room of one of Olympia’s most famous dives, state Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, and I dig into a plate of totchos and talk about the new law he sponsored to teach kids about media literacy. What are some ways students — and adults — can tell something is fake news?

Along the way, we talk about the history of boozing in the Senate, his co-ed frat house in Olympia and whether the Legislature might actually finish its work before he decides to shave his beard for the summer.

Liias also explains what totchos are.

“Nachos, but with tater tots,” he says.


Why Republican Sen. Joe Fain is fighting for paid parental leave

In this episode, Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, talks about why he and other lawmakers are fighting to get paid time off for new parents or people with family emergencies. As a new dad, he has some thoughts.

We also delve into the inner workings of the state Senate, including what Fain does as the Senate’s majority floor leader, and why wine and ice cream sometimes appear randomly in the chamber.

“I don’t think there’s any reason in our lives that if ice cream or wine show up, we should ever question that,” Fain says. “That’s divine intervention.”

Extended chitchat about tater tot dipping sauces is just a bonus.


Debating police use of force and the ways of millennials with Rep. Morgan Irwin

Freshman state Rep. Morgan Irwin, R-Enumclaw, shares his thoughts as a Seattle cop on what the state should — and shouldn’t — be doing to adjust its law that protects police from criminal prosecution when they fire their weapons. Washington’s law is unique in the nation by requiring prosecutors to prove an officer acted with “malice” and without “good faith” when using deadly force.

He and I also talk about the awkwardness of transitioning from average guy to state lawmaker. “What’s really weird is people won’t use your first name,” he says.

Later, he gives his thoughts about whether people underestimate our generation of millennials — often described as those 35 and under — and whether we really aren’t capable of using stamps.


Talking ‘Law and Order’ and special session with Rep. Laurie Jinkins

State Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, shares how her love of “Law and Order: SVU” sometimes intersects with her work chairing the House Judiciary Committee, and why she started tweeting pictures of oddball socks this year at the Legislature.

“All my socks have swear words on them,” she says.

Jinkins also attempts to explain why state lawmakers once again couldn’t finish their work on time this year, and why special sessions have become such a routine.

Melissa Santos: 360-357-0209, @melissasantos1