A Day In The Life Of Local Politician Kirsten Harris-Talley

"Local politics has the most material impact on your daily life. That’s good government at work."
Image credit: Jenny Jimenez

Image credit: Jenny Jimenez

You've already met Kirsten Harris-Talley, the force who is running for State Representative of Seattle's 37th District, and who also launched our Women in Politics series this summer.

Kirsten won her primary and is in the throes of the final week campaigning and outreach. We checked in with her last week to see what a day in the life of local politician looks like in the home stretch of the election. It can aptly be summarized in one word (and it may not be what you think): intentional.

Not surprisingly, it's also very busy, especially so when you take into account that in addition to campaigning we caught up with Kirsten on a day she is managing two other roles: consultant and mother.

However, there is not a moment wasted—Kirsten is committed to being fully present wherever she is in the day. As she told us, "I get tired, I get hungry and I am still not unlike a lot of women. I will say at the intersection of being a woman and black, the amount of expectation and exceptionalism—we should not be burning ourselves out. Folks expect that, but we can reject that—we can say no and take care of ourselves better. I am still working on this, in a collective in activism, you don’t have to hold everything. We have been trying to build that in the campaign."

Image credit: Jenny Jimenez

Image credit: Jenny Jimenez

On her morning routine:
Today is a day where my husband is at work first thing this morning.

I get up about 6-6:30, I always start my morning with Gabe on the Early Show on KEXP. I often do a meditation for 5-10 minutes, whatever that means on that day. Sometimes is reading a chapter of a book or cleaning up a corner of my house.

Get up, check in with the dog, get the kids up and get them going.
I try to wake the kids up with a song, so it’s not too startling at around 7.

I try to not have any meetings before 9am, so I can get the kids set up with school and give them dedicated focus. I really work to have 15 minute buffers between my meetings, but it doesn't always work out.


On structuring her day:
We are blessed that we have a house with enough room to set up desks for them [the kids]. We now have a rhythm around that, which is nice.

Structurally with my work, for most of the campaign I had two jobs and being with the kids. I was Executive Director at NARAL ProChoice WA, plus a consultancy. So lots of text messages first thing in the morning, email time, and a lot of phone and Zoom time.

Image credit: Jenny Jimenez

Image credit: Jenny Jimenez

On what happens mid-day:
11:30am – 12:15pm is my scheduled lunch with my kids.

The afternoon is usually filled with outreach meetings, a lot of neighbor conversations. Conversations with folks who have given us support and endorsements. Today I am meeting with a group of physicians who are unionized at UW and Harborview. Usually I would be traveling around and meeting these folks in person, but now they are on Zoom.


On the work/life balance:
Women have to consider their families—and that may look different than men's decisions. I have a partner who takes care of 75% of our domestic life

At the top of the campaign, I thought I could still have these compartments of my life, offering disclaimers but with no apologies. What I have found is for most people, it is ok.

Kirsten at a community literature drop./ Image credit: Jenny Jimenez

Kirsten at a community literature drop./ Image credit: Jenny Jimenez

Image credit: Jenny Jimenez

Image credit: Jenny Jimenez

On her campaign and hitting the trail:
I try to be in community as much as I can. I try to visit a local business once a day, or at least 4 times per week. This is even more important during COVID. It's about having a lot of intentionality around it so that I can also pause and have a real conversation with folks.

Most of my campaign team lives within in 5 minutes, so if I need dedicated time (such as a community forum—we have been doing community forums 1 to 2 times per week), it is easy to build it in.

I think we are the cusp of some deep healing work. A healing path is not an easy path. It’s a wonderful thing to be in a race of two black candidates; but, it’s really hard to be in a race with someone who thinks I don’t understand what it means to live in this community because I wasn’t born here.

Our team is amazing, we have a co-campaign manger model, and we have an external campaign manager. We have been doing everything in COVID safe environments—we often go through multiple iterations of what each event could look like. I am at an advantage as an organizer and an activist because I can be responsive in real time.

Campaigning in the virtual space has actually been a mixed blessing. I don’t get to have as many face-to-face conversations with neighbors, but at the same time it has expanded the people we can engage with. And it has allowed the unique balance of having time with my kids and my family.

Image credit: Jenny Jimenez

Image credit: Jenny Jimenez

Image credit: Jenny Jimenez

Image credit: Jenny Jimenez

On the evening and winding down:
Evenings are almost always community forums or events like the Lit Drop. We have been doing in-language phone bank, texting banks and literature drops. Community vision sessions, too, as we are able to bring people together by affinities, issue or both.

I come home around 5:30pm, I had a 6pm today though. I usually sit with the kids and check their activities boards for the day. Their school has done an amazing deep dive on LatinX Heritage Month and the election.

My partner Jason was getting dinner ready while I jumped on my 6pm call. After that was wrapped up, I got to sit with Jason and the kids for 30 minutes before brushing our teeth and doing either a meditation, story or sometimes a Tiktok that the kids love. Then it’s family snuggle time.

After that, it's downtime. I will usually check my calendar for the day ahead and turn on the Great British Baking Show or get my own Tiktok time, or group text with the team. 


On activism and being an activist:
I do feel optimistic. I believe in our neighbors and the power of activism and the clarity we have now. I have always been activist.

I have seen mutual aid pop up in this community, and I have seen good policies to support mutual aid to create lasting programs. We have been so resilient—I know we can be on the other side of this. It is going to take listening and holding space for each other, and I truly believe it is possible.

They call it a struggle for a reason. If being better humans were easy, we all be in utopia right now. Local politics has the most material impact on your daily life. That’s good government at work.


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