SU Voice Alumni Blog

SU Alumni Leading Washington State Elections

Posted by The Seattle University Alumni Association on Wednesday, September 30, 2020 at 10:22 AM PDT

Two side by side headshots of Jon Cantalini and Shasti Conrad

With the election only 35 days away, the countdown has already begun. From tv news to daily swipes and scrolls on social media, the 2020 US election is everywhere. Polls, stats and Democratic or Republican party strategy moves are top of mind as the US launches into one of the most contentious election years in recent history. 

We spoke to Shasti Conrad, ’07, political consultant and chair for the King County Democrats, and Jon Cantalini, ’18, campaign manager for Kim Wyman, about their thoughts on how this election cycle will be different from any other and resources and tips for alumni on getting active as we count down to election day. 

 

Getting Into Politics 

Both Conrad and Cantalini fostered their passion for politics while attending Seattle University. “Seattle University’s focus on social justice and awareness made me want to find ways to make a difference and engage with the community,” said Conrad.  
Cantalini shared similar thoughts on how the mission of SU helped to direct his place in the political sphere. “Everyone thinks of Seattle is a hub for democratic politics, which it is, but I really found that moderate republican sphere. Seattle U made me realize this was a career option. I was able to connect with a lot of alumni that have gone into politics,” said Cantalini. 

The Changing Landscape 

A pivotal election in the middle of a worldwide health crisis, civil unrest and wall-to-wall news coverage is overwhelming. “It feels like this election has monumental importance because it really is going to define who we are as Americans and what we want out of government. People’s lives are at stake,” says Conrad. “There was already a lot going on, and then 2020 brings on a pandemic where 200,000 people have died and clashes between citizens and the police. You realize just how differently people see the world, and everything does feel at stake. The general public feels that importance.” 

Candidates have also had to pivot to meet voters where they are. Instead of door knocking and in-person meetings, many candidates have implemented phone banking, text messaging and on-demand media.  “Everything is pretty much different, that’s the hard part. You have to rethink how to reach voters. We have been adapting and finding new ways to reach out, through social media and their circles of influence. It’s very grassroots, and it’s word of mouth that’s helping people spread the word for political candidates,” said Cantalini.  

Voter Turnout During the Time of Coronavirus 

With the election just weeks away, concerns about the voting process may dissuade some from taking action and voting. But, Cantalini and Conrad both emphasize that the voting process in Washington state is ready. “I think Washington state is in the perfect position for this. We have developed a system that gives voters safety. I think we are going to see very high participation in our election. Washington state is ranked in the top 10 states in the county for participation because it is so easy to vote,” said Cantalini. Conrad further emphasized that Washington’s mail-in voting process has already been embedded into the culture of the state. “When you hear it being debated nationally, it doesn’t work on Washingtonians, it doesn’t work on us. People are comfortable with receiving a ballot at home, filling it out on time, turning it in. We had record turnout for the primary. It tells me that people are more engaged than ever,” said Conrad. 

Getting Informed 

Being an informed voter is one of the ways that you can prepare for November 3. “Don’t base your vote on people’s parties, but examine what people stand for and what they are going to do and how they are going to affect your community,” said Cantalini. 

When asked about resources to learn more about candidates, Conrad said, “There are a number of great candidate guides, for example Fuse Washington and League of Women Voters. For younger generation Z voters, I like to see who the Sunrise Movement is endorsing. Also, we at King County have our set of endorsements on our website. People should check their voter registration on vote.wa.gov.” 

Cantalini’s recommendation is visiting the Secretary of State website. “Secretaries of State are doing a campaign called #TrustedInfo2020, so no matter where you are in the country, your Secretary of State will provide trusted information on how to register to vote, registration and ballot deadlines, and requesting absentee ballots if you’re not in a mail-in state,” he said. 

Getting Active 

Both Conrad and Cantalini emphasized making a plan this election season. “Make sure you know where your local drop boxes are. Make sure you know where your voting center is. With everything happening with USPS nationally, make sure you turn in your ballot early. Make sure you get that postmark in by 8 p.m. on election day,” said Cantalini. Conrad emphasized that “there are lots of ways to get engaged. Your favorite candidates need all the support that they can get. Then, just vote. The absolute best way to get other people to vote is to talk about why you are voting—why it matters to you. We need everyone to vote.”