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Legislative candidate suspends campaign to focus on community work

Legislative candidate Andrea Caupain has ended her campaign so she can focus on racial justice and on helping needy families get food on the table. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Caupain)

She wanted to get into politics to help fight for health care, racial justice and families struggling financially — and now for those same reasons, Legislative candidate Andrea Caupain is suspending her campaign.

Caupain, who is CEO of Seattle human services nonprofit Byrd Barr Place, in January announced her bid for state representative for the 37th Legislative District, which includes Southeast Seattle and part of Renton.

But in light of a deadly pandemic, a devastating economic crash, and a 21st century civil rights movement, the Democratic candidate is sacrificing her chance for political leadership to be able to entirely focus on Byrd Barr Place.

Although she planned to use her role, if elected, to help the health and economic well-being of her community, she says she realized that she was needed in a greater capacity on the ground helping those in need.

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“It was not fair to my supporters, the people who’ve endorsed me, my campaign team, and even our voters, that I wasn’t able to be able to devote to the campaign what I needed to, and also not wanting our agency to falter,” Caupain said. “It was the biggest decision, realizing that this is where my community needs me most.”

Located in the Central District, Byrd Barr Place provides households going through hardship with services like housing help, energy assistance, and a food bank. In recent months, as record numbers of Washingtonians are losing their jobs, these needs have skyrocketed.

“We’ve seen, with COVID-19, our communities continuing to be impacted deeply in a really negative way … I see these numbers of people growing that are coming into our agency for food,” Caupain said. “We have working class families whom we’ve never seen before who are coming through our doors.”

While some other politicians have gotten flexible hours to work on their campaigns — as their day jobs have become remote during the months of quarantine — Caupain, who has been at Byrd Barr from 8 a.m. to at least 6 p.m. every day, said she has not had that luxury.

“I’m like most of the people in our district whom I’m running to represent where, if we are working, we’re on the front lines … We have not closed our doors, we have not reduced our hours — in fact, we have scaled up to meet the growing needs of our community,” Caupain said.

Besides the pandemic, the resurgence in racial activism has also impacted Caupain’s decision. Byrd Barr Place was founded in 1964 during the Civil Rights era, and has a long history of working toward racial justice. Caupain does not want to hold back in advocating for Black lives at a time when passion for these issues is at a renewed high.

“We’re needed more now in all of these spaces that we’ve been present in before, but there is a huge impulse now to truly make change. There’s a quote out there I keep talking about most recently that there are decades when nothing changes, and then there are weeks when you can make change for decades to come,'” Caupain said. “And we’re in the weeks since the killing of George Floyd when we need to harness every impulse to make meaningful change for our communities, and do that well.”

She’s not wasting any time. Along with three other female Black activists, Caupain has just helped to launch the Black Future Co-op Fund, an effort to invest in the Black community, in every sector from health to housing to art.

“The solutions are in our communities — we need the resources, we need access to tables and decision-making, so the creation of the Black Future Co-op Fund does that,” she said. “It’s an exciting opportunity.”

Caupain is not ruling out another political campaign in the future, but she said it will have to wait a few years.

She encourages everyone in the Seattle area experiencing financial hardships to contact Byrd Barr Place for help.

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