1. Compassion Seattle, the group backing an initiative that would require the city to divert funds from other purposes to pay for 2,000 shelter beds in order to “clear” parks for housed people to use, announced Thursday that it had collected 64,155 signatures—about twice as many as the number of valid signatures the campaign needs to get the measure on the November ballot.
Even in victory, the campaign claimed to be the victim of “harassment, theft of petitions, assault and significant time delays”—claims it has made in multiple emails to supporters. The campaign did not immediately respond to questions about the incidents, including a request for case numbers in the event that they reported any of the alleged crimes to Seattle police.
UPDATE: In response to PubliCola’s questions, Compassion Seattle provided a list of eight incidents involving signature gatherers. Six involved people ripping clipboards out of people’s hands or destroying signature sheets. The remaining two examples were more dramatic; in one case, someone threw a garbage can at the signature gatherer, and in the other, a woman was “harassed and pushed down” on Capitol Hill.
2. Mayoral candidate Andrew Grant Houston received permission from the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission on Thursday to raise money beyond the legal maximum under Seattle’s democracy voucher program, which limits mayoral campaign fundraising to $400,000 in the primary election. Houston argued (and the commission agreed) that mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell has already exceeded the cap through his own fundraising and that of a political action committee organized on his behalf.
Under city election law, any candidate who has maxed out on campaign spending or fundraising, unless the excess is “minor” or “inadvertent,” can seek a release from the cap as soon as another campaign, or the combination of a campaign and an independent expenditure (IE) campaign acting on the candidate’s behalf, has busted through the cap.
Because IE campaigns can raise and spend unlimited dollars from any source, IE fundraising routinely provides leads to a campaign fundraising free-for-all. Houston’s release from the cap will trigger other candidates who have reached the fundraising limit to seek similar permission to raise and spend more money, effectively neutralizing rules adopted by initiative in 2015 aimed at limiting the impact of money on elections. The initiative, known as Honest Elections, created the voucher program, which gives $100 to every Seattle registered voter to spend on the candidate or candidates of their choice; it also imposed a number of campaign-finance rules, including new contribution and spending limits.
During the 2019 election, the campaigns for city council candidates Jon Grant and Teresa Mosqueda, including a pro-Mosqueda PAC, raised and spent more than $1 million despite a total “campaign valuation” (fundraising) limit of $300,000. Similarly, spending on behalf of successful mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan totaled well over $2 million, despite a formal cap of $800,000.
Ultimately, the only thing that will stem out-of-control spending is a court ruling overturning or limiting the impact of Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruling that effectively barred limits on campaign spending by corporations and interest groups. Limiting spending by candidates but not committees, commission chair Richard Shordt pointed out Thursday, would limit the “voices” of “the thousands of Seattleites who are using their democracy vouchers” to support campaigns.
3. An online poll—apparently conducted on behalf of mayoral candidate Lorena González’s campaign—tested messages for and against the candidate in a hypothetical election between González and her former council colleague Bruce Harrell, who is currently the presumptive frontrunner.
The poll, which focuses on homelessness, describes González as a former civil rights attorney who was inspired to run “after watching Jenny Durkan give big corporations too much say in city government, side with the police union when cops tear-gassed Seattleites, and let the homelessness crises get worse”; it describes Harrell, more generically, as a former council president who “has the experience and skills to unite our city.”
Here’s a taste of the questions:
The poll reportedly also tested two descriptions of González—one that described her as the council president, and one that did not. Seattle residents routinely give the council low ratings in polls, blaming the council more than the mayor for problems in the city. The González campaign did not respond to questions about the poll.
4. The leaders of four major labor unions denounced the Urbanist’s arguments against González in their endorsement of former Chief Seattle Club leader Colleen Echohawk for mayor, declaring themselves “baffled” that the website suggested González’s labor support is a liability. “Unfortunately, one of her strongest assets—labor solidarity—can turn into a liability if labor can’t get on board for bold climate action, defanging the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG), and reprioritizing street space towards people,” the Urbanist’s editorial board wrote.
“Our unions strongly support policies like the Green New Deal, carbon caps and clean fuel standards … reject police violence and … voted to expel [the Seattle Police Officers Guild] from the MLK Labor Council, the leaders of SEIU 775, UFCW 21, UNITE Here Local 8, and SEIU 925, wrote. “By far, Lorena González has the strongest record and the most experience on urbanist and worker issues of any candidate in the mayor’s race.”
The anti-González section of the endorsement also condemned two votes she took, while praising Echohawk, essentially, for never having taken any votes at all. “A candidate poised to get it right the first time is crucial,” they write.
Interestingly, the Urbanist doesn’t acknowledge that Echohawk has already changed her position substantially on one of the most contentious issues this campaign season—the “clear the parks” initiative, Compassion Seattle. The Urbanist’s endorsement claims that Echohawk “shares our opposition to the Compassion Seattle initiative.” In fact, Echohawk has equivocated on the issue, initially expressing her support for the measure in a statement calling it a “good strategy,” then calling it a “bad way to set policy” at a mayoral debate in May.
Even in the Urbanist’s own endorsement questionnaire, Echohawk hedged, saying blandly, “I am supportive of anyone coming up with ideas to address this crisis as long as it does not involve sweeps and clearly outlines the money needed to tackle this problem.” It is odd that the Urbanist would overlook a candidate’s vagueness such a significant issue, while denouncing “labor” en masse as a potential liability for a candidate with such strong urbanist and social-justice cred.
5. Finally, while I’m loath to give much coverage to a candidate who believes that “cultural Marxism” via critical race theory is infesting our elementary schools and turning Seattle’s youth into anarchists who establish violent perimeters around homeless encampments, I encourage you to check out perennial candidate Kate Martin’s latest stream-of-consciousness campaign fundraising (?) diatribe, subtly titled “Had Enough?”
Martin, who calls herself a “bipartisan Libertarian/Republican Democrat,” is challenging council member Mosqueda.