1. At a debate sponsored by Rainier Valley Radio, Converge Media and the South Seattle Emerald on Wednesday, Sara Nelson, a candidate for City Council Position 9, ran out the clock on a question from her opponent about why her business, Fremont Brewing, has placed concrete “eco-blocks” in the public right-of-way around their brewing facility in Ballard.
Oliver asked Nelson why, as the candidate in the race who wants to prosecute misdemeanors like “stealing food,” she thought it was fine to violate the law against obstructing public streets. (As we’ve reported, it’s illegal to place obstructions like eco-blocks in public spaces, but the city says the law is difficult to enforce.) Nelson responded by protesting that she doesn’t consider herself the “law-and-order” candidate, but “a public safety person,” and said that the misdemeanors she wants to prosecute “are not small crimes, especially when they are repeated over and over again.” The clock ran out just as Nelson started responding to Oliver’s question.
Meanwhile, the eco-blocks around the brewing facility Nelson owns remain in place, and several more have been placed directly on the grassy planting strips nearby, another unambiguous violation of the law.
2. Voters across the city have received mailers from Nelson that not-so-subtly suggest broad support among Black leaders and other people of color, featuring five people of color (three of them Black, two Asian American) and no white supporters.
Nelson, who is white and lives in North Seattle, has made a number of controversial statements about what “the Black community” wants, suggesting during a September forum, for example, that the Black and brown people she has talked to “don’t want no police… they want better police.”
Oliver called that a “very racist” statement, adding, “to say Black and brown people don’t want a world beyond prisons and police, because you can name three that have endorsed your campaign, is making us into a monolith. We’re not.”
Of the five people of color featured on Nelson’s latest mailer, three are identified: Former Gov. Gary Locke, SPD Community Advisory Council leader Victoria Beach, and Harriett Walden, the longest-tenured chair of the Community Police Commission. The two unidentified supporters—an Asian American woman and a Black man featured in a stock “talking to community members” photo—are longtime Vulcan external affairs director Pearl Leung, who now works at Amazon, and her husband James Parker, an actor.
3. Several business and developer groups that previously supported King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert, who was removed from her leadership roles on the council after sending out a racist mailer that portrayed one of her colleagues, Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, as a bow-tie-wearing “Seattle socialist”—have quietly joined the Seattle Times in dropping their endorsements for Lambert.
The Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties tweeted on October 8 that their political arm, the Affordable Housing Council, had rescinded their endorsement and was requesting a refund of their contribution ($2,000, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission) to Lambert’s campaign. The account, @MBAKS_Voice, has 749 followers.
The endorsing body for the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, the Eastside Business Association, also rescinded their endorsement of Lambert, EBA executive director Caitlyn Gallagher confirmed.
And the Associated General Contractors of Washington no longer lists Lambert on their endorsements website. (The AGC did not respond to a request for comment.) The AGC’s political action committee, BUILD PAC, contributed $1,000 to Lambert’s campaign in March.
4. This week, half the front page of the Seattle Times’ website was taken up by an enormous flashing ad calling city attorney candidate Nicole Thomas-Kennedy “reckless and extreme” because of tweets she posted during the June 2020 protests against police violence. The ad included a quote from “The Seattle Times” saying that Thomas-Kennedy’s “toxic tweets” show she is “unfit to be Seattle City Attorney,” omitting the fact that the quote is from the Times’ editorial board, not its news reporting. More egregiously, the ad did not include legally information identifying who paid for the ad—in this case, big corporate donors including Vulcan, the president of Microsoft, and the head of Goodman Real Estate.
The Times has endorsed Thomas-Kennedy’s opponent, Ann Davison.
State law requires independent expenditure groups that purchase ads, including online ads, to clearly identify the top five donors behind the campaign. The anti-Thomas-Kennedy ad did not list any donors; instead, in tiny white-on-black print, one of the flashing panels said the campaign was purchased by “Seattle for Common Sense.”
After I posted the ad on Twitter, someone filed a complaint with the State Public Disclosure Commission, charging that the ad violated state disclosure law by failing to include the contributors. In the meantime, about half an hour after my initial tweet, a new version of the ad appeared on the Seattle Times’ website, now including a list of the campaign’s top donors, if an outdated one (it excluded Microsoft president Brad Smith and developer Jon Runstad).
The responsibility for ensuring that ads don’t run afoul of the law is shared by campaigns and the companies that choose to publish or run them. Kim Bradford, deputy director of the PDC, says the fact that the ad was eventually fixed does not mean the agency won’t investigate. “We open a case if we think there’s something there and there’s enough evidence of a potential violation,” Bradford said. The PDC does allow an exemption to disclosure on the ad itself for “small” online ads, which Bradford defined as “the small embedded ads that you see on some websites—the ones that are kind of within the text.” It’s unlikely that a flashing ad that takes up half the front page of a website when viewed on a browser would qualify as a small ad.
The Times has a history of bending the rules to promote Republican candidates and causes. In 2012, the newspaper donated a full page of the newspaper to gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna, the equivalent of an $80,000 contribution. The unprecedented decision to contribute free advertising to a partisan candidate made national news, and more than 100 Times employees protested the paper’s funding of McKenna’s campaign.
5. The Washington Coalition of Minority Legal Professionals—a coalition of state bar associations including the Loren Miller Bar Association (representing Black lawyers), Washington Women Lawyers, QLaw (representing LGBTQ+ lawyers), and several Asian American bar associations—has given Davison an “unqualified” rating. According to the group, their ratings reflect “our nonpartisan assessment whether a candidate will be effective in office, will serve the interests of the community and society, and is committed to the fair administration of justice and improvement of the criminal justice system from the perspective of the participating minority bar associations.”
One factor in the coalition’s ratings were the candidates’ answers to a standard questionnaire, which included questions like “how will you engage with communities of color?” and “as city attorney, how will you engage with tribal governments?”
In response to a question about whether “you or the organizations you have been a part of have contributed to white supremacy and/or the devaluation of the lives of Black and Indigenous persons or other persons of color,” Davison had this to say:
“I have spent most of my life working to help people in need. In my youth I worked in a refugee camp for people fleeing terrible violence from civil war and at a congressional office where I helped underserved people get access to services they needed. I currently serve on a board that gives housing and support to people in severe mental health and addiction. While my time working in professional sports, often as the only woman in an office of wealthy men of various races, was much less altruistic, it was still a position of service.”
The group gave Davison’s opponent Thomas-Kennedy a rating of “adequate.”