Candidates draw contributions from individuals, organizations, and Seattle’s Democracy Vouchers program. Next candidate forum is at New Holly on May 28.
by Carolyn Bick
Seattle’s elections are this coming November, and the field doesn’t want for candidates, particularly in South Seattle’s District 2.
While two have dropped out, there are still seven candidates running for Seattle City Council’s open District 2 seat, the winner of which will represent the neighborhoods of Southeast Seattle and Georgetown.
Candidates can received cash contributions as well as democracy vouchers, the city of Seattle’s publicly funded campaign financing program. Voters in Seattle receive $100 worth in democracy vouchers that they can give to candidates of their choice — candidates must opt in to the program. Candidates who receive elect to receive democracy vouchers agree to cap individual contributions to $250. Candidates who do not elect to receive the vouchers are limited to $500 contributions.
The candidates will be participating in a community forum on the evening of May 28 at the New Holly Gathering Hall. The community forum will take place on May 28 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the New Holly Gathering Hall, 7054 32nd Ave. S. It will be wheelchair accessible, and translation services will be provided.
Here’s a quick snapshot of the candidates and their finances, ahead of the forum.
Tammy Morales is a longtime South Seattle activist, who works as a community organizer for the Rainier Beach Action Coalition and a Human Rights Commissioner. She isn’t a new addition to the field: in 2015, Morales nearly unseated incumbent Bruce Harrell, losing by just 474 votes. Morales is running on a platform of stopping displacement, ameliorating homelessness, and creating affordable childcare facilities. She supports right-to-return legislation, as well as requiring displacement studies to be done, before permits are issued to developers. She also wants to create eviction reform and equip the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) with more power to enforce renter protection. Renters’ rights are also tied to Morales’ stance on the homelessness crisis, which she believes can be mitigated by reducing eviction rates, as well as creating a Housing First initiative that focuses on placing the chronically homeless into long-term, stable housing paired with support services.
As of May 27, Morales’ campaign has raised $74,541 in contributions from 1,084 donors, who have given an average of about $68.76. Many of these donors also used the city’s Democracy Voucher program to donate up to $100, combined with their own cash donations. Her top donors tend to donate $350 — when accepting democracy vouchers, candidates can receive contributions up to $250 plus $100 in democracy vouchers. Morales has contributed $350 of her own money to her campaign. Most of Morales’ donors are individuals, not corporations or organizations, and her top donors are comprised of a mix of city employees, nonprofit employees, and individuals, some of whom are retired.
Ari Hoffman is the President of Lion Logistics, a commercial and residential construction and property management company. He is campaigning on a platform of making Seattle a safer place to live and supporting law enforcement. He supports enforcing existing laws and the new Seattle Police Department contract, and rejects the currently embattled idea of safe injection sites. He also said homelessness should be declared a public health disaster, and that organizations like Mary’s Place and the Millionair’s Club need support. He called for a reallocation of funds toward mental health care and affordable housing. The city can achieve the latter by re-evaluating the zoning and permitting process and rolling back certain taxes on landlords that ultimately end up on tenants’ shoulders, among other measures, he said.
As of May 20, 2019, Hoffman’s campaign has $44,438 in contributions from 318 donors, giving an average $139.74, but his top donors have all contributed $500, the maximum amount allowed if a candidate is not accepting democracy vouchers. Hoffman has contributed $499 of his own money. While most of Hoffman’s donors are individuals, he also a $500 donation from the Association for Corporate Growth, Inc., as well as $500 donations from people who work at the same company.
Hoffman is not accepting democracy vouchers. In an email to the Emerald, Hoffman cited his recent Facebook post, saying that he said “if the goal was to get big money out of elections as the Vouchers were marketed, than they should have done that. Instead all they did was inject tax payer money into elections and in doing so made Seattle less affordable by taxing us more.”
Phyllis Porter is a South Seattle-based educator and community organizer. Porter’s platform centers around the housing and homelessness crisis, as well as equitable transportation and businesses. She promotes expanding programs and policies that support those at risk of displacement, programs that include debt counseling, short-term rental assistance, and legal services. She also wants the Office of Economic Development to study options for connecting small businesses with youth and unemployed adults looking for work, and have the city generate greater financial support minority-owned businesses. She also wants the city to study ways to reduce the effects of fees and taxation on small businesses, and exempt small startups from the business and occupation tax for a period of time.
To date, Porter’s campaign has raised $28,138 in contributions. Her 612 donors have contributed an average of about $45.98, though many have used democracy vouchers to donate up to $100. With the exception of the Washington State Democrats, her top donors are all individuals, most of whom have donated $250 each.
Christopher Peguero is a current Seattle City Light employee. The Beacon Hill resident is running on a platform of mitigating the homelessness crisis and fighting gentrification and displacement. He believes the City of Seattle should address the former with both short-and long-term strategies that include sanctioned encampments with few restrictions and access to a robust suite of services that include counseling, healthcare, and job placement. His long-term solutions include creating more incentives for Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda and issuing housing vouchers.
Peguero also supports creating a few funds and groups to help stem displacement and the effects of gentrification. These groups include a Community Policy Committee, whose aim would be to prioritize the voices of women of color, underrepresented communities, and the LGBTQIA community. He has also stated a first-year commitment to keeping his office open every day of the week, three of which will be mobile office days, in order to remain accessible to those most affected by gentrification and displacement. After the first year, he will invite community feedback to understand how well this idea works.
As of May 20, 2019, Peguero has raised $8,715 in contributions, from 196 donors who have contributed an average of about $44. Peguero has contributed more than $3,500 of his own money bringing his campaign total to $12,260. The donors have not used the city’s Democracy Vouchers to contribute, despite Peguero choosing to accept them. His top donors have contributed $250. All of them are individuals, but live in Seattle, Bainbridge Island, and Bellevue.
Mark Solomon is a crime prevention coordinator at the Seattle Police Department. He’s running on a platform of increased public safety and combating homelessness. He believes the issues are inextricably linked, and also have links to the increasingly unaffordable housing market in Seattle. He proposes to combat homelessness and increase public safety with a combination of supporting first responders, focusing on small businesses, as well as increasing housing affordability and making more strategic investments in rental assistance. He also wants to see better-maintained infrastructure, such as street lights and roads, and an investment in permanent supportive housing, and support for the work the city’s Human Services Department is doing.
He also wants to see a greater citywide investment in its Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) fields, and more accountability on the part of the City Council.
Solomon’s campaign finances currently stand at $10,494. This includes contributions from 213 donors, who have donated an average of about $49.27. While none of his donors have used the city’s democracy voucher program, Solomon’s accepts them. Most of his top donors have given $250, and, with the exception of the Professional & Technical Employees, Local 17 PAC, they are individuals, some of whom are couples and Solomon’s family members.
Omari Tahir-Garrett is a longtime Seattle activist. He is running on a platform of justice for Black people in Seattle and ending homelessness. He calls for reparations paid to Africatown, as well as removing whitewashed history from the classroom, which includes removing pictures of George Washington. He also believes Seattle Police Department officers should have to become teachers for five years, during their careers. His homelessness response ideas include a call for the city to provide building materials and counseling services to people experiencing homelessness, so they may build their own mortgage-free housing. He also believes the city should create its own bank in part to finance its homelessness response, as well as other city projects. (Content note: The text of his full platform contains strong language.)
Tahir-Garrett has a balance of $0 in campaign finances. He is not accepting democracy vouchers, because he said he wants “all money out of politics, and to run a campaign based on the record of the things he has done, rather than on money.
Henry Dennison is a member of the Socialist Worker Party, but does not have a campaign page and has not returned calls and emails.
Dennison has a balance of $0 contributed to his campaign. He is not accepting democracy vouchers.
Featured image by Aaron Burkhalter.