Seattle ranks No. 1 among the 50 biggest U.S. cities for per-capita donations to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
The Seattle Times editorial board surprised a lot of readers by recommending Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary — the only major daily newspaper in the country to do so.
Say what you will about that controversial endorsement, you can’t accuse The Times of being out of step with the city.
Seattle ranks No. 1 among the 50 biggest U.S. cities for per-capita contributions to Bernie Sanders, according to my analysis of the most recent data from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Itemized donations from Seattleites to Sanders totaled $596,578 through Jan. 31. That pencils out to a rate of $893 per 1,000 city residents, handily beating out No. 2 San Francisco and No. 3 Portland.
These contributions present only a partial picture, however. By law, donations of $200 or more are required to have name, occupation, ZIP code and other information. Nearly three-quarters of Sanders’ $94 million in individual contributions fall below that threshold.
Small individual donations that total $200 in a campaign cycle also must be itemized. Of the $27 million in itemized individual donations, $1.7 million came from Washington.
Sanders just opened an office in Seattle’s Capitol Hill, and his staff couldn’t have picked a better location: the top three city ZIP codes for per-capita donations cover the entire neighborhood. With $1,791 per 1,000 residents, 98112 leads the way, which includes 15th Avenue East on Capitol Hill as well as Madison Valley, Madison Park and Montlake.
If Seattle has embraced Bernie Sanders more than any other big city, good timing may have something to do with it, says James Gregory, professor of history at the University of Washington who researches progressive politics.
The city has a long tradition of “episodic flirtations” with left-wing politics, Gregory told me. “We’re in one of those periods now.”
And when Seattle takes a turn to the left, it tends to make a big splash. Recently, we captured headlines around the nation for the 2013 election of socialist Kshama Sawant to the City Council. We did it again with the 2014 passage of legislation leading to a $15 minimum wage — getting a federal $15 minimum wage is now part of Bernie Sanders’ presidential platform.
“Quite a number of other cities have a long history of being a good place for radicals,” Gregory said. “What’s unique about Seattle is that occasionally something really electrifying happens here.”
That goes back to the Seattle General Strike of 1919 — a tumultuous event followed around the world. “This was shortly after the Russian Revolution, and so all eyes were on Seattle,” Gregory said. “Some people thought, ‘Oh, this is the revolutionary moment.’ ”
Something similar happened again with the WTO protests in 1999.
How did Seattle become such a breeding ground for leftist political movements? Gregory says the city got a head start in the late 1890s:
“A group of socialists — for a time led by Eugene Debs — came up with a scheme to encourage radicals to move to Washington state in order to take it over and win it for the socialist movement.”
Ever since, Gregory suggests, Seattle’s socialist reputation may have attracted like-minded people.
“The WTO demonstration of 1999 convinced a lot of people that something really big is happening in Seattle, and a variety of people moved here as a result,” he said.
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We can only guess how many of those folks are now writing checks to Bernie.
And speaking of new folks, more than $150,000 in itemized donations has come from people who work in tech here. Microsoft employees have kicked in $38,000 and Amazon workers another $31,000.
They’re not feeling the Bern so much on the Eastside. The rate of itemized contributions from the city of Bellevue is just $358 per 1,000 residents — less than half Seattle’s average.
There is one place in King County that tops all others at a whopping $2,258 per 1,000 population — ultraliberal Vashon Island.