With a growing airport and a looming trade war, the Port of Seattle is looking for ways to maximize growth in trade, tourism and transportation while accommodating conservation efforts.
King County voters this fall will fill two open seats on the five-member Port of Seattle Commission, but first they must select two finalists for each seat from a field of 10 on Aug. 6.
Seven candidates are running for Position 2, and three for Position 5, including incumbent Fred Felleman. The winners of the November general election will join the three other commissioners in January to oversee the port’s cargo and cruise-ship operations as well as the expanding Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for the next four years.
Courtney Gregoire is stepping down after serving on the commission for six years. In her wake, seven candidates are vying for the open seat.
Sam Cho, a former Obama administration official and the leading fundraiser in the Port election, touts his experience as the CEO and president of Seven Seas Export, which exports products to Southeast Asia. “We have a president in the White House who keeps waging trade wars … with our largest trade partners,” he said, “What distinguishes me as a candidate is the work that I’ve done is all related to the Port.”
Cho has raised nearly $51,000 as of July 19, on a platform of minority business growth and lowering carbon emissions. He is supported by the Washington Conservation Voters, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Martin Luther King County Labor Council.
Grant Degginger, a former Bellevue mayor and state Public Disclosure Commission chair, is running on a platform that emphasizes renovating SeaTac airport without creating congestion. “The planning effort doesn’t seem to address how the Port will connect to some of the roads,” he said. “We have to be a good neighbor … we need to plan appropriately.”
Degginger, a lawyer focused on construction law, raised about $48,000 and is endorsed by a slew of current and former Washington mayors and lawmakers as well as former Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani. He says his experience as a mayor spans more than a decade in which he focused on expanding transportation.
Preeti Shridhar is running to cut carbon emissions in half and reduce noise pollution and has raised $27,675. She is endorsed by Puget Sound Pilots, the Washington Conservation Voters and the refugee and immigration advocacy organization One America, as well as a variety of state lawmakers.
Ali Scego’s platform is built on sustainable employment. Scego said his background in employment programs at social-service agencies and the Community College system influenced his plan to “upskill” existing employees and bring in new ones to “create a talent pipeline for the business community.”
Scego is also campaigning on the need for affordable workforce housing near the SeaTac airport and issuing an ORCA card to SeaTac employees to reduce congestion. He has raised more than $12,ooo and is endorsed by Tukwila’s mayor and a City Council member.
Nina Martinez is backed by a handful of current and former Washington legislators like Velma Veloria, the Filipina American elected to the state legislature in 1992. She raised $14,463, campaigning on utilizing new technology to make environmental gains through biofuel and cleaning up the Duwamish River. She is the board chair of the Latino Civic Alliance and worked in software development for 15 years.
Dominic Barrera is an operations agent at Alaska Airlines and member of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union who says more workers need to be involved in Port decisions.
“Just having the perspective as someone who has worked on the ground … [who] knows what its like to live in a low wage job in this industry … it’s important,” he said.
Barrera, previously elected fire commissioner in the North Highline Fire District, has raised almost $4,000 and is backed by the Washington State Progressive Caucus, King County Democrats and fire officials in King County and North Highline.
Kelly Charlton said he plans to promote Puget Sound as an international logistics hub and advocate for minority and women business growth. Charlton opted for mini-filing, which frees him from submitting a public campaign contributions report.
Fred Felleman has been the Position 5 commissioner since 2016 and sits on the Energy and Sustainability Committee. His focus has been reducing negative environmental impact from port operations as they continue expanding. He said in his next term he aims to build a sustainable pipeline for employment by making maritime education and internships accessible to teenagers. He also wants to refocus tourism away from Alaska cruises.
“We’re essentially selling Alaska,” Felleman said. “But if you want to see the mountains, if you want to see the whales… the coffee, beer, pot and chocolate, visit Seattle.”
He also promised to continue his work in conservation and economic development. He has raised $43,752 since January, mostly through individual contributions and the Washington State Democrats. He’s endorsed by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Washington Conservation Voters as well as various lawmakers.
Challenging Felleman are Garth Jacobson, an attorney who lambasted the congestion around SeaTac airport, long TSA lines and unintuitive planning for people navigating the airport; and Jordan Lemmon, who works as a theater supervisor and technician. Neither has reported any outside backing.