When word got out during the last presidential election that Seattle developer Martin Selig would be supporting Donald Trump, the blowback from our liberal town, he said, was “stunning.”
“Do you know what it’s like being a Jewish Republican in Seattle?” Selig told The Seattle Times. “The repercussions of what you hear from people is stunning.”
In reaction, Selig, a billionaire, retreated from any affiliation with Trump in 2016 and said he wouldn’t even vote for him. It had become problematic just getting along in the city while wearing a MAGA hat.
But that was then. This spring, Selig went all-in for Trump, maxing out to the president’s campaign with a donation of $5,600.
What’s interesting isn’t so much that this one local rich guy decided to stop worrying and go full Trump. It’s that he’s hardly alone.
The latest federal-election reports show that Trump is doing surprisingly well getting backers in this bluest of blue places. With nearly 15 months to go before the 2020 election, he already has drawn more donations from Seattle addresses than he did during the entire 2016 campaign.
In Washington state, where his approval rating is 28 points underwater, Trump has still racked up far more donations, big and small, than any of the Democratic candidates — in fact more than the top six Democrats combined.
I’m not talking about total dollars raised — though on that front Trump is a juggernaut, too. But the total number of donations reflects how many people are inspired enough by a candidate to send any amount of money, sometimes repeatedly. As I wrote in 2016, about how democratic socialist candidate Bernie Sanders was swamping the field in the donations category, “it’s like a measure of people power.”
Well, now Trump, of all candidates, has nearly three times as many donations from Washington state as Bernie Sanders does. The Vermont senator has 8,080 itemized donations here, while Trump has the most ever recorded at this point in an election, by any candidate in either party, 21,657.
What’s more, these are “itemized donations” — meaning the donors were required to list their names, occupations and addresses, and risk the backlash Selig was so concerned about.
So you can look through the list and see that just in Seattle, Trump has the support of a seamstress, an airline pilot, a crane operator, a teacher, a nurse, a city of Seattle firefighter, a UW professor, a longshoreman and about a thousand others. In total they’ve given $93,042.
Past this point of the last campaign, Trump had only six donations from Seattle — and when The Seattle Times contacted the donors, two said they wanted their money back.
I asked Selig about his MAGA reunion, but he didn’t respond. That he’s been joined by so many others, though, shows the degree to which Trump has become “normal” for our politics, even as, in my view anyway, his behavior becomes increasingly unhinged.
“So Trump’s full of outspoken bombast, so what?” said another of his Seattle donors, Fremont property manager Suzie Burke (she has given $375). “With the past Republicans, there was nothing to be passionate about. That’s why you’re seeing all these people coming out of the woodwork.”
The leading local Trump donors, besides Selig, are Fischer Plumbing CEO Daryl Miller, who is on the board of Seattle Pacific University, and Medina developer Hossein Khorram. Like Selig, both gave the maximum, $5,600. Outside the area, the biggest donors are billionaire investment adviser Ken Fisher and his wife Sherrilyn, of Camas, who also both gave $5,600.
Already Trump has surpassed his total 2016 pool of donors from Washington state, by 31%.
So what, you may be saying, Trump’s not going to win out here anyway. True. But when your fundraising is breaking records, it indicates an intense passion for the candidate, as it did for Bernie Sanders. That counts for a ton in politics — and likely means Trump is stronger right now than his dismal polls indicate.
It also suggests Trumpism is a force in the state, even as it’s in the minority.
When Trump first got elected I did a running tongue-in-cheek interview with a guy I dubbed Seattle’s Only Trump Voter™. The reality was he was about the only Seattleite we could find who was willing to admit it in public, by name.
Guess I have to retire that skit now.
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