Fresh off a shaky performance at his first Democratic presidential primary debate, former Vice President Joe Biden will head to Seattle on Saturday for a pair of private fundraisers co-hosted by top Microsoft and Amazon executives, and wealthy investors and political insiders including former Gov. Gary Locke.
Biden is scheduled to attend a late afternoon reception at the home of public-relations executive Roger Nyhus in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, followed by an evening gathering at the Medina home of former Microsoft president Jon Shirley.
No public events have been announced for the trip, Biden’s first to the state since declaring his presidential candidacy. He was scheduled to attend a trio of similar high-dollar fundraisers Friday in San Francisco.
Fundraising invitations obtained by The Seattle Times show 29 co-hosts for the two Saturday events, including big names in local tech and political circles.
At the evening event in Medina, co-hosts include Microsoft President Brad Smith, Microsoft VP for European Union affairs John Frank, former Costco CEO Jim Sinegal and former Nordstrom executive Susan Brotman, as well as former Seattle Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim.
Co-hosts of the earlier event in Seattle will include Locke, Amazon general counsel David Zapolsky, Microsoft lobbyist Michael Mattmiller, attorney and former congressional candidate Jason Rittereiser, and Dr. Guy Hudson, CEO of Swedish Health Services.
Admission to the Nyhus event starts at $1,000; donors must pay at least $2,800 to get into the Shirley home. A Biden spokeswoman declined to say how much money the campaign expects to raise at the two events.
Some of the event hosts also have contributed money to the presidential campaign of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who struggled to get much speaking time during the first Democratic debate on Wednesday. Microsoft’s Smith and Amazon’s Zapolsky, for example, have each donated $5,600 to Inslee, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
Biden’s visit to Seattle comes after he faced multiple blows at Thursday’s debate in Miami, including a dramatic attack by California Sen. Kamala Harris, who pummeled Biden on his recent boasts about a past working relationship with segregationist senators, calling his comments “hurtful.”
The former Delaware senator, who served two terms as vice president under President Barack Obama, has dominated early 2020 polling for the Democratic nomination.
His critics contend he’s out of step with the rising progressive wing of the Democratic Party and should cede power to a new generation with bolder ideas. But Biden is seen by supporters as an experienced and popular politician who appeals to moderates and blue-collar voters, giving the party its best shot at defeating President Donald Trump.
That’s the view of Joseph Schocken, one of the co-hosts of the Shirley fundraiser.
“The first reason is electability,” said Schocken, the founder and president of Broadmark Capital, a Seattle-based investment bank, in an interview Friday.
As evidence, he pointed to Trump’s frequent singling out of Biden for attacks. “All Trump talks about is Biden because he understands that Biden is the one most legitimate, the strongest threat to Trump’s reelection.”
“We care passionately about issues like health care and income inequality,” he said. “You are not going to get anything done from the far right or the far left.”
Schocken predicted Democrats will hand the 2020 election to Trump if they nominate someone like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist.
“Bernie isn’t even a Democrat. Tell me how that’s gonna play in swing states,” he said, dismissing polls that have shown Sanders leading in a head-to-head matchup against Trump.
Asked about candidates who challenged Biden during this week’s debate to “pass the torch” to a younger generation of leaders, Schocken said, “I agree with them. It is time to pass the torch.” But, he said, “that issue is less important than defeating Trump.”