Here’s an indication that this year’s Seattle City Council races are about to kick into a higher gear ahead of the Aug. 6 primary election.
Former mayor and council member Tim Burgess and small-business leader Taylor Hoang are heading up a new political-action committee and say they’ve raised $100,000 in two weeks.
It’s called People for Seattle and other executive-committee members include venture capitalist Tom Alberg, Tutta Bella restaurateur Joe Fugere and former Vulcan executive David Stewart. Hoang runs the Pho Cyclo restaurants.
The PAC is a new player on the scene, with unknown money-raising potential. The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and labor unions are expected to spend on races in 2019, as they have in past election cycles. Other PACs could still emerge from the city’s political left.
The chamber’s PAC reported more than $500,000 cash on hand earlier this month, thanks in large part to a $200,000 donation from Amazon last month. All seven of the council’s district seats are up for election.
People for Seattle will endorse and spend money to help “progressive, practical” candidates determined to “seek common ground” rather than advance their own “ideological agendas,” say Burgess and Hoang, its co-chairs. They say the PAC’s donors will be voters who are hungry for change and believe the council must be more responsive to public concerns.
It’s not as if Burgess and Hoang have zero sway at City Hall. Burgess served three council terms and remains well connected. Hoang co-chairs Mayor Jenny Durkan’s small-business advisory council.
They sound like they want to push back against the direction the council has moved in recent years. Burgess was sometimes viewed as more conservative than certain council members, including Kshama Sawant. Hoang serves on the chamber’s board.
“How do I make it safe for my staff to be able to close up the restaurant at 7 p.m. in Sodo and go home and feel safe? How do I park my car in Seattle and not get it broken into?” Hoang said. “We’re at a tipping point where folks feel frustrated that their voices aren’t being heard.”
Burgess and Hoang say the PAC’s donations will come from individuals and small businesses. The chamber relies on large corporations, they say.
Hoang says she hopes to back candidates with open minds. City Hall didn’t listen closely enough to stakeholders before passing minimum-wage increases in 2014, she said.
Burgess supported those increases then and still does but says he, like Hoang, seeks candidates “who understand the implications” of policies they pass.