King County voters will elect three Port commissioners in the Nov. 7 election, and Stephanie Bowman is one of two incumbents seeking re-election.
In the Position 3 race for the Port of Seattle Commission, board member Stephanie Bowman is running for re-election against challenger Ahmed Abdi, a progressive who fought for minimum-wage increases.
King County voters on Nov. 7 will have to decide whether to change leadership at the Port, which has overseen growth in its business but also public-trust controversies, including the departure of the former CEO who gave himself a secret pay raise.
Bowman, the incumbent, also serves as the executive director of the nonprofit Washington Asset Building Coalition, which serves economically disadvantaged residents. Her endorsements include several local unions, Washington Conservation Voters and King County Executive Dow Constantine. She’s raised $70,000, and her top donors include local unions like those of Port firefighters and longshore workers, the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, and Alaska and Delta airlines.
Bowman says her biggest accomplishment was co-leading the effort to merge the ports of Seattle and Tacoma earlier this decade. A former Port of Tacoma employee, she said the effort has reduced competition between the two ports.
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Abdi, outreach manager for the Fair Work Center, said he was too busy for a phone interview for this story, though his campaign materials provide some information on his background and views. He’s endorsed by U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, The Stranger and former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. He’s raised $21,000 (the least of any candidate in the three Port races), including money from local Teamsters and SEIU unions.
Abdi’s website says he is a refugee from Somalia and Kenya who came to the United States in 2009. After working for $9 an hour at a chicken plant in Kansas City, he moved to the Seattle area, went to college and helped fight for the $15 minimum wage in SeaTac. He now sits on the board of the Seattle Housing Authority.
Abdi’s campaign materials indicate he favors paid sick leave for Port employees, supports union workers, is against oil drilling in Puget Sound and wants more accountability for top-level Port executives. Several issues aren’t addressed. Before the primary, he highlighted that he wasn’t taking money from big corporations.
Bowman wants to start a discussion now on a potential second regional airport, saying fast-growing SeaTac is going to hit its limit in coming decades but can’t sprawl out farther into surrounding communities. She also helped launch cart service for passengers for the walk between the airport light-rail station and terminals, though she says usage has been low because not enough people know about it.
Bowman wants to hire a new executive director who operates the Port like a public agency, not a company. She says her support in recent months to change the job’s title from CEO to executive director is a subtle indication that the Port is moving in that direction after hiring its last CEO from the private sector.
She defends property taxes charged by the Port as being low — “about $4 per month” to the average homeowner, she says — and argues the revenue is used wisely, on things like environmental protection and transportation improvements. She says the taxes allow property owners “the opportunity to be a shareholder in the Port.”
She’s against Chris Hansen’s proposal for an NBA arena in Sodo — saying it should be somewhere else — and is concerned about overdevelopment on the central Seattle waterfront after the viaduct comes down. She explains that she wants to keep lands in both areas intact for industrial jobs, so people “who don’t work in high tech” can still work in Seattle.