Trumpian Tactics Shape Progressive Seattle’s Local Elections

Written by: Nick Licata


President Donald Trump attacks four women in congress as a wild socialist “squad” intent on destroying America if they stay in office. One would be surprised to see similar tactics pop up in the progressive enclave of Seattle, but they have. And, they are being pursued by a group that describes themselves as “progressive, pragmatists”.

The People for Seattle, formed by former City Councilmember Tim Burgess, considers city council candidates a serious threat to Seattle’s peace and safety because they support policies like safe drug consumption sites, traffic congestion pricing, restrictions on rent increases, higher taxes on the largest corporations and are not eliminating homelessness.

Who are these People for Seattle? They are “decent” people. They are not in the streets waving hatred slogans. Many have been civic leaders, promoting new downtown development and safer single-family neighborhoods. But they apparently fear five candidates, one male, and four women. Zachary DeWolf is the male, he’s gay, on the Seattle school board, and a tenant rights advocate. Two of the women are of color and all have been very supportive of organized labor. I believe their critics fear that change will happen, too fast and too substantive to their liking.

It is the kind of change that recognizes that more public and private financing is necessary to deal with our current health crises stemming from a growing homeless population as a result of ever-increasing rents. Better oversight is needed of our police force to assure that force is applied fairly across all races. A better economic climate must be pursued, for starting new businesses and to also allow employees to earn a decent living.

People for Seattle’s mailed campaign flyers are out-right indecent. Despite claiming that they oppose these candidates because they “seek to deepen divisions instead of seeking common ground” in fact this is exactly what this group is doing. Veteran Seattle P.I. columnist Joel Connelly wrote “lots of folks are surprised at getting nasty, negative, consultant-crafted direct-mail hit pieces from People for Seattle. The group is not boosting candidates of promise so much as slinging mud.”

A flyer against candidate Emily Myers ran a photo of a homeless encampment with the heading of “More of the Same”  and the caption “if you like extremist (councilmember ) Kshama Sawant, then you’ll love Emily Myers.” Kshama is an avowed and proud socialist, Emily is not a socialist. She was a delegate to the King County Labor Council from her union of graduate students. Burgess’s group would seem to consider organized labor a socialist conspiracy.

Alex Pederson, whom Myers is running against, received the endorsement of People for Seattle but has disavowed the mailer, posting “negative mail or negative ads from independent expenditures (I.E.s) are unnecessary and unwelcome. I believe all the candidates can and should simply speak for themselves.”

Another attack flyer on candidate Tammy Morales, accused her of supporting a “job-killing head tax”, even though only the top 3% of the largest businesses would have paid into it for building more affordable housing. A company’s cost would have amounted to an increase of one penny per hour in paid wages.

Their attacks have taken on a fever pitch against incumbent Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who was my past staff lead on many of the most progressive city policies passed while I was on the council. According to the last filing posted on the city’s website, about half of the Burgess group’s attack money is going to defeat Herbold, with less than 1% of their money raised from within her District 1. Isn’t that undermining the district election initiative to make council members more accountable to geographic districts?

An attack flyer accused her of being another Sawant and also for having “dreamed up the job-killing head tax.” Erica Barnett who blogs as C is for Crank, posted a photo of giant spray-painted tags on the viaduct’s remaining pillars saying, “Lisa Herbold Policies Kill!” Erica noted that “It’s ironic that an ex-council member who frequently bemoans the lack of “civility” in Seattle politics may be largely responsible for one of the nastiest local campaign seasons in memory.”  Their inflammatory use of  “killing” in today’s toxic political environment, which Trump initiated, leads to this type of chilling and threatening graffiti. Are Seattle’s moderate liberals and conservatives, now adopting Trumpian hyper-vitriolic and mean-spirited messaging for campaigns?

The final irony buried in this group’s effort to stop the supposed socialist drift of the city council because it is accused of taxing businesses too much. The critics ignore that the council passed the original employee hours tax, which has seen been branded by the opposition as a  “head tax”, back in 2006. Councilmember Jan Drago sponsored the legislation, with Richard Conlin, Richard McIver, Jean Godden, and me voting in favor. Tim Burgess had not been elected to the council yet. Its proceeds had to be used ”strictly for transportation purposes.” It was repealed in 2010, largely because businesses complained of the convoluted paperwork involved, not its financial burden. At that time, neither Drago nor any councilmember who voted to adopt that tax was labeled as a socialist!

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