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Independent money flies in Seattle and elsewhere
Pro-Harrell PAC fires $108K mailer at González; Realtors keep spending big
With less than two weeks until Election Day, and ballots landing in mailboxes, independent expenditure committees are carpet-bombing mailboxes, the internet, and airwaves. Here’s a look at some of the more interesting spending.
Starting in Seattle, Bruce Harrell For Seattle’s Future is sending $108K worth of mail targeting Harrell's rival Lorena González in the mayoral race. The committee, fueled by big donations from the extremely wealthy, has spent $890,360 on the race so far. That’s more than the $835,000-plus of mostly corporate cash spent by the laughably named People For Jenny Durkan four years ago. González got the city council to ban most corporate giving, but that turns out to have been ineffective at keeping big money out of Seattle campaigns. If you have a vote in that election, it’ll probably land in your mailbox today. The committee was kind enough to send us a PDF:
The PAC on the other side of that race has spent even more. Essential Workers For Lorena spent another $40,000 last week on television ads opposing Harrell. Nearly all of the $900,000 it has poured into the campaign came from two labor unions.
It should be noted that this race isn’t a straight-up business-vs-labor fight. Several prominent unions have endorsed Harrell. For example, the Seattle Firefighters PAC spent $51,000 on pro-Harrell mailers earlier this month.
The Civic Alliance for a Prosperous Economy sent 14,282 mailers late last week in support of progressive activist Nikkita Oliver’s bid for Gonález’s soon-to-be-open seat on the Seattle City Council. CAPE, originally founded as a counter to the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy, the Seattle Chamber’s now-defunct pro-business PAC, has spent about $80,000 on Oliver’s race against Sara Nelson, which looks to be tight. Most of the money came from three left-leaning labor unions that also support González: Service Employees International Union Local 775, which represents long-term care workers: United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21, representing mostly grocery-store workers; and Unite Here Local 8, which is trying to unionize more of Seattle’s largely nonunion hotels and restaurants. CAPE is also getting cash and in-kind help from Civic Action, billionaire progressive donor Nick Hanauer’s political operation.
In the hottest of the King County Council races, Concerned Taxpayers of Washington State dropped a cool $100,000 out in East King County on paid canvassers in support of incumbent Kathy Lambert and against challenger Sara Perry. Although it’s now technically a nonpartisan office. Lambert was originally elected as a Republican, while Perry is a big player in Eastside Democratic politics. Lambert is perceived to be in trouble in a district that is trending blue. Both Lambert’s campaign and Concerned Taxpayers did some polling this summer that we haven’t seen, so the size of their play indicates that presumption is true. Most of the PAC’s money came from its founder, truck dealer Steve Gordon.
The Eastside Business Alliance, which operates out of the Bellevue Chamber and plays in local races on the Eastside, has spent $104,000 on behalf of Jared Nieuwenhuis, who is defending his Bellevue City Council seat against progressive Ruth Lipscomb, who has raised an impressive $128,000 for her challenge. The alliance has raised close to $200,000 this year, including $50K from the Washington Association of Realtors and $25K each from Amazon and Kemper Holdings, the company of longtime Republican megadonor Kemper Freeman.
Down in America’s Vancouver, the National Association of Realtors continues to spend big on John Blom’s bid for a city council seat, putting nearly $80,000 in digital advertising for the general election. Blom himself is a Realtor and they take care of their own. Blom was formerly a Republican member of the Clark County Council before renouncing the party during the Trump years and losing a reelection bid as an independent last year. He’s in a tough race against Kim Harless in the city, which is more Democratic-leaning than his former county council district. The Realtors have spent more than $242,000 so far on the race.
East of the mountains, the Realtors are still spending big on Spokane City Council races. Their national and state PACs have spent a combined $95,000 this month supporting Mike Lish’s bid for an open seat. Lish faces progressive Zack Zappone, who lost a bid for the Legislature last year. The two Realtor groups also spent a combined $50K this month backing Jonathan Bingle, who’s running for a different seat against Sherazi Naghmana. The Realtors’ interest here, as in many other places, is land-use policy more favorable to building and selling real estate.
In Richland, the Realtors have spent $30,0000 on city council candidate Jhoanna Jones, who is also a Realtor, more than twice what Jones has raised for her own campaign. Last week they spent $25,000 on direct mail supporting her, enough to reach every likely voter in the small city.
About that Thomas-Kennedy hit piece…
We got some pushback on our use of the phrase “hit piece” to describe a mailer opposing Nicole Thomas-Kennedy’s bid for Seattle city attorney. As we noted in Tuesday’s edition, the mailer, a classic of the genre, featured a grainy black-and-white photo of Thomas-Kennedy, an angry red box with an incendiary quote from one of her extremely ill-advised tweets about the police, and the text “Nicole Thomas-Kennedy is unfit to be city attorney.”
Folks associated with its sponsor, Seattle For Common Sense, argued that it wasn’t a hit piece because the tweet was accurately quoted, which is a thing you hear from campaign people all the time. “I prefer hard-hitting,” Seattle For Common Sense co-chair Scott Lindsay tweeted at me.
That’s like saying those brutal hits that Seahawks great Kam Chancellor used to lay on Vernon Davis of the hated San Francisco 49ers weren’t brutal because they fell within the rules.
Were they clean hits?Yes. Were they designed not just to end the play but to intimidate opposing receivers and dissuade opponents from throwing the ball near Chancellor? Absolutely.
Politics is a contact sport and we enjoy hardball here at the Observer. It’s a hit piece.
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And now for your dose of Arya the wonder-puppy
Since Chancellor’s premature retirement due to a neck injury brought about by doling out too many brutal hits, the NFL has effectively outlawed his violent style of play. That’s unquestionably good for player safety. It also likely explains why opposing quarterbacks are carving up his successors in the Seattle backfield like Thanksgiving turkey. Also, the NFL apparently has some kind of beef about embedding its video on Substack, so you’ll have to go to YouTube to enjoy Bam-Bam’s greatest hits.