MYNORTHWEST BLOG

In city that rarely elects Republicans, Seattle conservatives aim for influence behind the scenes

Aug 23, 2021, 10:08 AM | Updated: Aug 24, 2021, 5:47 am
Burgess, Seattle conservatives...
Former Seattle Councilmember Tim Burgess. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Seattle voters haven’t elected a Republican to mayor, city council, or city attorney in over a decade. But despite that, conservative groups, donors, and campaign operatives have looked to wield their influence in other, more subtle ways in the current election cycle.

Another election, another late surge for Seattle’s progressive candidates

The last Republican elected as mayor of Seattle was James Braman in 1964. Douglas Jewett was the last one to serve as city attorney, while winners in city council races have skewed more and more progressive over the last 10 years.

A push to put more conservative, business-friendly candidates on the dais in 2019 saw local PACs pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into seven city council races, opposing incumbents like Kshama Sawant and Lisa Herbold, as well as newcomer progressives like Tammy Morales, Dan Strauss, and Andrew Lewis. But after public backlash brought on by the belief that companies like Amazon had sought to sway the election, that effort ultimately fell short, with Sawant, Herbold, Morales, Strauss, and Lewis all winning their respective races.

That’s had conservatives opting for a different tack in 2021, instead attempting to operate more quietly behind the scenes.

Mayor

Both of the remaining candidates for Seattle mayor are Democrats who each cast themselves as progressive, pragmatic leaders. But, it’s former Council President Bruce Harrell who appears to have broad support from local conservatives.

A local PAC registered as “Harrell for Seattle’s Future” has already raised over $365,000 in support of Harrell’s campaign (albeit without his direct coordination, as is mandated by the city’s election laws). The top donor to that PAC is prominent Trump donor and Goodman Real Estate CEO George Petrie, who has contributed $2,800 to the erstwhile president in each month of 2021 following the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

As of early this week, Petrie has also donated over $61,000 to Harrell for Seattle’s Future, as well as the maximum allowable $550 individual contribution to Harrell’s campaign.

Harrell has received support from another well-known Trump supporter in billionaire real estate CEO Martin Selig. Selig has given the maximum direct contribution to Harrell’s campaign, while his daughter, Jordan, has given $6,000 to Harrell for Seattle’s Future.

Harrell’s conservative support can be seen in other ways as well, particularly in his endorsement from the traditionally right-leaning Seattle Times editorial board. Other candidates endorsed by the Times’ editorial board this cycle include Republican County Councilmembers Reagan Dunn, Kathy Lambert, and Pete von Reichbauer, as well as Republican City Attorney candidate Ann Davison.

Former Councilmember Tim Burgess — whose 2019 “People for Seattle” PAC was a major player in the attempt to move the council away from left-leaning candidates — has been similarly vocal in his own support, having issued harsh criticism for mayoral candidate Lorena Gonzalez’s more progressive stances on policing, homelessness, and upzoning in a lengthy endorsement of Harrell published to his personal website last week.

While Burgess isn’t strictly speaking a Republican himself, he’s also expressed a wide range of more conservative stances on issues ranging from homeless encampment sweeps to prosecuting misdemeanors.

Compassion Seattle

Burgess has opted to largely stay out of council politics during this election cycle, instead pivoting to a more issues-focused approach. That’s taken the form of a proposed amendment to Seattle’s city charter dubbed “Compassion Seattle.”

In practice, it would mandate an additional 2,000 shelter beds or permanent housing units within a one-year period by waiving building permit fees, treating housing permit applications as “first-in-line” for expedited treatment, and refunding to the payee the city’s portion of the sales tax paid for these facilities. It also places a requirement on the city “to ensure that parks, playgrounds, sports fields, public spaces and sidewalks and streets remain open and clear of encampments.”

Large donations to ‘Compassion Seattle’ dwarf all other races in 2021

Critics have cited the proposal as a “wedge issue” for conservatives designed to capitalize on controversy surrounding Seattle’s escalating homelessness crisis, claiming that it does not identify an adequate funding source, nor does it provide enough available housing to provide shelter for the city’s estimated 4,000-plus unhoused individuals.

The group behind the proposal has been more understated in its own political leanings, although its most prominent financial backers paint a much clearer picture. Among its largest contributions: a $50,000 donation from George Petrie, as well an additional $50,000 from Petrie’s business partner, John Goodman.

Kshama Sawant recall

The group behind the attempted recall of socialist Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant has made frequent attempts to define itself as the “opposite” of a right-leaning effort. But conservative support has poured in nonetheless, including $1,000 donations from each of Petrie and Goodman, an endorsement from the Seattle Times editorial board, and a smaller $25 donation from Martin Selig.

Reports also surfaced in September of last year, indicating that Jordan Selig had reached out to the recall in late 2020 to offer her support as a campaign volunteer, while telling the recall’s former head, Ernie Lou, to “please let me know how I can be of help to you.”

Meanwhile, the Seattle Police Officers Guild — whose president, Mike Solan, has been been a highly visible figure within conservative media — reportedly offered up its members for off-duty signature-gathering in early May. The 43th Legislative District Republicans also voiced their own support for signature gathering efforts around the same time.

City Attorney

City Attorney candidate Ann Davison operates as more of an overt conservative, as a registered Republican who’s been vocal on her “tough on crime” politics. That’s resulted in a sizable mobilization of resources from Republican operatives.

In terms of direct links, Davison’s treasurer, Jason Michaud, has served on several other prominent Republican campaigns in the past, having operated in that same role for Republican state Minority House Leader J.T. Wilcox, among others.

Endorsements and money have flowed in accordingly from local conservative PACs, too. That includes the Concerned Taxpayers of Washington group, which has formally endorsed Davison, while backing other Republicans in races across the region. A more local, similarly-named PAC registered as the “Concerned Taxpayer Accountability Center” also spent $20,000 on mailers supporting Davison’s candidacy prior to the August primary. Michaud serves as the treasurer for both PACs.

Questions, comments, or feedback? Follow Nick Bowman on Twitter at @NickNorthwest to weigh in, or reach him by email at [email protected]

MyNorthwest Blog

ice seattle Durkan, oil furnace...
Nick Bowman

Looking back on mayoral term marked by years of conflict between Jenny Durkan, city council

However brief Jenny Durkan's tenure as mayor will be, it's one that's been punctuated by frequent flare-ups of conflict between her office and city council.
11 days ago
sept 11...
MyNorthwest Staff

KIRO Radio shares memories from Sept. 11, 2001

These are the stories from KIRO Radio's hosts and reporters as they recall and honor Sept. 11, 2001.
16 days ago
Compassion Seattle...
Nick Bowman

What went wrong for Compassion Seattle’s homeless initiative, and what’s next?

With a judge striking a proposed charter amendment from Compassion Seattle off the ballot, what's next for the group ahead of November's election?
27 days ago
Seattle red lining...
Nick Bowman

Red-lining, race, and wealth continue to form borders between Seattle voters

Candidates Seattle voters chose in the August primary paint a stark picture of a city divided by racial and economic lines dating back nearly a century.
1 month ago
homeless, sales tax, Compassion Seattle...
Nick Bowman

Large donations to ‘Compassion Seattle’ homelessness initiative dwarf all other races in 2021

While donations have flooded in to Seattle election races in 2021, no single candidate or campaign has raised as much as Compassion Seattle.
2 months ago
Loren Culp...
Nick Bowman

Amid run for Congress, Loren Culp continues to push election fraud narrative

Amid a nascent Congressional campaign, former gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp has maintained his insistence that the 2020 election was stolen.
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
Courtesy of JWatch Photography....
Experience Anacortes

Summer Fun Activities in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...
By Alaska Airlines

Calling all football fans: follow Russell on the road

Take your Northwest spirit that we’re known for on the road this season with Alaska Airlines.
...
By Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
In city that rarely elects Republicans, Seattle conservatives aim for influence behind the scenes