Seattle mayoral candidates released from spending limit as PAC funds continue flowing

Oct 1, 2021, 11:53 AM
democracy voucher, democracy vouchers program, donors...
A Seattle democracy voucher. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Both Seattle mayoral candidates have officially been released from the general election spending limit, as contributions continue to flood in for Bruce Harrell and Lorena Gonzalez.

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

Seattle candidates for mayor are typically limited to $800,000 in spending combined between the primary and general election, but are permitted to petition the city’s Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC) to lift that cap.

As of Sept. 27, Harrell had raised nearly $915,000 in total campaign contributions, while Gonzalez pulled in almost $663,000. While Harrell leads in total funds, Gonzalez holds the edge in Democracy Vouchers, with $642,525 of her contributions coming in the form of vouchers.

The SEEC accepted petitions from both campaigns this week to lift the spending limit. That means they can no longer accept Democracy Vouchers, but can continue to collect individual contributions.

In addition to the money they’ve raised themselves, there are independent expenditure committees (IEC) operating in support of both candidates. IECs function as city-level political action committees, able to raise and spend large sums of money in support of whomever they choose, provided they aren’t coordinating with the candidates themselves.

An IEC registered as Bruce Harrell for Seattle’s Future has raised nearly $800,000 dating back to the spring, on the strength of sizable donations from local real estate CEO and prominent Donald Trump donor George Petrie, Petrie’s business partner John Goodman, and his wife Alyssa Petrie.

Seattle conservatives aim for influence behind the scenes

A separate IEC registered as Essential Workers for Lorena has raised nearly $828,000, with all of its contributions coming from labor groups. That includes a $450,000 donation from Unite Here Tip, a PAC that targets state and city elections across the United States with “contributions and expenditures to elect candidates who support the rights and interest of working people and their families.”

Leading up to the primary election in August, Harrell and Gonzalez both defended their support from IECs in the face of criticism from other candidates. For Harrell, his campaign stated that he “is running a strong grassroots fundraising effort and participating in the public financing Democracy Voucher program.”

“More than 1,400 individuals have given Democracy Vouchers in support of Bruce’s positive vision to unite Seattle and make real progress on the challenges we face,” a spokesperson for Harrell’s campaign added.

Gonzalez drew a distinction between the Harrell for Seattle’s Future group and the Essential Workers for Lorena IEC.

“Bruce Harrell has stood with big business executives who have an outsized influence at city hall his entire career,” Gonzalez’s campaign manager Alex Koren clarified. “Lorena has always stood with essential workers and labor unions, and she is proud to have their support.”

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Seattle mayoral candidates released from spending limit as PAC funds continue flowing