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Seattle mayoral race fundraising hits highest total in nearly two decades of available data

Oct 21, 2021, 11:41 AM | Updated: 11:42 am
Seattle fundraising...
Seattle mayoral candidates Bruce Harrell and Lorena Gonzalez. (Ted Warren / AP News)
(Ted Warren / AP News)

With just a few weeks to go until ballots are due, Seattle’s two mayoral candidates have reached record fundraising heights.

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

The two candidates — Bruce Harrell and Lorena Gonzalez — combined have raised over $2 million in campaign contributions. Harrell leads the way with over $1.1 million, with Gonzalez sitting at $916,000.

During the last mayoral election in 2017, Jenny Durkan and her opponent Cary Moon raised a combined $1.6 million. In 2013, mayoral candidates Ed Murray and Mike McGinn combined for $1.3 million in contributions. In both past races, the eventual winners nearly doubled their general election opponent’s fundraising totals.

The over $2 million raised between 2021’s mayoral candidates is the highest total for any two Seattle general election candidates in 19 years of available records from the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC), dating all the way back to 2005.

Mayoral candidates are technically limited to $800,000 in fundraising dollars combined between the primary and general election. Candidates are also permitted to petition the SEEC to be released from that limit — in recent years, those petitions have rarely been denied.

This year marks the first mayoral election to use Seattle’s Democracy Voucher program, after first being used in a limited fashion in 2017 for two at-large council seats, as well as the city attorney race.

Gonzalez and Harrell each also have independent expenditure committees operating in support of their respective campaigns. IECs possess the ability to raise and spend large sums of money in support of whomever they choose, and cannot coordinate with candidates in any way.

An IEC registered as Harrell for Seattle’s Future has raised over $1.3 million as of Oct. 20. That includes $90,000 in contributions from local real estate CEO John Goodman, over $61,000 from Goodman’s business partner and prominent Trump donor George Petrie, an additional $38,750 from Petrie’s wife Alyssa, and several other sizable donations from executives at investment firms, real estate companies, and more.

Seattle conservatives aim for influence behind the scenes

So far, the IEC has spent over $108,000 on mailers opposing Gonzalez’s candidacy, and tens of thousands more on mailers in support of Harrell. It has also spent nearly $100,000 on pro-Harrell TV spots that have aired on numerous local networks, including KIRO 7, KOMO, and KING 5.

The Lorena for Essential Workers IEC has brought in nearly $1 million in contributions of its own, all of which have come from labor groups and unions. That includes $500,000 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.” Another $191,000 came from UFCW 21, a Seattle union with over 44,000 members working in grocery stores, retail, health care, meat processing, and more.

The group has spent over $387,000 of its money on a series of ads and TV spots opposing Harrell’s candidacy.

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Seattle mayoral race fundraising hits highest total in nearly two decades of available data