UPDATE 6/5, 2:00 p.m.: This post has been updated to reflect that mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan has sent us her Chamber of Commerce candidate questionnaire.
Two days after the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce announced it was endorsing Jenny Durkan for mayor, rival Cary Moon sent out a press release. "Today," it read, "I’m excited to announce that I’m not endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce."
The endorsement of the Chamber's PAC, Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE), is significant in local politics. CASE is known to shell out in support of its selected candidates. But the endorsement can easily be spun as a negative, too. "Unlike the Chamber of Commerce," Moon said in a statement, "I support paid sick leave, secure scheduling, a living wage, requiring the wealthiest few and big corporations to pay their fair share, stopping sexual harassment of hotel housekeepers, and campaign finance reform."
Yet, even some of the candidates who pride themselves on not having the backing of business sought out the Chamber's blessing.
In her press release, Moon sent along the questionnaire she filled out seeking CASE's endorsement. So, we asked the other five frontrunners to do the same. Often, questionnaires like this are not made public, which allows candidates to cater their message to the group whose support they’re seeking. Nikkita Oliver did not seek CASE's endorsement. Mike McGinn, Jessyn Farrell, and Bob Hasegawa sent us their questionnaires before this post went up. Durkan, who won CASE over, sent us her answers four days after we requested them—and just shortly after Moon's campaign created a Facebook post linking to this article. Links to all of the candidates' questionnaires can be found at the bottom of this page.
In her questionnaire, Moon, who is partially self-funding her campaign, told the Chamber its endorsement would "continue to strengthen my broad support." When asked whether she supports a city income tax, Moon played up the fact that she’s been lukewarm on the issue. “Currently, I’m the only candidate raising serious concerns with this idea,” she told CASE before writing that she does in fact support an income tax but thinks the city should also pursue taxes on investment earnings. (In response to Moon's press release, CASE's executive director Markham McIntyre said in a statement, "Seattle doesn’t need a mayor who is divisive and attacks institutions that don’t give her what she asks for.")
When Hasegawa sent his questionnaire, he told The Stranger proudly, "I believe it's already clear where I stand on economic justice issues and why CASE would never support me." In his CASE questionnaire, he promised to “represent all interest groups in the city and ensure a balanced and fair partnership with businesses of all sizes and sectors.”
Of the five candidates who answered the CASE questionnaires, Mike McGinn and Cary Moon filled out a longer set of questions than Bob Hasegawa, Jessyn Farrell, and Jenny Durkan, who joined the race later. (A spokesperson for the Chamber said CASE shifted to the shorter questionnaire once the field expanded dramatically and then also sent that shorter questionnaire to Moon and McGinn.) We've uploaded the full questionnaires at the bottom of this post. Below are some highlights.
All of the candidates mentioned the region’s homelessness crisis, at least in passing, though only Moon and McGinn were asked in detail what they would do. Both promised more low-barrier shelters. McGinn said the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program (LEAD) should be expanded citywide and took a jab at current mayor Ed Murray, who has argued the city can’t solve the crisis on its own. “Since 2013, our city government has lost time by waiting for the state or federal governments to expand their help,” McGinn wrote.
Moon said she would be “cautious with over-reliance” on housing vouchers to be used in the private market. Vouchers are a key part of the homelessness plan adopted by the mayor and city council, but could prove problematic in such an expensive rental market. She also promised to expand shelters for women and victims of domestic violence. A recent survey found that 40 percent of homeless people in King County have experienced domestic violence.
Durkan briefly mentioned that she would implement the city's "Pathways Home" plan—which shifts resources toward rapid re-housing. She also stressed regional cooperation with King County.
On housing and growth:
Hasegawa was most skeptical of the city’s current growth, including upzones to allow for taller buildings. Hasegawa wrote that planning should be done based on “a genuine impact analysis of growth.” Too often, he wrote, “in the name of the ‘greater good,’ the needs of the existing communities are swept aside, ignored, and denigrated. Particularly in the ‘up zoning,’ existing residents of communities are simply ignored. This is not good.”
Moon and Farrell were generally supportive of the mayor’s housing affordability plan, known as HALA. McGinn indicated he would restart the planning process for HALA. This echoes comments he made to reporters on the day he launched his campaign. But the prospect of more conversation with neighborhood types who often fight upzones disappoints some urbanists, who believe the city should be more aggressively moving toward more density instead of talking about it some more.. “The proposals in HALA have run into great difficulty because too many people felt they were excluded from the discussion,” McGinn wrote. “If elected, I will return to the issue of housing affordability in a way that allows everyone to have a say and advocate for their respective positions.”
Durkan was the most supportive of HALA, saying she would "implement that and build upon it going forward," without offering any skepticism or criticisms of the plan. She also said she would look at ways to more "efficiently" open access to affordable housing, but did not name specifics.
McGinn and Moon both signaled support for more density by allowing backyard cottages, duplexes, and triplexes in single-family zones. (In deference to NIMBYs and the Seattle Times, city leaders have backed away from this idea.) Moon said the city should tax speculation and increase tenant protections, though she didn't cite specifics. Farrell said she would focus on development near transit, upzones, and affordable housing incentives.
On working with business:
McGinn: “I also believe in ensuring that government is responsive to every business, large or small.”
Moon, when asked about the city’s role is in supporting business growth: “Establishing a vision and shared goals and principles, together with business and community leaders. Developing an action plan to get there, and checking back in with periodic progress reports. Defining an economic development strategy, and industrial job expansion strategy, a clean energy economic strategy, and small business / community based business strategy, and a strategy for broader access to entrepreneurship—especially for women, immigrant communities and communities of color.”
Farrell: “The key to economic development is job creation. That means growing our diverse economic base, supporting our small business owners, encouraging creativity and fostering innovation, and working aggressively to be on the forefront of the clean energy economy.”
Hasegawa: “As Mayor I will represent all interest groups in the city and ensure a balanced and fair partnership with businesses of all sizes and sectors.”
Durkan: "Ensuring our City has clear rules and regulations for business to follow is key to allowing businesses to have predictability. In the past, the City has played a role in preserving and growing economic clusters, including around aerospace, manufacturing, life sciences, high-tech startups, maritime and tourism.
We must also have strong infrastructure (roads, transit), a strong education system (K-12, higher education, apprenticeship programs, career training), smart land-use and taxation policies, and a laser-like focus on the basics necessary for a well-run and highly-functioning city."
One notable takeaway: The former mayor who governed Seattle through the recession clearly hasn't forgotten it. When asked about the top three issues the city should address, McGinn’s number one answer was, “Review City operating and capital budgets – no new taxes considered until review is complete.” (The housing crisis was number two.) When asked what he would hope to accomplish in his first year in office, McGinn pledged to “immediately review” the city budget and “ensure that we are spending taxpayers dollars wisely.”
Several important policy questions were only addressed on the lengthier questionnaires McGinn and Moon answered, so we don't have answers from Farrell and Hasegawa:
Paid Family Leave:
The Chamber has supported an effort for a statewide paid family leave policy, but has not gotten behind a proposal for the city to go it alone. In its longer version of the questionnaire, CASE asked candidates if they support “a statewide paid family leave policy versus a citywide policy.”
McGinn said he supports a citywide policy; Moon dodged. She’s supportive of paid family leave generally, but did not commit to a city-only program.
Both Moon and McGinn said the city’s Office of Labor Standards needs more resources for educating employers about new laws and promised to involve business in future new labor laws. Currently, it takes around 200 days for the OLS to complete an investigation into whether an employer failed to pay workers or give them sick time.
A city income tax:
McGinn said he supports it. Moon played up her skepticism for the business crowd, writing: “Currently, I’m the only candidate raising serious concerns with this idea." While she wrote that it is “fine and good to try for an income tax,” she emphasized the need to tax income from selling stocks as well.