When Tenants Union director Jon Grant announced last month he was running for an at-large city council seat, he wasn’t yet sure who he’d take on. At the time, Council Member Sally Clark had filed for one of the two open seats, and Council President Tim Burgess had filed for the other. Either way, Grant would be running against an incumbent with serious cash and support from developers. Then, Clark dropped out, leaving an open seat. Preferable for a newcomer with less cash, right?
Nope. Today, Grant says he’ll take on Burgess.
“My focus has been where can my campaign make the most impact,” he says. “It wasn’t necessarily to do the easiest thing… The most change my campaign can make will be to replace a candidate who doesn’t share the values of Seattle.”
This is going to be fun.
Burgess draws criticism for being part of the conservative-ish bloc on the council, supporting anti-panhandling legislation, opposing tent encampments, supporting the downtown tunnel project, and standing in the way of campaign finance reform. He also scuffled—in that very passive Seattle way—with Council Member Mike O’Brien last week when he helped stall a vote on an amendment to homeless encampment legislation so Council Member Jean Godden could show up without actually saying that’s why he was stalling.
Grant is running on rent stabilization and publicly funded elections, and is ready to go after Burgess.
“It’s really concerning the council president would take an action that is so duplicitous as to mislead their colleagues on an issue as important as addressing the homelessness crisis,” he says about last week's vote. “I think it calls into question his judgment, frankly.”
Burgess already has serious cash—about $78,000, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission—but Grant has also already raised almost $20,000 in just a month of campaigning.
When I asked Burgess this morning to comment on Grant as a potential challenger or on his own record on Grant’s signature issue—housing affordability—Burgess declined.
“Candidates running for office is a good thing,” he said. “That’s what makes democracy work.”
Burgess is sure to point to his work leading the preschool measure voters passed last year and may try to play up the only minor scandal of the campaign so far—Publicola’s report last week that Grant bought a house that had been foreclosed on.
Grant’s parents helped him buy the house, but he says he repaid them soon after he got a bank loan. He also spun this into a campaign issue by saying the fact that he could only afford a bank-owned house is indicative of the struggle for affordable housing facing those who make less than $50,000 a year.
Even though Burgess wouldn’t talk about Grant as an opponent today, he seems to have already gone on the defensive. His campaign released a list of local housing advocates who’ve endorsed him. All of those were endorsing him only as individuals, not on behalf of the organizations they represent, but they include the directors of Plymouth Housing, Capitol Hill Housing, Bellwether Housing, the Downtown Emergency Services Center, and the YMCA.
Grant says the endorsers are people who depend on the city for funding, so “it’s very hard for them to publicly challenge someone as powerful as Tim Burgess.”