The moderate-to-Republican Seattle Times Editorial Board has endorsed Jon Grant, a socialist city council candidate aligned with Kshama Sawant who wants to tax big businesses and end sweeps of homeless encampments.
The board focuses its argument for Grant on the city's ongoing effort to revamp its contracts with social service providers. Those efforts are already underway in the mayor's office, but the board wants a city council that's supportive. According to the board, Grant is more open to those changes than Mosqueda. (Grant says he told the board he wants less focus on rapid rehousing, a problematic program that offers people temporary housing vouchers. The board has praised the city plan that includes rapid rehousing.)
It's a weird pet issue for the board to pick considering all the other stuff they should really hate about Grant.
Throughout the campaign, Grant has made increasing taxes on businesses central to his housing/homelessness platform. The board dismisses that idea in one sentence as "loopy and unworkable." Grant also supports a recent proposal to bring back the head tax and has opposed sweeps of homeless encampments.
The board, meanwhile, has blamed Seattle politicians' "anti-business posturing" in part for Amazon seeking a different city for its second headquarters. They've opposed a statewide income tax and the recently passed city income tax. While Grant calls for a stop to encampment sweeps, the board has argued multiple times against proposals to reduce sweeps, supported fencing and then sweeping the Jungle, and now opposes an effort to help people living in vehicles avoid tickets and towing.
When he ran in 2015, Grant made rent control (illegal under state law) a central plank of his platform. The Editorial Board has called rent control a "failed economic policy." Grant praises activists in movements like Block the Bunker and No New Youth Jail. The board supports the jail and has called activists' tactics "intimidation" and "disruptive hooliganism."
Supporters of Grant's opponent, Teresa Mosqueda, have pointed out that the Times also didn't endorse Council Member Lorena González, meaning they passed over both women of color running for council. Consider also the difference in the way the board has talked about Sawant and Grant, a white guy with nearly identical policy proposals. Sawant's "slash-and-burn style is as unbecoming as it is ineffective," while Grant will bring "a more reasonable and objective perspective."
The board claims Mosqueda is a "quintessential establishment candidate, heavily backed by insiders and those who benefit from the status quo." Meanwhile, it endorsed Jenny Durkan over another candidate who was, as the board might put it, not heavily backed by insiders and those who benefit from the status quo.
Anyway, you get it. It's not out of the question for an editorial board to endorse a candidate it disagrees with on some issues, but this is...a lot. Almost as if there's something else entirely at play!
There are two possible takeaways about what's really going on in the board's endorsement of Jon Grant. First, it hates labor unions even more than it hates Sawant-style activism. Second, the board is so obsessed with keeping single-family zoning that it will align with someone who represents the opposite of its beliefs on nearly every other issue if he shares their skepticism of upzones. Even if they’re coming at that position from different idealogical motivations.
The board has made no secret of its contempt for organized labor and increased density throughout the city. Board members even merged their hatred of labor and upzones in a September piece praising Amazon: "Seattle City Hall used tension over Amazon’s growth and wealth creation as leverage, to fulfill developer wish lists and advance labor’s political agenda, including an income tax that’s illegal under state law."
Mosqueda represents both of those issues. She works for the Washington State Labor Council and has made the call for more density a cornerstone of her campaign.
Last year, the board endorsed a statewide minimum wage increase, which Mosqueda helped write, but has opposed nearly every other recent labor protection unions have backed in Seattle. In opposing the city income tax, the board blamed labor interests for seeking out a legal fight. In its recent endorsement of maintaining Republican control of the state legislature, the board praised Senate Republicans' support of charter schools, writing that they are "not under the sway of the powerful state teachers union." Grant has not won support from any major labor unions (UPDATE: Grant and Mosqueda were dual-endorsed by one union, UAW 4121), a dynamic that has pitted socialists against unions in the race.
On density and upzoning, the board has clutched its pearls even tighter. Since the 2015 recommendations from the mayor's Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda committee, the board has repeatedly argued against upzones and backyard cottages and claimed the city is undergoing "blind growth." Grant, too, is skeptical of the HALA plan, arguing it won't produce enough affordable housing. He has argued that upzoning single family neighborhoods without higher affordability requirements could lead to displacement. Grant may be arguing against HALA on affordability grounds while the ed board is busy jerking off over the sanctity of single family neighborhood character, but their skepticism is aimed at the same plan.
In an ideal world, Grant and his supporters would tell the ed board to go fuck itself. Whatever is driving its anti-establishment streak in this race, the board's anti-worker, anti-environment, and anti-homeless positions are incompatible with the movement Seattle's socialist left claims it is trying to build.
But of course that's not how politics works.
With Grant's showing in the primary—a lower percentage of the vote than when he ran in 2015—and a possible flood of pro-Mosqueda spending, he's going to need every vote he can get, even those of the suckers who trust the Seattle Times Editorial Board.