Democracy vouchers just landed in your mailboxes, which means it’s already election season, baby!!! This year Seattle will elect a mayor, two citywide city council seats, and a city attorney.
Seattle City Council President Lorena Gonzalez, Chief Seattle Club executive director Colleen Echohawk, architect Andrew Grant Houston, and SEED Seattle's Lance Randall are the names you may recognize in the mayoral race so far. Meanwhile, the city council and city attorney races have been pretty quiet.
But some new candidates have entered the chat in the last few weeks, and we could all use a refresher on democracy vouchers, so it’s time for an update.
Seattle City Council Position 8
Incumbent Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda was running unopposed in her citywide race until Mike McQuaid, the president and transportation chair of the South Lake Union Community Council from 2010 to 2019, announced his candidacy yesterday.
In a press release McQuaid said he was a "fourth-generation Seattleite," claimed his grandfather had some hand in the construction of the Space Needle, touted his experience as a small business owner, described himself as a cyclist who rode his bike 70 miles to all the Seattle Public Library branches for 2019 "Yes! Seattle Libraries" campaign, and highlighted his support for the revitalization of the Center City Connector streetcar line.
McQuaid toured local businesses Thursday to announce his campaign, visiting both of the QFCs Kroger said they axed due to the council's hazard pay legislation. Why make campaign stops there? To lay lilies on grocery graves?
"While our City Council proactively imposed the new law benefiting grocery workers in the short term," McQuaid said in a statement, "the long-term consequences of the action upset the known balance of the industry at a time when we can’t afford to lose additional jobs in our city and our neighbors can ill afford to lose a critical resource.”
Mosqueda was the lead sponsor on that hazard pay legislation.
Will McQuaid be able to unseat Mosqueda? So far, Mosqueda has raised around $29,000 in total contributions. She also announced that she received MLK Labor's endorsement this week, which might scare off challengers from the left. McQuaid hasn't raised any money yet, and his only endorsement is from Paul Neville, a policy advisor who worked on campaigns for Marilyn Strickland, Pete Buttigieg, and Joe Biden. While he hasn't outlined any policy priorities, McQuaid has positioned himself as the "pragmatic, reasonable and predictable leadership" that the council needs.
Seattle City Council Position 9
The newest contender for Council President Lorena Gonzalez's uncontested seat is 25-year-old Claire Grant, a Seattle University alum and a Master’s in Public Health candidate at George Washington University, focusing on Health Policy and Community Advocacy.
Grant, who has already qualified for the Democracy Voucher program, wants to address public safety and move away from a police-centric model, according to her website. She also wants to fight for a $20 minimum wage, what she called a "true living wage." Grant doesn't believe in homeless encampment sweeps and wants free public transportation.
Aside from Grant, Fremont Brewing's Sara Nelson is in the running for the District 9 seat, as well as serial public comment nuisance Alex Tsimerman, perennial candidate David Ishii, and someone named Rebecca Williamson.
More people are entering the mayoral race, too. The newbies are some guy named Jeffrey Applegate; District 3 resident Asukaa Jaxx, who ran against Councilmember Kshama Sawant in 2019 to "make Capitol Hill more rainbow;" and minister Rodney Holt.
The first two newbies don't have their campaign sites up and running. Holt sure does. In his campaign video, he said, "Without me, your dreams are yet to be realized. With me, they will be." He didn't blink very much.
Currently, 11 people are running for mayor. While it's still early days for all of these campaigns, Echohawk is leading the pack in terms of contributions with over $64,000 raised. Houston ranks second with over $35,000, and Randall has raised over $15,000.
There are some whispers in the air that former city council president Bruce Harrell (who served as mayor for five days after Ed Murray resigned in disgrace) and former council member Tim Burgess (who served as mayor for 71 days after that) might be considering a run for mayor themselves. Crosscut's David Kroman noted this week that Burgess registered a new political action committee called "Seattle Cares."
Did you get your Democracy Vouchers yet? My four $25 vouchers came in the mail yesterday. The city started mailing them out to all Seattle voters on Feb. 9.
These vouchers are basically a fuck you to Citizens United, and a way to ensure campaigns are publicly financed, but not just publicly financed by rich people in Madrona. Thanks to a voter-approved $3 million per year property tax from 2015, Seattle voters receive $100 in vouchers each year to increase participation in local elections. This year, the city estimated that the program has $6.8 million to fund campaigns.
Candidates participating in the Democracy Voucher program must qualify by receiving a minimum number of signatures and qualifying contributions of at least $10. Mayoral candidates need 600 signatures to qualify, at-large council candidates need 400, and the city attorney candidates need 400.
You have until Nov. 30 to decide who to give your vouchers to. You can give all $100 to one candidate, or split the vouchers among multiple candidates. Dealer's choice.
It's important to note that there are contribution limits. You can individually spend a max of $300 on city attorney or city council candidates. That amount doesn't include the $100 from the vouchers. For mayor, you can individually spend a max of $550, but that includes the $100 from the vouchers.