Will a challenge from this guy push Tim Burgess to the left?
  • Courtesy of John Persak
  • Will a challenge from this guy push Tim Burgess to the left?

Until yesterday, Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess’ two opponents for a citywide city council seat were a guy whose LinkedIn profile lists him as a psychic and a guy who regularly shows up to city council meetings to call council members Nazis. Tuesday, he got a third challenger—John Persak, a 44-year-old longshoreman who lives in Georgetown—though it’s still not a big-name threat. (Like, oh, I don’t know, Kshama-effing-Sawant, who for a second looked like she might take on Sally Clark for citywide position 9.)

Persak will have a significantly harder time beating Burgess in a citywide race than if he took on someone at the district level. With fewer doors to knock and voters to convince, those are the races that are drawing more new blood into these races.

But Persak said in an e-mail announcing his campaign (he’ll file later this week) that running was an “obvious choice” because “all nine seats should be held by progressives, not just the smaller, districted seats. And we can use a stronger, progressive voice in this at-large position.”

Persak was involved in “the activist left of Seattle’s political scene on through the WTO protests in 1999” and has served on a regional union council for ILWU local 19 and Seattle’s Freight Mobility Plan Advisory Board. And he manages Livable, Workable Georgetown, “a Department of Neighborhoods funded neighborhood self-assessment,” according to his announcement. He's also been outspoken about his opposition to building a new basketball stadium in Sodo.

Among his campaign issues: Figuring out how to protect the city from tunnel cost overruns, improving local transportation planning as neighborhoods get denser (Persak talks a lot about traffic) and expanding community policing at the Seattle Police Department.

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Burgess represents the most conservative wing of our city council,” Persak told me yesterday, “and I think his values are way out of step with where most people in this city are at.”

Burgess himself doesn’t seem too threatened, saying he feels “pretty comfortable with my track record on the city council and what I’ve accomplished.” (It’ll also help that he’s great at fundraising.)

“My record and the support I’ve had in my years on the city council has come from Democrats and progressives, liberals in the city,” said Burgess, who’ll hang a big part of his campaign pitch on his work getting universal preschool passed. Responding specifically to Persak's charge that he represents the most conservative wing of the council, Burgess said: “How do you answer something like that? I don’t know.”