Caffeinated News

1. Yesterday, checking in on the latest city council candidate fundraising, I said Kshama Sawant challenger Pamela Banks needed a strong showing to disrupt the notion that Sawant is unbeatable. It turns out, Banks, the head of the Urban League, came out strong in her first real month of fundraising. She raised nearly $30,000 in April, bringing her total raised to $48,000 with $34,000 cash on hand. 

Those are certainly impressive numbers, but Sawant had a good month herself, raising $30,000 as well. Sawant continues burn through her cash, though; having raised $81,000 total, she only has $14,000 cash on hand—spending the bulk of her money on campaign workers and consulting. (Last month, I noted that Sawant was categorizing her organizers as consultants rather than employees—and so wasn't paying into the employee system with payroll taxes to cover unemployment insurance and social security. Her latest reports indicate that while she's kept a couple of people on as consultants—her ubiquitous ally Philip Locker along with consultant Jonathan Rosenblum—she has shifted a crew of folks into the actual employee pay category.) 

Watch for Sawant, while hyping her small, grassroots contributions (it's true she has a parade of donors contributing less than $50), to characterize Banks's contributors as members of the corporate establishment. On the list: Vulcan bigwigs Phil Fujii and Pearl Leung; political consultants Strategies 360 (currently working for Foss Maritime); and business interests from the anti-$15 fight such as Craig Dawson from Retail Lockbox. Dawson was on last year's minimum wage task force and was the one ardent anti-$15 voice who ultimately wouldn't vote for the deal. (Another business interest from the $15 fight, Tutta Bella's Joe Fugere, also contributed to Banks.) Lockbox's Dawson is also African American—highlighting the fact Banks is also netting contributions from the black community: lobbyist George Griffin (anti charter schools, pro payday lending); Andrew Lofton from the Seattle Housing Authority (which fought with Sawant over its plan for rent increases), former city council candidate Bobby Forch, and Seattle Center director Robert Nellams. Other notable Banks donors: pot legalization and ACLU star Alison Holcomb (who pondered her own run against Sawant but is now running the ACLU's campaign against mass incarcerations), former Seattle Office of Housing director (and now King County human services director) Adrienne Quinn, council president Tim Burgess.

Yesterday, I also said at-large candidate Lorena González needed a big month (the civil rights attorney is facing a surprisingly strong challenge from neighborhood activist Bill Bradburd). González, mayor Ed Murray's former legal counsel, raised an impressive $26,000 (from a very diverse social justice crew) and finally pulled well ahead of Bradburd with $70,000 total raised to Bradburd's $50,000 total—and roughly  $50,000 cash on hand to Bradburd's roughly $15,000. (Bradburd only raised $6,400 in April.)

And while I was wowed by Burgess's fundraising yesterday, his new opponent for the position eight at-large seat, indie rocker John Roderick, had a huge first month—raising $53,000.

In the crowded West Seattle race for the open district one position, King County council member Joe McDermott aide Shannon Braddock and Seattle city council Nick Licata aide Lisa Herbold continue to lead the pack in fundraising; Braddock raised the most this month at $7,500 and Herbold came in second at $7,100. Herbold has more cash on hand—$17,000 versus Braddock's $12,000. Meanwhile two other candidates, Phillip Tavel and Brianna Thomas, while not raising much this month, are right with Braddock and Herbold in the cash-on-hand category.

In the similarly crowded North Seattle district five position (another open seat), supposed frontrunner Reverend Sandy Brown had an underwhelming month, raising just $3,000. However, Brown, a former lefty church leader and gun control and gay rights activist, has the second most cash on hand—$13,000—though he's well behind Port of Seattle staffer Mian Rice, who raised $6,000 in April and leads the group with $26,000 cash on hand.

Incumbent council member Jean Godden, running in the fourth district (Eastlake northeast to the U District and Sand Point) drew a new opponent last month, neighborhood council leader Tony Provine. Provine's $7,475 looks respectable at first glance, but $3,500 of that came from Provine himself. Godden raised $7,800 herself this month, bringing her total raised to about $71,000 with $27,000 cash on hand. Transportation Choices Coalition director Rob Johnson is right on her heels; Johnson raised $7,000 in April and has $21,000 cash on hand.

2. After researching the district bylaws, state senator Pramila Jayapal (D-37, Southeast Seattle) sent an email to 37th district board chair David Corrado on Friday saying there was no rule that prevented council candidate Sawant from participating in the district's candidate forum. "I could find no mention of anything having to do with candidate forums in our bylaws," Jayapal wrote.

To no avail.

The 37th ended up canceling its forum for positions two and three yesterday (the Southeast 37th overlaps with the second and third district city council seats) on the grounds that Sawant was not a Democrat (nor was one of the district two challengers, Josh Farris) And since the bylaws do say the district can't endorse someone who isn't a Democrat, the forum wouldn't be legit, they reasoned.

Jayapal, whose own campaign last year brought in a rush of new 37th district members, questioned the idea "that we are about party with a capital P," saying "we are a party about values. And you'd be hard pressed to find significant differences between her [Sawant] and our party platform." Jayapal (along with King County council member Larry Gossett) are two prominent Democratic legislators who have endorsed Sawant. Gossett, who is African American, represents Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley, and Seward Park.

Referencing the organizing that civil rights group OneAmerica (which she founded) did around the DREAM Act, Jayapal jokingly points out that if it hadn't been for activists that weren't even affiliated with "the party"—young people, people of color—"the party wouldn't have had anything to endorse."

She concluded: "Why did people endorse Ralph Nader? Because they were frustrated."

In addition to Jayapal's nerdy bylaws email, 76 members in the district, including executive board member Pam Keeley, sent an email to the 37th district executive board calling on the district to include Sawant in the forum. The email, also signed by Gossett and former 37th district state senator Adam Kline stated:

The purpose of these forums is to give candidates the opportunity to tell us who they are and define their goals as our potential representatives. The forums allow us to become better informed and also to offer feedback to candidates. The forum is not an endorsement meeting, but an educational platform. It disturbs us that members of our executive leadership would choose to exclude Councilmember Sawant, who was critical to the implementation of the $15 minimum wage and other social and economic issues of exceptional concern to residents of the 37th.

Footnote: The 43rd district Democrats (Capitol Hill, Wallingford, the U District) don't appear to have any problem hearing from non-Democrats. They're holding a Third Distict city council candidate forum tonight—I'm moderating with Erica C. Barnett—at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church on 19th Ave, just off Madison. It's at 6:30.