Morning Fizz

Burgess Rival Jon Grant Announces 2017 Council Bid

Affordable housing advocate to run for at-large seat again.

By Josh Feit November 29, 2016

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 1. Jon Grant, the former head of the Tenants’ Union who ran and lost for the at-large city council Position Eight seat against incumbent Tim Burgess in 2015, is running for the seat again next year. He’s already got a website up and running that stresses housing affordability, higher wages, taking the influence of “big money” out of politics, and not accepting “Donald Trump’s policies in Seattle.”

In a statement released this morning, Grant added: "The city should ensure that every new apartment dedicates 25 percent of its units for affordable housing." The mayor's current mandatory housing affordability proposal mandates that developers set aside about seven percent for affordable housing (or pay for the equivalent amount of affordable housing off-site.)

Burgess, the council budget chair, has not said whether he’s running for reelection yet, adding that he'll make his decision by the end of the year after the holiday. He beat Grant in 2015 54.55 to 44. 88.

Grant’s focus in the 2015 campaign was fighting developers. Most recently, he was the outreach director for this year’s successful statewide $13.50 minimum wage and paid sick leave measure, 1433.   

Grant is a strong ally of the current council’s left wing—Lisa Herbold and Kshama Sawant were both big Grant backers in 2015. Burgess was the main opponent of Herbold, Sawant, and fellow lefty Mike O’Brien’s push to challenge homeless sweeps. As budget chair, Burgess also opposed Herbold’s recent attempt to create a dedicated fund for the Office of Labor Standards with a fee on businesses.

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Grant’s initial focus now is on qualifying as a candidate under the new “Honest Elections” guidelines; in 2015, voters passed I-122, an elections voucher program, which provides public money for candidates who opt in by accepting campaign contribution limits of $250 per donor. Candidates who don’t opt into the public financing program are capped at $500 per donor.

2. The voucher program works like this: Every resident will get four vouchers for $25 each. They can give those vouchers to any qualifying candidate they want, including giving all four to one candidate. (They cannot give the vouchers to candidates that haven't opted in to the public financing system.) They can separately donate $250 of their own money to any candidate  in the program they want. Meanwhile, candidates have to collect enough signatures (400 for an at-large position or 150 for districted seats) plus an accompanying $10 contribution for each signature. So, for example, Grant would need to raise $4,000 from 400 individual donors who sign his qualifying petition.

Grant’s new website states: “If we collect the required four hundred $10 donations to qualify then we will run a campaign with the new public voucher system that is answerable only to the people in the fight to make housing affordable, to build new schools, enforce workers’ rights, and put Seattle on a path for climate and racial justice.”

Candidates participating in the voucher program are also limited on spending. There's  a $150,000 cap on  spending during the primary and again during the general for at large candidates; there's  a $75,000 limit per primary and general for district candidates.

I-122 also put new rules in place for all candidates, whether they're in the program or not: a prohibition on taking contributions from any city contractor that’s received more than $250,000 in city work, and a prohibition against taking contributions from city lobbying groups who have spent more than $5,000 on lobbying work.

The voucher program doesn’t get rid of the biggest source of money—outside independent expenditures by political committees; for example, in 2015, IE spending exploded to nearly $800,000 (the previous high had been $134,000 total in 2009) with Burgess being 2015’s biggest benefactor of IEs at $219,000. Qualifying candidates cannot solicit contributions on behalf of any group, PAC, or organizations that’s doing independent expenditures.

If spending by a participating candidate's opponent or by and IE exceeds the spending limits that are placed on the candidates themselves—so, again, $150,000 per primary and general for an at-large candidate—the candidate is freed up from those spending limits so they can compete with their rivals.

The system is funded by a $30 million, 10-year property tax levy—an additional $9 a year to the average homeowner.

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