Chamber of Commerce PAC Endorses Just One Incumbent in Council Races

The Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy—the political branch of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce—announced its endorsements this morning, in a preview of which candidates will  benefit from  the $800,000 Chamber president Marilyn Strickland says the PAC has amassed so far.

Here are CASE’s endorsements:

Seattle City Council Position 1: Phil Tavel
Seattle City Council Position 2: Mark Solomon
Seattle City Council Position 3: Egan Orion
Seattle City Council Position 4: Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council Position 5: Debora Juarez
Seattle City Council Position 6: Jay Fathi and Heidi Wills
Seattle City Council Position 7: Michael George and Jim Pugel

Chamber president and CEO Marilyn Strickland and chief of staff Markham McIntyre announced the PAC’s endorsements at the Chamber’s downtown Seattle headquarters this morning. (Update: You can read the questions CASE asked the 19 candidates they interviewed here.) Both emphasized repeatedly that the group’s endorsements weren’t about “ideological purity,” (or, as Strickland also put it, “echo chamber politics”) but rather, about which candidates are “willing to sit down and listen to the concerns of business” and “who understand the basic functions of local government and are willing to sit down and have a constructive dialogue because that’s how things get done,” Strickland said.

Both Strickland and McIntyre repeatedly came back to the scuttled “head tax,” which would have fallen hardest on its big-business members, including major CASE contributors like Amazon and Vulcan.  “On homelessness and housing, we’ve been talking to the council about ways that we want to engage with [them] at the table, and instead we got a progressive revenue task force that had a predetermined conclusion,” McIntyre said. “We were invited to sit at that table, [while] knowing full well that they had already decided what exactly they were going to do and just wanted us to rubber stamp it, and in our minds that’s not really a partnership.”

Strickland added that the Chamber believes the council ignored the recommendations of Barb Poppe, the Ohio consultant whose 2016 report on homelessness in Seattle became the basis of a set of recommendations called Pathways Home. Candidates got points with the Chamber for supporting the idea of a new joint city-county agency to oversee the region’s response to homelessness, and for taking seriously businesses’ “legitimate concerns” about public safety arising from “street disorder.”

“There is what I call the street population, and then there are people who are homeless and they’re not necessarily one and the same,” Strickland said. “There are people that are a part of the street population who do things that are antisocial, and there are people who are homeless. And sometimes I think we just say they are one and the same.” CASE was impressed, Strickland said, by candidates who understood the “difference between the two” groups.

While it’s true that people who commit street-level crimes such as shoplifting and low-level drug dealing aren’t always homeless, there is a strong correlation between drug- and alcohol-related crimes and homelessness, which is one reason the successful LEAD diversion program does outreach to people experiencing chronic homelessness and addiction.

CASE hasn’t distributed any money to candidates yet, and likely won’t do so until closer to the primary. Their main expenditures so far have been on polling.

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