This week Seattle City Council candidate Emily Myers joined informational picketing by supermarket employees with UFCW Local 21.
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This week Seattle City Council candidate Emily Myers joined informational picketing by supermarket employees with UFCW Local 21.
Credit: KUOW/Amy Radil

Anti-Kshama Sawant fliers aimed at unseating 'populist left' Seattle Council

The campaign mailers are being condemned as “Trumpian” and “Orwellian” by the Seattle City Council candidates they target.

But former city council member Tim Burgess said the ads sponsored by his group, People for Seattle, are accurate and aimed at helping secure a “liberal” but not “populist left” city council.

Burgess said it’s the same questions the Democratic Party is facing nationwide.

“The campaign for the Seattle City Council this year is really a battle between these two wings of the liberal or progressive side of the political spectrum,” he said.

“We support candidates who are not going to grab the bullhorn and be screaming all the time,” he said.

The ads call Councilmember Kshama Sawant an "extremist." Sawant represents District 3, which includes Capitol Hill.

Other fliers show Sawant’s photo paired with candidates Zachary DeWolf in District 3 and Emily Myers in District 4 (northeast Seattle), who they call “more of the same.”

Myers is working toward a PhD in molecular biology at the University of Washington.

She said voters showed her the fliers as she knocked on doors last weekend.

“Specifically the flier that was sent out against me -- it’s very Trumpian tactics of trying to paint evidence-based policies as extreme,” she said.

Those policies include opposing homeless sweeps and supporting supervised drug consumption sites, changes to single family zoning, and congestion pricing on downtown car trips. Myers said the flier left out important nuances of her positions.

The People for Seattle mailer equates city council candidate Emily Myers with incumbent Kshama Sawant.
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The People for Seattle mailer equates city council candidate Emily Myers with incumbent Kshama Sawant.
Credit: KUOW/Amy Radil

Sawant condemned People for Seattle as Orwellian for calling itself “progressive” while supporting more conservative candidates.

“It parades as a progressive message,” she said. She called attacks by wealthy donors a “badge of honor” and said, “in fact People for Seattle should be named ‘Billionaires Against Seattle.’"

Burgess said there are political conservatives running for Seattle City Council, and his group did not endorse them.

He said this election instead is “a struggle between populist left activists who dominate the council today and what we refer to as pragmatic progressives.”

(Their endorsed candidates are the same as the candidates endorsed by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, with two additional endorsed candidates in District 7 downtown.)

People for Seattle reports raising nearly $300,000. They also sponsored mailers attacking incumbent city council member Lisa Herbold in West Seattle’s District 1.

“Our communications with voters have been very direct and clear. Our messages are factual and well-documented,” Burgess said. “I get that some of our opponents don’t like it. But this election is very, very important for the future of Seattle and voters need to be informed.”

Sawant, currently the only member of the Socialist Alternative party on the council, said it’s revealing that People for Seattle is equating more conciliatory candidates with her.

“The centrist ring of the establishment believes that you can achieve progressive results by having some sort of peace with the billionaire class, and it’s Socialists and Sawant who is creating the antagonism,” she said.

“The People for Seattle PAC completely puts the lie to that false idea that you can have that.”

District 3 candidate Zachary DeWolf, who was also equated with Sawant in People for Seattle mailings, is a Seattle School Board member who works as a program manager with All Home King County focused on helping students obtain housing.

“Councilmember Burgess endorsed my successful run for office by offering glowing remarks about my work with him to expand LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) to our community and our work to create the country’s first Renters' Commission,” DeWolf said via e-mail.

“Contrary to Burgess and his dark money group’s divisive message, I have a record of delivering results," he said.

"I intend to bring collaborative, accountable leadership to the Seattle City Council that will impact our neighbors for today and seven generations into the future.”

Emily Myers said the only silver lining of the attack ads for her was a certain validation.

“I tend to get painted as the younger candidate,” she said. “Every now and then people refer to me as just, ‘the student.’ So to be taken seriously by one of my big opponents … I don’t know, it’s kind of great.”