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Urban League CEO enters Council District 3 race against Sawant

Pamela Banks

Pamela Banks (Image: Avi Loud via Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle)

The race to represent the Central Area on City Council got a new candidate on Thursday. Non-profit director and Central District resident Pamela Banks announced she would challenge assumed front-runner council member Kshama Sawant for the newly created Council District 3 seat.

Banks is CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle where she said in a statement she’s exhibited an inclusive approach to organizing that marks a “clear distinction” from Sawant.

“I’ve learned over my career that you solve more problems with a telephone than a megaphone,” Banks said in a statement. “I have stood with union members demanding fair wages, worked with community and faith leaders on racial and social justice measures, and organized with neighborhood leaders for police response and accountability. I won’t be making rebuttals to the State of the Union.”

Banks is the third woman to enter the District 3 race. Women’s rights advocate Morgan Beach announced her candidacy in January. A week earlier, LGBTQ advocate Rod Hearne entered the race as the first candidate to announce he would take on Sawant in the Capitol Hill-centered district.

Banks told CHS she plans to focus on affordable housing and income inequality during this year’s election — two issues that are also central to Sawant’s campaign. If elected, Banks said she would standout among current council members as one who is easily accessible to constituents.

“I always wanted to run,” Banks said. “The district council system is really made for candidates like me.”

The historically African-American focused Urban League has a long history of political and social advocacy in the Central District and is one of some 100 affiliate branches nationwide.

Here’s the full announcement from the Bank’s campaign:

Pamela Banks, CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle and former community organizer, announced today that she will challenge incumbent Kshama Sawant in the newly drawn District 3.  Banks, who has lived in the Central District for nearly two decades, cites her hands-on advocacy for housing and workforce development, deep neighborhood ties, and commitment to inclusive government as a clear distinction against the incumbent.

“I have spent my career working for the people of Seattle,” said Banks, making her first run for public office. “I worked my way up in the City from a community organizer to Outreach Director in the Mayor’s Office, where I made government accountable to our neighborhoods and families. I helped build programs at the Urban League that create opportunities for all people. My record of success is based on results, not slogans.”

Banks points to contrasts in style— and track record— as defining issues in the campaign.

“I’ve learned over my career that you solve more problems with a telephone than a megaphone,” said Banks. “I have stood with union members demanding fair wages, worked with community and faith leaders on racial and social justice measures, and organized with neighborhood leaders for police response and accountability. I won’t be making rebuttals to the State of the Union. I’ll be working for the families of District 3.”

Banks was approached by many community leaders and neighborhood residents to run for District 3. Many recounted difficulties in gaining access to Sawant. This mirrored Banks’ own experience as she unsuccessfully sought to meet with Sawant to discuss a city program to help African American and other men of color find livable wage jobs.
“Seattle voters adopted districts because they want access to their Council member, and they want their local needs addressed, as well as bigger picture concerns,” said Banks. “Safe streets are a social justice issue, potholes are impediments to economic development, land use and zoning will shape our kids’ futures.  I’ll bring the right combination of progressive values and neighborhood priorities to the Council.”

Banks enters the race with a broad spectrum of endorsements, including former King County Executive Ron Sims,  longtime King County labor leader Verlene Jones, small business leader Joe Fugere, environmental leaders Michael Woo and Rachel Smith, community leaders Marie Kurose, Dr. Michael Washington, Jon Bridge, Retired Fire Chief Gregory Dean, Stephanie Tschida, and many more.

“I’m grateful for the strong, broad early support of my campaign and look forward to meeting with leaders, and of course neighbors, throughout the district as we assemble a true, Seattle-style grass roots campaign,” said Banks. “We have the opportunity to bring new leadership to the Council that reflects the diversity of our city, and the opportunities we have to build great neighborhoods for people from all walks of life.”

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22 thoughts on “Urban League CEO enters Council District 3 race against Sawant

  1. Can Kshama Sawant still run city wide against Burgess? She has a strong grass-roots following all across the city and could possibly have a greater impact as a council member at large than as a neighborhood council member. Does anyone know if such a switch is possible at this stage of the race?

    • She has until May:

      Where and when can candidates who want to run for Council seats file?

      Seattle residents interested in running for City Council in 2015 should visit the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission’s Elections page and contact the Campaign Finance and Training staff early in their decision-making process to discuss campaign finance reporting obligations.

      In order to appear on the ballot, candidates must file a Declaration of Candidacy with King County Elections between May 11 and May 15. Payment of the filing fee or signatures submitted in lieu of the filing fee must be submitted with the Declaration of Candidacy. For additional information on this process, please contact King County Elections.

    • Sawant will run in the 3rd, you can take that to the bank. The better question is- Why isn’t someone with Pamela Banks’s history and political prospective running at-large to take out Bugress? I think that she didn’t take that up, and would rather remove a reliable lefty vote, tells you a bit about what she sees as the real problem in seattle politics.

      • Good question. But it may be a matter of not enough money…it takes a lot more cash to run for an at-large position compared to a district one.

      • Because anyone who cares about and understands how the council works knows Sawant is a clown. She is incredibly divisive, she has turned council meetings into protests and yelling matches instead of a place work gets done, she is the only councilmember with an all white male staff, the money she promised to donate to “charity” goes to pay for her travel fund for paid speaking engagements she profits from, she won’t meet with constituents, especially those from the 3rd District, and she doesn’t care about the very issues people in districts want addressed (and thus why we have districts).

        Sawant is using her council office to grandstand and promote her own political career and party, not advance Seattle or District 3.

      • Great point, disappointed she’s choosing to run against Sawant, who’s also the only woman of color on the council. Take out Burgess, or run for the other vacant at large seat.

  2. Banks is now, what, the FOURTH attempt by the establishment to come up with an anti-Kshama candidate?

    If Banks is so interested in change, why is she running against the candidate who won $15? Against the only woman of color?

    It’s shameful.

    • Why is she necessarily running “against” Sawant just because she’s running in the 3rd district? I find amusing this presumption everyone seems to have that Sawant is practically “entitled” to the 3rd District seat. Says who? I think there are a lot more people in the 3rd than many assume there are, that aren’t particularly big Sawant supporters. We really won’t know how large that support base is till this election is over. There may be some big surprises–you never know. And painting everyone who’s to the right of Sawant as “establishment” is just too absurdly simplistic.

  3. If someone things they can do better, by all means run, right? But criticizing someone for their assertiveness (coded by Banks as: “I’ve learned over my career that you solve more problems with a telephone than a megaphone”) is what’s truly shameful to me. Disregarding the efforts and progress Sawant has made is shameful to me. Stand on your record, stand on your morals and values and positions, but these petty, boilerplate 2-party, “that woman is bossy” type of attack is sickening.

    • Agreed! As if Sawant only uses a megaphone, and not a microphone and a regular phone and all means of communication, individual, group and mass, that she can, strategically. Does she think MLK should have phoned it in?

      • No doubt Max. Our establishment unfortunately doesn’t understand that average, working class people, in addition to the most marginalized members of our community and the indigent are thoroughly done with “BAU” politics, corporate protection and profiteering. We are going to stand by our values and beliefs, unrelenting and unapologetic, and this is what will govern the landscape of Seattle’s democracy going forward.

  4. On the other hand, a lot of people haven’t seen Sawant as a bad thing to have on the council, and like to see an agitator to shake things up. I’m not saying it’s the best way to vote, but it’s out there.

    And also, we can never underestimate the effect the Stranger can have on civic elections. If they still are behind her in November, they can get a lot of readers to vote their way.

  5. I’m glad that Sawant is getting some viable opposition, and I look forward to the debate between the various contenders. Hopefully, voters will take the newbies seriously and listen to what they say, and not just vote for Sawant in a knee-jerk fashion.

    I like what Ms. Banks says about using a telephone instead of a megaphone….there is too much of the latter with Sawant.

  6. As a resident of the 3d, I’m curious about what Sawant’s approach will be.

    If you look at a map, Capitol Hill/First Hill are only a portion of the 3rd, which also includes: Portage Bay/Roanoke, North Capitol Hill, Montlake, Broadmoor, Madison Park, Madison Valley, Washington Park, Madrona, Leschi, Denny Blaine, Mount Baker, etc.

    It also includes the neighborhoods of Rainier Valley, Judkins Park, etc. But the difference, if you look at voting records by precinct, is that the above neighborhoods have historically high voter turnout and campaign donations. And most of them voted overwhelmingly for Conlin. Sawant won because she was a city-wide candidate who polled significant support from areas like the U-District and parts of West Seattle. She won’t have that support now, and I’m guessing she’s not interested in courting support from all these neighborhoods in the 3rd, because they are 1) white 2) bourgeois and 3) not her traditional supporters. She lost by HUGE margins in many of these areas. So her bastion of support will the hills, and maybe in the valley, if she can garner the votes. These areas are typically very fickle in voter turnout, unless it’s a major election.

    I’m wondering what her plan is. And if she will ever respond to any of her constituents, which is an ongoing problem with her (apparently white, male, badly run) city council office. Has it been mentioned that she apparently has the least diverse staff in the city council?

    • Sawant is a one issue show and she is not at all well received in the black community because they know she is a grandstander with a limited agenda who has not made herself accessible to people in a real day to day, week to week sense in city hall and they are more likely to identify with the work of Bruce Harrell. Living on the eastside with her Microsoft husband also does not impress this voting block. “Change from within” in politics is one thing, but Sawant is not that. Sawant is liked by a certain subset politically who think they “speak for the oppressed” but the actual working poor are not stupid and people of means are not all racist capitalists. It even remains to be seen if Sawant will participate in any broadcast debates.

      • For all those reasons you stated, I think Sawant might actually be better off running at large than in the 3rd. There are Sawant-sympathetic voters all over the city, many of whom would vote for her if they could. The flip side is that there are many non-sympathizers in her district, both in the black and other minorities communities, as well as some of those more affluent neighborhoods she’s alienating. Somebody could easily take her out in the 3rd, while she could easily split the vote from a pack of challengers at-large.

      • >[The black community] are more likely to identify with the work of Bruce Harrell. Living on the eastside with her Microsoft husband also does not impress this voting block.

        Um what? there was a whole article about her buying a housing in Leschi a couple months ago, and she has lived in a rental on capitol hill before that. Isn’t it an open secret that Harrell is the real member representing Bellevue?

  7. This will be quite a contrast. Sawant who took no corporate funding and gives back most of her city council salary, vs. the CEO of an organization that is funded by big business and government.

    Among the funders of the Seattle Urban League, other than massive amounts of government funding, are Starbucks, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, Union Bank, Key Bank, Safeco Insurance, Walmart, Microsoft, Comcast, Google, Eli Lilly, Cambia Insurance and the Chamber of Commerce.

    Their board includes Vice President for Eli Lilly and Company, a financial adviser to wealthy people and banks, a retired commercial construction executive, an executive with Cambia health insurance who had a 15 year career as a banker before that, Senior Director of Business Development for Microsoft who used to work with the telecoms AT&T and T-Mobile, and a Program Manager at Starbucks, among others.

    So, Banks gets funded by bankers that foreclose on people, foreclosures that Sawant has tried to stop. Both claim housing will be an issue they focus on — I wonder if the bankers candidate has the same views as the people’s candidate on how to solve the housing problem in Seattle?

    Looking at who Banks is connected to it is obvious who will be behind her campaign. This will be a campaign of the people’s candidate (Sawant) vs. the corporate candidate (Banks)? Which side are you on?

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