In the most money saturated Seattle City Council race this year, the two candidates vying to represent District 3 are taking different paths to raising and spending their contributions.
As of Sunday, City Council member Kshama Sawant was leading the fundraising race with $295,571 with challenger Pamela Banks close behind at $260,473.
So far, Banks has received just under half the number of contributions Sawant has. However, Banks’ donations are on average about double the size of Sawant’s. Meanwhile, Sawant has raised nearly three times as much as Banks has from outside the city.
According to data from the Seattle Ethics and Election Commission, Sawant’s campaign has been buoyed by $100,000 in contributions from outside Seattle while Banks has raised $36,300 in the same category. Meanwhile, Sawant’s 2,228 contributions average $117, while Banks’ 930 contributions average $261.
A look at the top ten expenditures in each campaign shows the candidates are also spending those funds in different ways.
According to data from the state Public Disclosure Commission, the Sawant campaign has largely spent money directly on producing mailers, flyers, and yard signs.
Banks has similarly prioritized spending on flyers and robocalls, but has done it largely through the political consulting group Northwest Passage Consulting. Banks also spent around $10,000 on producing two online video ads, while Sawant spent $4,000 to rent a venue for a New York City fundraiser where she raised around $9,000.
As of Sunday, Sawant and Banks have raised a combined total of $556,000 — the most out of any of the nine council races. By comparison, in 2013 Sawant and incumbent Richard Conlin raised just over $400,000 combined. Sawant, who raised $161,000 that year, beat Conlin in a close race despite being out-funded by $81,000.
Council District 3, which includes Capitol Hill and the Central District, became this year’s most monied City Council contest when it surpassed the at-large District 8 race in July. Sawant has continued to maintain her slight edge over Banks as both candidates approach the $300,000 mark. City Council president Tim Burgess is trailing just behind Sawant in fundraising for his District 8 race, with $289,952.
District 3 is also home to a handful of predominantly wealthy and white neighborhoods responsible for an outsized portion of political donations in the city. Earlier this year, Sightline Institute mapped campaign giving in Seattle and found neighborhoods like Madison Park, Madrona, and Leschi to be among the most prominent “big money” zones in the city. The Seattle researchers also found one of the largest, high density areas of political giving fell squarely on Capitol Hill.
Voters will have the chance to alter the political contribution playing field this November. Sponsored by Honest Elections Seattle, I-122 would enact a relatively small property levy to fund a system of public campaign financing in local elections. The opt-in program would give voters $100 “democracy vouchers” that they would give to candidates to fund their campaigns. Sawant has endorsed the initiative, Banks has not.
Five District 3 candidates were whittled down to two following the August primary, where Sawant emerged the leader with 52% of the vote, followed by Banks who garnered 34%. Both candidates now head into the final stretch of debates and forums ahead of the November 3rd election.
Last week, Sawant and Banks participated in an all-district candidate forum hosted by the Seattle Women’s Commission that focused on issues impacting women and communities of color. Seattle Channel wasn’t there to tape the event, but social media feeds showed Sawant and Banks largely stuck to familiar talking points in advocating for racial and gender justice.
For Sawant, it comes down to implementing a robust affordable housing plan that includes rent control, as well as passing a millionaires tax to fund progressive initiatives. Banks cited her experience as head of the Seattle Urban League as proof she could tackle the tough conversations around race.
There will be plenty of other opportunities to see the candidates answer questions in person in the coming week. Wednesday, the Greater Seattle Business Association, the city’s LGBT chamber of commerce, will hold a forum featuring Banks and Sawant as well as other City Council candidates.
Both District 3 campaigns are now being run from Capitol Hill after Banks opened her campaign headquarters above Little Uncle at 15th and Madison. Early this year, Sawant opened her 10th and E John headquarters inside a building slated to to torn down for a new “small efficiency dwelling unit” development.