Beto Yarce, seen by many as the likeliest serious challenger to incumbent Kshama Sawant, made a surprise announcement Tuesday morning that he is suspending his run for the Seattle City Council.
In his statement, Yarce said his decision was based on his dedication to his work with his nonprofit Ventures, economic development organization he has led since 2014
“One of the things that I learned on the campaign trail is that small businesses need additional support,” he writes. “I can be most effective supporting entrepreneurs in our community by remaining at Ventures.”
Yarce was one of the recipients of the mayor’s Pride awards last summer for his work as executive director of the nonprofit that “empowers individuals with limited resources and unlimited potential improve their lives through small business ownership.” Last spring, Yarce was also part of more than 300 small business owners who came out against the early recommendations from the city’s “progressive revenue” task force. He is also a member of the mayor’s Small Business Advisory Council.
Yarce’s decision leaves first-time candidate and marijuana retail entrepreneur Logan Bowers and his housing first message as the front runner to challenge Sawant into August’s primary and beyond into November.
Sawant, meanwhile, launched her reelection bid in January saying the election “will be a referendum on one vital question: Who runs Seattle? Amazon and big business or working people?”
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Yarce faced early criticism from Sawant supporters who called the candidate a carpetbagger for his move off the Hill four years ago to be closer to his partner’s job in Mill Creek. The couple said they had always planned to move back. Those running for district seats must reside in the district but are only required to have lived there for 120 days prior to their formal declaration of candidacy. Council members must also stay in the district throughout their term in office. UPDATE: Yarce tells CHS the residency issue “was not the reason” for his decision to suspend his campaign.
Yarce’s exit leaves five candidates in the race including Beacon Hill neighborhood activist, small business owner, and past City Hall candidate Pat Murakami, Yesler Terrace public defender Ami Nguyen and Capitol Hill LGBTQAI activist Asukaa Jaxx.
In the race’s first phases, Bowers has declared financial victory with early leads in campaign contributions and as first District 3 candidate to qualify for Seattle’s Democracy Voucher program and second City Council candidate in the city overall. Her fellow candidates criticized Sawant for her decision to forego the voucher program because it would hamstring her abilities to raise funds against “corporate” candidates backed by “outsized and out-of-state campaign contributions.” According to city records, Yarce had not yet begun the first “pledge” phase of the voucher program.
Sawant has said her campaign is gearing up for a race that could again end up the city’s most expensive and might this time end up as a $1 million battle.
Yarce’s full statement is below.
I have decided to suspend my campaign for Seattle City Council, District 3.
One of the things that I learned on the campaign trail is that small businesses need additional support. I can be most effective supporting entrepreneurs in our community by remaining at Ventures. In fact, applying the stories I heard on the campaign trail, I will continue leading the mission to support micro and small businesses with technical assistance, training, incubation and access to capital. I am proud to announce the latest initiatives at Ventures that will bring unprecedented levels of impact to local small businesses and underserved communities.
The new programs are:
- Ventures Ready for Release program where Ventures is committed to serve women and support them in starting their own business while in prison and connecting them to opportunities upon their release.
- Ventures Advocacy program where Ventures is advocating for micro and small businesses at the city, county, state and federal level.
This has not been an easy decision for me, especially with the overwhelmingly positive feedback, endorsements, grass roots support, and momentum I have received. But I believe that I can take what I have learned through this process and channel it into other programs, organizations and opportunities that satisfy the goals I established in my campaign.
Over the past several months I have met so many great people, who told me about their dreams, frustrations, and struggles. I have made many new friends and had the opportunity to meet diverse people with a strong spirit, determination and resolve to bring positive change and a return to the values that have been lost in our current political climate.
I would like to thank all the volunteers who spread the word about this campaign. All the people who demonstrated their support through endorsements and the local businesses who supported me by proudly displaying my campaign signs. I appreciate you all, and can never repay your generosity, enthusiasm, and energy you have given me, which will last a lifetime.
This is not a message of goodbye, rather another new beginning for me as I will be taking the experiences I have gained by speaking to so many passionate and inspiring people and channeling it into solutions that will directly help and inspire people by giving them the tools and resources they need to build a better life for themselves and their families.