Walking through the Emerald City chaos of Broadway and its glorious mix of the glamour and the squalor of Seattle on a Tuesday morning is one thing. Holding a press conference to announce your candidacy for City Council at the corner of Broadway and Harrison in the middle of it all is quite another.
There is one thing for certain in the just-starting race for the District 3 seat at Seattle City Hall. The campaign will include two of the bravest politicians in the city.
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“I landed back in District 3 after I came out as gay in the early 90s,” Egan Orion said Tuesday as he addressed a small group of media and supporters on the sidewalk, “and I remember watching the Pride parade on Broadway just a few steps from here, literally, and feeling that I’d arrived someplace special, someplace where I could be myself and be safe.”
Orion chose the location, of course, as part of his favorite “origin story” — his mother was conceived in the apartment building that still stands above what is now the teriyaki joint, a parking lot, and a bikini espresso stand at Broadway and Harrison. But the candidate for D3 also seemed to have selected the corner as the center of his work in the city and for its window into the city’s challenges and opportunities. In the background, a group was crashed out on the sidewalk with their belongings piled up against the mattress store hanging out in the April sun while across the street, a longtime shuttered Broadway restaurant was being busily cleaned out in preparation for a new $3.2 million start in life.
CHS reported here on the newly hired head of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and longtime PrideFest organizer’s choice to join the race against Seattle Socialist Alternative firebrand Kshama Sawant and Orion’s focus on small businesses, homelessness, and behavioral health services. Orion says he is taking on Sawant because “there’s a difference between talk and legislation and building coalitions and getting real change done” and says Sawant “seems to be a little more focused on rallies over results.”
Tuesday, Orion emphasized another reason to brave what will likely be a grueling, expensive race.
“I’d love for there to be a queer voice on council again,” Orion said.
CHS asked him what that voice would say in the Seattle of 2019.
“I think we have the impression from living in the bubble of Capitol Hill that every place is safe– for especially queer youth,” he said. “I don’t think that that’s necessarily the case. I think that having more people who are LGBT on City Council and in the city government gives those young kids who feel like they don’t have a place in this world… it gives them another example. We can be visible and be ourselves.”
In the shaping D3 race, then, you can color Orion as the business candidate… and the LGBTQ candidate rolled into one.
Though there are a few twists. Orion said in his announcement speech that he would support a new effort similar to the reversed Seattle head tax. “Seattle voters are not opposed to giving more of their tax money to important things that the city can do,” he said.
“I think there’s lots of places for innovation,” Orion said, explaining that it’s a question of how that money will be spent. “There are groups that have been defunded and then refunded and then defunded — so I think there is definitely an opportunity to use that money better.”
At the same time, he also made sure to open his campaign tent to District 3’s many tech workers. “I am not here to stand in defense of Amazon at all,” Orion said Tuesday. “But they have tens of thousands of employees who are living in our neighborhoods and attending our shops. They are integrated with our communities.”
He’ll need that kind of support to tangle with Sawant’s tremendous name identification and passionate following and overcome other competitors with a head start in the campaign like housing-first urbanist and small business owner Logan Bowers in what is likely to become a “million dollar” race to become the “top two” out of August’s primary and win November’s general election.
Orion plans to finance his campaign through the Democracy Voucher program and hopes to qualify quickly with the prerequisite contributions and signatures — 150 total contributions of at least $10, with half coming from within the district. Saturday he will hold a volunteer event and he is collecting donations through his eganforseattle.org site.
To help catch up, Orion Tuesday also offered up the possibility of a seemingly unholy alliance for a candidate focused on the progressive voters of Central Seattle — a truce with Speak out Seattle, the pro policing community group “that fought against the head tax for homelessness, opposes tiny house villages and encampments, and backed an initiative to ban safe consumption sites in Seattle.”
“I’m open to have conversations with any voters that want to… any groups that want to be engaged,” Orion said when CHS asked him what he thought about SOS joining him in his criticism of Sawant and whether he would attend any forums organized by the group.
And as for that criticism, Orion also brought a little more of that to the corner of Broadway and Harrison, too.
“If we had a great council member that I had full confidence in, I would not be in this race,” Orion said. “We live in a great district and we deserve great representation.”