Calling it a “huge” moment in his campaign that will “shape the race going forward,” District 3 candidate Egan Orion has won the endorsement — and the financial backing powered by Vulcan, Amazon, and Expedia — of CASE, the political arm of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.
“They like a lot of Seattle voters are looking for pragmatic folks to get on the council,” Orion said. “Somebody who can work with all sorts of different groups.”
The pro-business and anti-street disorder CASE — the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy — announced its 2019 primary endorsements Wednesday morning.
Orion said he will not take campaign contributions from business PACs — but the group is likely to be a big spender on his behalf.
Tuesday night, Orion came in dead last in a vote to win the key endorsement of the 43rd District Democrats on a night when none of the challengers rose to the occasion despite a polarizing incumbent in Kshama Sawant.
Orion said CASE’s choice positions him as the best candidate to face off with Sawant. “She’s framed her campaign as her a binary choice between workers and big business,” he said. “I see things in a much more complex way.”
CASE says it endorses candidates who “demonstrate a strong commitment to improving the quality of life and economic opportunities for all Seattleites” on four core issues:
- Traffic in and around Seattle is getting worse. CASE supports candidates who will prioritize reducing traffic congestion, improving transit, and helping move people and goods faster around the city.
- In Seattle’s neighborhoods, including downtown, homelessness is a major concern for residents, visitors, and local businesses. CASE supports candidates who will advance long-term systemic reforms to the City of Seattle and King County’s approach this issue. These reforms should reflect best practices to get more people out of homelessness and into permanent, stable housing, as outlined in the reports done by Barbara Poppe and Focus Strategies.
- Seattle is experiencing incredible prosperity, however some people are being left behind. CASE supports candidates who will help grow local businesses, expand family-wage jobs, and encourage building housing for people of all income levels.
- Seattle is rapidly growing and changing. CASE supports candidates who understand what makes Seattle great, and will uphold those values while continually striving to make Seattle one of the best cities in the nation to live and work.
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With Tuesday night’s “no endorsement” session of the 43rd Dems as the latest example, the 2019 primary with its unprecedented large field of candidates might end up a race powered by groups who back up their positions with the most cash. Powered by huge contributions from companies like Vulcan, Amazon, and Expedia and smaller donations from dozens of smaller companies and organizations, CASE reported some $260,000 in expenditures last year and around $300,000 in cash on hand to start 2019. The newly formed pro-business People for Seattle is also expected to provide similar firepower.
District 3 could end up the most expensive race in the city. Incumbent Sawant said part of her decision to forego the Democracy Voucher program were her campaign’s concerns about campaign spending caps. Sawant has said she expects the pool of spending to oppose her to grow in 2019 after Amazon spent an “eye-popping $350,000 in 2017 to buy their mayor Jenny Durkan.”
Many elements of Orion’s campaign platform appear to be a good match for CASE. On homelessness, Orion has said the focus should be on “permanent supportive housing” over increased spending on emergency services. “We are already paying to assist them but in temporary ways that contributes to their suffering and increases our long-term investment.” He has also called for more accountability and better auditing at City Hall “to make the hard calls and defund organizations who aren’t doing the work we’re paying them to do.”
Orion entered the race for Sawant’s seat this spring as director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and with years of leading PrideFest. The chamber — which is not affiliated with the downtown group — has since shut down operations as it faced dwindling financial support from the city.
Orion’s leading opponents, meanwhile, have been trading blows over labor endorsements. Zachary DeWolf, currently a member of the school board and a staffer at All Home King County, touted his latest wins — support from Teamsters 763, Ironworkers 86, and SEIU 775, each “had supported Councilmember Sawant during her previous run for City Council District 3,” his campaign noted. The Seattle Subway transit advocacy group, meanwhile, threw its D3 support behind both DeWolf and cannabis entrepreneur Logan Bowers.