There are only 20 days left until the ballot drop boxes close at 8:00 PM on August 6th. That means D3 voters and others have less than 500 hours left to choose among the six candidates hoping to make it through the Primary and onto the General Election in November.
As ballots are heading out today, candidates switch into the highest gears to stay top of mind with voters — particularly in a crowded race where five candidates are challenging Kshama Sawant for the District 3 City Council seat.
“Once ballots are out, voters start paying attention, and there’s a mad rush to get in front of them while they’re paying attention, but before they vote,” said Ben Anderstone, a Seattle-based political consultant. “Because not even the liveliest campaign can contact every likely voter in-person, things like mailers become incredibly important.”
But, Anderstone added, “no matter how sophisticated political advertising gets, paid mass-communication [mailers, television ads] will never be as effective as organic, face-to-face conversations. It’s the single most effective way of changing voters’ minds. In campaigns small enough to allow for meaningful individual communication, a good ‘field game’ can make a huge difference. That’s especially true once ballots drop. It’s not rare to have volunteers knock on voters’ doors while they’re mid-way through filling out their ballot.”
Among the most forceful of the doorbelling efforts in D3 is the doorbelling push of Kshama Sawant’s campaign.“ We are expecting to knock on the door of every voter in the district at least once, and twice in most cases,” campaign manager Bryan Koulouris told CHS.
With over $200,000 raised — more than any other candidate in the city — Sawant’s campaign can count on the largest team of staffers (seven part-time, eight full-time) and volunteers (230). Koulouris added that the campaign is expecting a significant influx of volunteers during the campaign’s “Get Out the Vote” effort.
“We realize we are in for a big fight with the chamber of commerce,” Koulouris said, referring to the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce-run and Amazon and Vulcan-sponsored PAC Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy. CASE endorsed Egan Orion in D3 and has already spent over $100,000 on canvassing, texting, telephone, direct mail and campaign literature supporting Orion’s campaign.
Orion said the final stretch for a campaign is “all about having direct voter contact” by holding coffee hours and doorbelling. Campaign manager Olga Laskin said the campaign (which relies on one full-time staffer, six part-time interns, two consultants, and a dozen volunteers) is hoping to hit a “15,000 total door goal” before August 6.
“Neighborhood activist” Pat Murakami said she’s doing a couple of fundraisers and “trying to doorbell as much as possible,” with “at least four dozen” volunteers, one staffer and two part-time consultants working on the campaign.
Seattle School Board member Zachary DeWolf and his campaign manager did not return requests for comment besides a brief message saying they were “committed to meeting neighbors and voters at the doors and at our events.”
Election 2019: More about the candidates and their positions —
- Candidates: ‘Who runs Seattle?’ — Sawant bracing for million dollar battle for District 3 / In race for District 3, Bowers puts housing first / Nguyen makes run for District 3 with focus beyond Capitol Hill / What will it take for Orion to outrace Sawant in D3? Business, bravery, and ‘a queer voice on council again’ / Can DeWolf win District 3 running against ‘homelessness, rising housing costs, anti-worker values, regressive taxes’ — and not Sawant?
- Issues: 15 things CHS heard at the 43rd District Dems D3 forum / With District 3 candidates forum season underway, Speak Out Seattle leads with homelessness, displacement in the Central District, and gun violence / D3 candidates talk homelessness, small biz, and ‘a Green New Deal for ordinary working people’ with some of their youngest constituents / In Seattle’s most expensive race, District 3 challengers powered by Democracy Vouchers
- Endorsements: Speak Out Seattle’s pick in District 3: neighborhood activist Murakami / Seattle Times backs Orion, Cary Moon says ‘We NEED Kshama’ / Seattle educators give passing grades to two District 3 candidates — but not the one with a seat on the School Board / This District 3 candidate just won big-time Seattle labor support / No endorsement: Sawant, challengers fail to shine as District 3 candidates make lackluster showing in 43rd Dems endorsements vote
Challengers for Sawant’s seat who have not gotten their name out through a previous campaign, be it (unsuccessfully) for City Council such as Pat Murakami in 2017 or (successfully) for the School Board, such as Zachary DeWolf in 2017, have also banked on meet-and-greets.
Urbanist Logan Bowers — whose campaign is powered by one staffer, two consultants, and at least 60 volunteers — has been holding “office hours” in coffee shops every other week since February, and both he and Orion will be hosting more of those coffee hours in different neighborhoods in the coming weeks. Bowers jumped in the race in December and said that getting started early was “absolutely critical because meeting everyone takes time.”
“I’m number one and Ami’s number two,” Bowers said, referring to the amount both candidates raised with Democracy Vouchers. “And you can see that in the numbers because we have been spending so much time meeting with voters.”
Public defender Ami Nguyen, who has led a lower-profile public but effective fundraising campaign, is going to scheduled meet-and-greets most days of the week. Her campaign has also been doorbelling “aggressively,” said campaign manager Blake Zeman, who called their doorbelling aka “field campaign” “probably the most aggressive out of all the candidates.”
“We’ve been hitting an immense amount of doors, well over 10,000 for July alone,” he said. “We might not be the flashiest campaign in the media, but we are running a grassroots campaign directly engaging voters.” Nguyen, who can count on a couple of volunteers and five paid interns, noted that she also hopes to rely on her parents, who speak Vietnamese, and her partner’s mother, who speaks Cantonese and Mandarin, to help with phone banking.
Candidates with more name recognition opt for more “mass” contact with voters while bringing the message on some of their major campaign themes home.
Murakami hosted a forum and discussion about the “effects and the consequences” of Mandatory Housing Affordability in D3 last week, and Sawant’s holding a Rent Control Rally at the All Pilgrims Christian Church on Broadway this Saturday.
“Rent control is the main theme that we are leading with,” said Koulouris, Sawant’s campaign manager, adding that “taxing Amazon” to get social housing for everyone and a “Green New Deal” were also prominent themes, present on mailers.
In a crowded primary, where candidates need to distinguish themselves, tying yourself to one or two issues in your messaging is a good organizing technique, said Heather Weiner, a Democratic political consultant. Weiner ran the mayoral campaign of Cary Moon and worked on the initiative that created the Democracy Voucher program.
“That’s something that Kshama did in her first race, in 2013, her big push then was 15 [minimum wage]. So that she was not only pushing her own election, [but] also a campaign issue. (…) So then the person and the campaign become very closely linked, and in some ways, the election of that person is a referendum on that issue.”
Not everyone has this much name recognition from the get-go, and some are still presenting themselves to the public along with the issues they care about.
Nguyen is “doing an excellent job of telling her story (…) as the child of Vietnamese refugees,” but has not become closely associated with an issue, Weiner said.
Nguyen said homelessness and homelessness prevention are priorities for her, but that, as a “lesser-known” candidate, informing people of her personal and professional background” is also tantamount. She can also count on endorsements to do some of the lifting.
For people with “low name recognition,” endorsements are “exceptionally important,” Weiner said; and added that with the Democracy Voucher program, labor and union endorsements have become more critical, as those send out the signal for others to donate their vouchers.
That should’ve helped DeWolf, who has earned several significant labor and union endorsements (see infographic), including from unions that previously supported Sawant but was lagging in the fundraising rankings just last month.
Orion did, too. Now armed with a Seattle Times endorsement, Orion said the endorsement helped him catch up (though a tally can only be made after all candidates have sent in their latest disclosure reports) — and perhaps changed the campaign game.
“We’re going to be very near that top spot,” in terms of campaign contributions of the past month, Orion said over the weekend. His latest campaign disclosure report puts his funds at $76,211, up from $42,277 last month.
But even if campaigns can rake in more donations during the last three-week stretch ahead of August 6th, is there enough time for it to make a difference ahead of the primary?
“Even in the final stretch, campaigns are oftentimes trying to raise extra money to ensure their mail goes to the number of voters they want, and that staff and vendors can be paid in time,” Anderstone said.
Orion said that donations in the final days could be used for digital outreach. Whatever new money comes into his campaign coffers, “we plan on spending it all” before the primary, he said.
If he makes it through, Orion will have $10,400 worth of Democracy vouchers waiting for him in the General. In that respect, he has not caught up: DeWolf has an extra $11,295 in vouchers, Nguyen $24,375, Murakami $15,600, and Bowers a whopping $42,350 in Democracy Vouchers that will open up if one or two of these candidates make it through the first round. Tune in on August 6 to see who will be able to redeem their vouchers.
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