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‘Aggressive doorbelling,’ rallies, endorsements, and coffee dates — With ballots heading out, here’s what District 3 candidates are doing for last big push

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 —

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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30 thoughts on “‘Aggressive doorbelling,’ rallies, endorsements, and coffee dates — With ballots heading out, here’s what District 3 candidates are doing for last big push

  1. Sawant may want to make certain her canvassers know that when a condo board says no soliciting, that means them. We had to escort one out of our building and she kept informing us we were infringing on her First Amendment rights. SMH.

    • I’m very curious what will become of Sawant’s army once she’s out of office. Will they move back to Brooklyn or stick around here and continue to cause trouble?

      • Love to see her walk her talk and move the circus to Olympia where she could actually accomplish something towards legalizing rent control in Washington.

    • She may have been right. This seems to be a grey area legally. Soliciting has generally been protected on first amendment grounds (see here: That article also points out that soliciting can often be interpreted to refer strictly to commercial activity, which would not include general political canvassing. Whether it’s a winning strategy to piss off voters who have already told you that they don’t want door-knockers bothering them is another story…

      • When you’re asked to leave private property, leave. But then again, she probably doesn’t believe in private property.

      • Well, if the place they are soliciting is behind two electronically controlled locked doors, and they weren’t invited in and escorted by a resident, then they are trespassing. This happened recently in my building.

        There is no civil rights protection that allows you to enter secured, private property (no matter the reason) without permission. And particularly so if you are asked to leave.

      • Thank you, zeebleoop….you hit the nail on the head. But I doubt the arrogant and self-centered Sawant supporters care if they are breaking the law.

    • We had one of her canvassers ghosted into our condo garage door and started going to all the floors. They were escorted out after they knocked on a few doors and security was called.

    • Similar experience here. Two men were standing between me and our apartment building’s door when I got home from work. They avoided eye contact as I walked past them, but then tried to tailgate behind me into the building. They said they were meeting “a friend” and gave a name and apartment number which I knew didn’t match up. I apologized, told them I couldn’t admit anyone I didn’t personally know, and directed them to the call box to reach their friend. They seemed shocked to learn “their friend’s” building had a call box.

      20 minutes later, someone calls me from the call box. I head down, and it’s them with a couple more canvassers–this time I’m in black jeans and t-shirt and they lead with the Sawant pitch.

      We’ve had break-ins and thefts and everyone in the building is super uncomfortable with attempts to access the building through force or social engineering. Two strange unidentified dudes lying to gain access like this is profoundly unwelcome.

  2. Sounds like Sawant is the only candidate with any actual flesh and blood supporters in the district. My guess is that most of Orion’s support comes from a few dad-lyfe types who do more bitching on blogs like this than actual real-world political activism.

    • Interesting that you qualify “flesh and blood supporters” as those who volunteer for her campaign. I think there are a lot of us out here supporting other candidates, without actually becoming volunteers. Ms Sawant has done a good job of getting a small number of “fired up folks” who buy into her agenda. I guess I’m particularly more fond of candidates who get their financial support locally and choose to talk to people instead of yelling at them. Ms Sawant has a reputation of not wanting to talk to people in her district. She would rather yell at Amazon. Makes sense. When you talk to people, it does require some listening as well.

    • I can assure you I am a 25 year resident of Capitol Hill and I am voting against Sawant. She doesn’t represent the district. She is a better activist than politician, though she doesn’t understand the difference.

    • So you don’t count as an “actual flesh and blood supporter” unless you’re out there on street corners harassing people to sign your quixotic petition? Or going door-to-door asking people if they’ve heard the good news of Marxist-Leninist Socialism?

      Sorry all I do for my candidate is vote and encourage my friends and family to vote. Guess that makes me a nobody.

      • Hosted a social/fundraising party. Placed street signs. Gave money and democracy vouchers. None of this did I do for Sawant. Bitch on this blog regularly. Looks like your candidate may be in trouble.

  3. No Soliciting signs refer to buying and selling noted below.
    B. “Residential sales” means selling goods or services where some part of the transaction occurs at the buyer’s residence. C. “Residential seller” means any person who initiates contact with consumers at their places of residence for the purpose of selling, attempting to sell, or soliciting appointments or contacts for future sale of goods or services, and where the consumer is at his/her place of residence when agreement to buy is given.

    And note the city says they don’t apply to sellers of “newspapers, or fresh or perishable food items”; nor is a license required for a person who turns up at your door seeking charity donations.

    • And being told to leave private property and not doing so is trespassing. I’ll gladly call the cops on future Sawant canvassers who put up a fuss on leaving.

  4. They aren’t even staying in their own districts…. I came home the other day to find a flyer for a D2 candidate on my door, even though where I live is pretty much the center of D3….

  5. My biggest fear is that the four candidates I’d consider reasonable-ish (Bowers, Nguyen, Orion, DeWolf, in that order) split the vote and we end up with Sawant on the far left vs. Murakami on Seattle’s version of the right. I’ve never not voted before, but that one might require a write-in.

    • I worry about that too. But, judging from the many comments on this blog, there is a very strong “anyone but Sawant” groundswell in D3. Hopefully, that will mean that even Murakami (who is a moderate and a pragmatist) will defeat her in the fall.

  6. It has been alleged that Sawant’s campaign posters (“Rent Control Rally”) are paid for with taxpayer dollars. But the posters state that they are paid for by her campaign. What is the truth?

    • I recall seeing some of her posters stamped w/ the city of Seattle seal implying that they were paid for through her office as a Councilperson. I have also seen others stating that her campaign financed them. So – my guess is the answer is both.

  7. Check her PDC reports. There seem to be expenditures reflected for leaflets and posters, which likely include these posters.

    • If what you say is true, then Sawant is guilty of fraud, because her current crop of posters (“Rent Control Rally”) state that her campaign is funding them. I hope the SEEC is looking into this in order to determine the facts of the matter.

      • Woo hoo! Calumniatory caterwaulings from “Bob Knudsen”.

        The “Rent Control Rally” of 6:00PM today is a public meeting to fight for rent control and affordable housing —against the rack-renting landlords, against the Carl Haglund slumlords, against the Vulcan “ethnic cleansers”!

        Therefore, if posters for it can be funded by the Seattle city council, they certainly should be.

        Furthermore, the corporate council members currently crying crocodile tears regarding our homeless sisters and brothers should attend too.

        So should you — unless you’re too much of a coward to defend your “ideas” in public, against the public.

      • Her campaign and her office may appropriately fund the posters. Those used during a campaign rally likely paid for by her campaign.

  8. Apparently NONE of the candidates understand that Pushing In is a crime – two weeks in a row these canvassers have Pushed In to our security building, and left garbage on our doors about the candidates. Push In can be charged with assault as well as tresspassing. The police are looking at our videos to find these people.
    When I contacted the Campaign managers, they acted as if it was no big deal. So, if their campaign managers and their canvassers cannot respect the law, why would we vote for them? It was Sawant and Nguyen so far.