Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg have raised funds downtown. Sen. Elizabeth Warren boasted a 15,000 person rally at Seattle Center over the summer and has another planned this weekend. And Sen. Amy Klobuchar was met with a packed coffeeshop in the U-District.
So when Sen. Bernie Sanders decided to spend his first 2020 trip to Washington a little farther south in Tacoma, it was a bit surprising given Seattle’s place as a progressive bastion supportive of his Democratic Socialism.
“We picked the venue because of its proximity to Washington’s working class communities,” state field director Shaun Scott said. “And also its closeness to residents of displacement who have moved to South King County and Pierce County because of exorbitant housing costs.”
Monday’s Tacoma Dome rally ended up with 17,000 in attendance, making it one of the biggest events of the cycle, and included several of Seattle’s most recognizable elected officials. Council member Kshama Sawant, for example, brought her anti big-business brand to the event.
“Big business tried to buy the election last year but they failed and the people won again,” Sawant said, referring to Amazon’s controversial spending in her reelection bid last year, according to Geekwire. “Now our Tax Amazon movement has tremendous momentum to tax big business to fund social housing.”
A huge shoutout to my incredible team leader Heather for making us some brunch & coffee before we go out and knock doors for @ewarren in Capitol Hill! Here in Seattle @seattle4warren, we canvass with class ✨We are @TeamWarren! #ElizabethWarren pic.twitter.com/1ajQgincpp
— Emma Wyma (@emwymz) January 11, 2020
The Sanders rally sets off a few week race to the finish lines as the Washington primary was moved up by the state Legislature to March 10 and ballots are mailed to voters this week. Because of this, Washington has seen an influx of attention from national campaigns, with several hiring staff in the Evergreen state.
Sanders has seven paid staffers here and 200 overachieving volunteers, known as “victory captains,” according to Scott. Meanwhile, Warren, who is slated to host a rally at the Seattle Center Armory on Saturday, has about 40 staff members spread across the state.
Warren’s campaign, after disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, says it’s gearing up for the long haul.
“We’re basically trying to talk to as many people as humanly possible,” said Maria Leininger, Warren’s state director. “This campaign will be won and lost on the ground.”
Leninger sees Warren’s four-hour selfie line after her August rally as a sign of the enthusiasm surrounding her candidacy in the state. Her campaign has had grassroots, volunteer-led events in all of Washington’s 39 counties.
Sanders’ Tacoma rally marked something of a kickoff for the final stage of the primary campaign, with a volunteer get out the vote event on Tuesday at the campaign’s office. Scott, coming off a loss in the race to represent District 4 on the Seattle City Council, said he is hosting three canvasses a week.
He says the top issue he hears about on the doors is about defeating President Donald Trump and is trying to assuage concerns that Sanders is too radical to win a general election.
“We’re making our case that we’re the best candidate to do so because we’re an energetic campaign that will boost youth turnout and turnout among people of color,” Scott said.
Operating without much attention in the state has been the campaign of former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, which hired staff last month with plans to open offices in all of Washington’s 10 congressional districts.
Just this past weekend, the Bloomberg campaign opened offices in Everett and Yakima, bringing his total to five offices in the state.
Saw my first Bloomberg yard sign. Not a cute look, back of Capitol Hill.
— YU go, Slavs 🌹 ¯_(ツ)_/¯ (@tigerljily) February 16, 2020
“We aren’t leaving any vote on the table,” Bloomberg’s Washington state director Grant Lahmann said in a press release. Lahmann is taking leave from his job as King County Council member Joe McDermott’s chief of staff to work for the campaign.
Buttigieg, who had strong finishes in the first two states, stopped in Seattle for a brunch fundraiser over the weekend, but has limited his local public appearances. If campaign contributions are any indicator, Sanders, Warren, and Buttigieg were bunched at the front of the pack at the end of 2019, according to a Seattle Times analysis of Federal Election Commission data.
In the 2016 caucus, Sanders won over 70% of the state’s delegates against Hillary Clinton, who narrowly won a non-binding primary a couple months later.
The question going into March 10 is whether Washington will go the way of 2016’s caucus or primary. That is, will voters favor the radical approach or the establishment?
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