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Seattle businesses throw $120K at Jenny Durkan for mayoral bid

Jenny Durkan
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
Jenny Durkan, former U.S. attorney, is running for Seattle mayor this year.

If you see ads in print or online for Jenny Durkan, they may have been paid for by her own campaign — she's the top fundraiser in the race to be Seattle's next mayor.

Or the ads may be sponsored by an independent campaign, “People for Jenny Durkan,” with money from Seattle businesses. 

Durkan is the only mayoral candidate so far aided by a separate, independent fund.  

That fund has about $120,000 from the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (sponsored by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce), property developers and hotel and restaurant owners.

Rich Fox owns restaurants including Poquitos and Rhein Haus on Capitol Hill. He’s also president of the Seattle Restaurant Alliance. He said the political action committee Seattle Hospitality for Progress, a joint effort of hotel and restaurant owners, interviewed candidates before endorsing Durkan and donating $20,000 to the independent fund.

“With Jenny Durkan, a lot of that comes down to having a discussion with somebody we feel is willing to listen to different perspectives,” Fox said.

He said she “has a record of being able to bring groups together and come up with solutions as she did with the Seattle Police Department” in negotiating the consent decree between the city and the U.S. Justice Department as U.S. attorney for Western Washington.

Seattle businesses pay attention to city policies because they often affect their bottom line. In the last several years, Seattle has passed numerous laws affecting the workplace, such as paid “sick and safe” leave. 

The increased minimum wage may be the biggest concern, Fox said. “That’s obviously the one that has had the biggest challenge to it in terms of adapting, just because it is changing so dramatically,” he said.

Fox said the “stepwise progression” eased the initial transition for small businesses but the next increments will be steeper.

“I think that those steps are pretty big, and I think those are the ones that everybody has their eye on the horizon, thinking about how they’re going to adapt to that,” he said.  

So far, the 21 candidates for mayor have raised over $1 million altogether. Durkan is the only candidate for mayor with an independent expenditure campaign on her behalf.

But the renters’ rights group Affordable Seattle has also spent $1,600 to aid mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver. The donation was used for “promotional leaflets underscoring the importance of not taking donations from landlords and developers” in order to represent working people, according to campaign coordinator Emily McArthur.

With its progressive politics, Seattle “is in a bit of a bubble” along with Portland and perhaps San Francisco, compared to elsewhere in the U.S., Fox said.

But as for the recent depiction of Seattle as a “socialist hellhole” on the Fox business channel, “I think that characterization is ridiculous,” Rich Fox said.

He said he just wants the new wage – which has been the subject of conflicting claims and studies —  to be fairly evaluated and reviewed. “We just want people to be able to look at the data, take it for what it is."

Year started with KUOW: 2005