Business-backed groups spend big on Seattle council races
Outside groups have poured about $1.4 million so far into Tuesday's Seattle City Council elections, with more than $1 million coming from committees backed by business and real estate interests.
Why it matters: Groups looking to influence elections can pack a greater punch through independent expenditure committees, which — unlike candidates' campaigns — can raise and spend unlimited amounts of cash.
Zoom in: In Seattle council races, the candidates who are considered the most centrist and business-friendly have benefited the most from outside dollars.
- Maritza Rivera, the former deputy director of Seattle's Office of Arts and Culture, is so far the biggest beneficiary of third-party spending. Outside groups have spent a combined $284,000 to support her campaign and oppose her rival, Ron Davis, in District 4.
Meanwhile, independent groups have spent about $230,000 to try to elect Rob Saka, a former tech lawyer, over Maren Costa in District 1. Costa had urged her former employer, Amazon, to improve labor conditions and do more to fight climate change.
- Costa has been the target of more third-party spending opposing her campaign than any other Seattle council candidate this year.
- Some of their biggest donors are political committees tied to the local Master Builders Association; the state association for commercial real estate developers; the Seattle hotel and restaurant industry; and landlords.
- Morales' challenger, Tanya Woo, has benefited from another $61,000 in third-party support from the National Association of Realtors Fund.
- Similar industry interests are helping bankroll a committee that has spent more than $100,000 opposing ChrisTiana ObeySumner, the leftmost candidate in District 5.
Of note: Candidates are not allowed to coordinate with independent expenditure committees, which operate separately from candidates' campaigns.
What we're watching: Whether voters respond to the influx of spending — or if it backfires.
- In 2019, when Amazon poured more than $1 million into a PAC focused on electing Seattle council candidates seen as pro-business, only two of those seven candidates ended up winning.
Go deeper: Check out our 2023 Seattle voter guide
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