Port Elections: Changing Dynamics for Getting Elected

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It used to be that for down-ballot races, where voters are not well informed, choosing winners was greatly influenced by The Seattle Times or Municipal League evaluations. No longer, as witness the Port of Seattle races.

Incumbent Peter Steinbrueck, a former city councilmember and mayoral candidate with a storied family name, has drawn a strong challenger, Toshiko Hasegawa, daughter of state Sen. Bob Hasegawa. She will be running on equitable economic development, her record in pulling together groups, and her knowledge of Asian trade. Similarly, the current commission president, Stephanie Bowman, will be challenged by Hamde Hamdi Mohamed, who has worked on social justice issues for Rep. Pramila Jayapal. She will be running on greater inclusion in the Port’s workforce and for more diverse airport businesses.

There are important economic issues at the Port, such as why the need for expansion of the container business when that container business is losing out to Canada, Eastern ports and Tacoma. And how to solve the shortage of return containers to Asia for Washington agriculture. But these races are now run as an aspect of DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) politics, with voters more likely to vote for youth, green causes, and empowering minorities than rewarding incumbents for focusing on economic issues, the Port’s main business. (The same DEI dynamic holds true for the Seattle School Board, also on the ballot this fall.)

At any rate, during a time of economic stress, the three (of five) Port races are important contests.

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David Brewster, a founding member of Post Alley, has a long career in publishing, having founded Seattle Weekly, Sasquatch Books, and Crosscut.com. His civic ventures have been Town Hall Seattle and FolioSeattle.

15 COMMENTS

  1. The day the Port is run by a social rights advocates, like the city council is, it is time to leave………… Wish Pete would run for mayor – But understand why he would not.

  2. David: Interesting coincidence; last Thursday, I gave to my Olympic Club mates a speech about my long-ago run for Port Commissioner, about the challenges and frustrations of the county-wide, non-partisan race and Bob Gogerty’s assessment and accurate prediction of my miniscule chance of success. If the races boil down to identity politics and DEI issues only, then important issues of tax dollar allocation and regional economic health will remain unaddressed except by those with a stake in the status quo. As you may recall, I also wrote for Crosscut an article on allying the Seaport with Tacoma and regionalizing airport planning; the first came about 15 years later, the airport issues still pending. The Port is the least understood, least appreciated government in the region, second only to the City of Seattle and King County.

    • Even Bob Gogerty’s assessments couldn’t solve the political issues of today. Common sense is not a prerequisite these days………

  3. Diversity equity and inclusion is the center point for economic development. Especially in an international trading arena reliant on attracting investors from around the world. The POS Commission is a board of directors that should reflect the community it serves and potential investors it wants to attract. Plus, it needs a diverse board that is sensitive to the diverse neighborhoods through which it moves it’s products.

  4. David, please consider apologizing for this blatantly racist piece. The reaction on Twitter should be evidence enough for you to do so: https://mobile.twitter.com/mikeychuck/status/1371657935684706307

    To be more specific: The idea that “choosing winners was greatly influenced by The Seattle Times or Municipal League evaluations” can still be true!! It’s March, none of the candidates have been evaluated by those groups! It boggles the mind how you could believe the entry of people of color into a couple of Port races somehow renders future candidate evaluations moot.

    Further, voters could yet be “rewarding incumbents for focusing on economic issues.” The vote hasn’t happened yet!! Still, somehow the mere entry of people of color into the race invalidates the incumbents’ work in your mind. DEI and economic issues are not mutually exclusive. You should be ashamed of casting judgment on BIPOC candidates who step up and run against your holy white incumbents.

    • I don’t see that his mild comment is even remotely “blatantly racist”.

      I always wonder if people who are so quick to accuse others of “blatant racism” are scared to look in the mirror.

  5. Take another look at the piece! The “storied family name” Steinbrueck is spelled correctly and Hamdi is misspelled. In addition, I’m not sure how the first and third paragraphs of this piece can be read as anything but racist. I encourage you to spend more time thinking about the impact David’s thoughts have on women of color running for office and less time impugning the motives of a fellow reader.

  6. NWPolitico.
    I have read the post half a dozen times trying to figure out where you and @mikeychuck find racism and I can’t.

    Why don’t you and Mr Charles both explain in a little more detail. It might be a very good teaching moment.

    The misspelling claim is, however, risible. Literally. You are basing a claim of racism… (An extremely grave claim indeed)… Based on a misspelling? That’s preposterously weak. And there is an obvious and much simpler alternative explanation: unfamiliarity. Brewster has been writing Steinbrueck’s name for probably >50 years. Literally. Writing “Hamdi” might have been the very first time. He might have made a _mistake_

    That said , it’s certainly not Brewster’s most incisive piece and I can see reasons to criticize it on the basis of political judgment…But not on racism.

  7. Also Anonymous, I provided a couple of specific examples in my initial post. I did not suggest that David intentionally misspelled Hamdi’s name. It was indeed likely a mistake, one we each explain with different reasons. Additionally, Fred Felleman is the commission president, not Stephanie Bowman; that error makes me agree that the piece is sloppy at best. I point that part out as an area where we likely agree.

    As for more detail on the racism charge: an author doesn’t explicitly have to say “x group of people is better than y group of people” or use a racial epithet in order to be racist. The author doesn’t even have to intend to be racist or offensive. The author simply has to imply those things to be true, as David does here. As an example, the first paragraph implies that the entrance of two candidates of color into the race invalidates evaluations from organizations that advise voters. That is an inherently racist implication, that a candidate’s race is mutually exclusive from their qualifications for a position, and that candidates of color have an innate advantage with voters who don’t follow local races closely before voting, but when the opposite is true. In a similar way, the third paragraph implies that ethically diverse challengers cannot have the economic expertise of white incumbents, and even understand the importance of Port issues. I don’t think David set out to publish a piece containing racial dog whistles but I’ve tried to put myself in the shoes of the women of color who are running for these seats, who already face so many more challenges than white candidates, and I see the piece as clearly racist.

  8. It is good to read the continuing comments on this post by Mr. Brewster. It will be important for any candidates for nearly any office to be able to understand the what and the how. The cool thing about a democracy to remember is that innovation, leadership, and “keeping the trains running on time” can come from nearly anyone and be a surprise to the PC notions of the time (PC here stands for Politically Corporate, the dominate form of speech in our society).
    Ron Simms, Gary Locke, Patty Murray, Chris Gregoire, Laurie Jinkins, Maria Cantwell….none fit the PC conformity of their time. All have brought something unique, special and important that improved our communities. Diversity of thought, perspective and origins goes pretty deep in our state’s settlement history. Public Ports are not a Politically Corporate correct thing to have happened. Immigrants from Finland, Croatia, Norway, Japan and Italy, Black people who had been enslaved in the south, poured time and energy into creating Public Ports. It varied by regions of our state with at least a few things in common: foster better use of the water ways for community benefit including better wages and places for their fishing, farms and other trades to have access to water transport. Those immigrants and former slaves did not have degrees in economics, did not have an economic model from which to base their investments. They also all suffered from a form of corporate cancel culture in their day. Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (JEDI) seems like a natural fit for Ports, PUD’s, and the all the other special purpose governments. JEDI’s are needed everywhere.

  9. NWPolitico,
    We both agree that the misspelling of Ms. Hamdi’s name was probably a mistake.

    Yet you continue to use it as proof of “racism”. A spelling mistake can rightfully be condemned in public as racist, because intent is irrelevant. Is that what you’re saying?

    By the way, do you know Mr. Michael Charles personally? That’s @mikeychuck on Twitter. He initiated the claim of “outwardly racist” with his tweet (and offered no substance.)

    If you know him, I hope you would ask him to respond directly here on Post Alley since he’s the one who made the accusation.

    Speaking for Mr Charles — as you are — is not the same as him explaining.

    And I just noticed something on Twitter:
    Mr Charles (@mikeychuck) is the husband of Ms Hasegawa and his political consulting firm @ulstrategies is involved (no surprise!) with her campaign. (His firm is also involved with the Hamdi campaign as well.)

    So the obvious question is whether Ms Hasegawa shares the claim that Brewster’s post is “outwardly racist”? Was @mikeychuck’s tweet part of her campaign? Perhaps she might be able to clarify.

    As you wrote, empathetically, we should stand in the shoes of these women of color and how they feel about this post. So let’s ask them directly about this post.

    As potential elected officials it’s important for Ms Hasegawa (and Ms Hamdi) to educate the public on racism and if they think that a spelling mistake can equal racism, then it’s good for us to know now.

  10. Mr Brewster

    I hope you will put a focus on the question of “What is racism? ”

    I am disturbed that the accusation of racism is used so loosely and sloppily.

    NW Politico/@mikeychuck’s accusation of “racism” seem to me as dangerous and unproductive. So I hope that PostAlley will embark on a broader discussion of what is meant by the term.

    And don’t let anybody tell you that white people can’t talk about racism because they’re white.

    By the way this comment is not necessarily meant for broader reading but that’s up to you at your discretion of course.

  11. Thank you Gordon for your insightful perspective.

    Also Anonymous, intent is different than impact. David wasn’t intending to be racist but, to me, his comments came across that way in context. That’s why my initial comment asked him to apologize.

    I don’t know Michael Charles. I have not been speaking for him, I have simply been sharing my perspective, which is similar to his own. There is nothing loose, sloppy, or unproductive about calling out racism.

  12. I’ve re-read the post several times more word-by-word and sentence-by-sentence and there is nothing which is racist.

    I challenge all readers to do the same.

    However there is one sentence which by deep interpretation one could ask a fair question.

    You and Charles may have interpreted that sentence as racist but you haven’t explained.

    So I’m not sure if the sentence _I’m_ seeing is the sentence which might bother _you_.

    And obviously it’s inappropriate for me to do the explaining (since I may have it all wrong.)

    So it seems to me that it’s up to you and Charles to either
    — explain the “racism” or
    — apologize to Brewster.

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