Dear Tim -
Over the weekend, I got the attack piece that your new Political Action Committee (PAC) put together against Emily Myers in District 4. We’ve also seen your PAC’s similar attack pieces in Districts 1 and 3, targeting Councilmember Lisa Herbold, School Board Director Zachary DeWolf, and Councilmember Kshama Sawant. Suffice it to say, I am very disgusted with the way that you and your “People for Seattle” group has opted to go the Swift Boat direction this cycle.
I’m disappointed in you specifically because you had led me to believe that you’re better than this. Much to the chagrin of my friends on the left, I have long admired your ability to work toward “yes,” and efforts to weave civility into civil discourse. As Goldy noted on Twitter, you could have left a legacy for your grandchildren to be proud of - the seeds of universal access to preschool in Seattle. Instead, you now leave a legacy that I hope your grandchildren won’t mimic: manipulating facts and getting into the mud game against people who are willing to stand for public office.
I remember when you called me my first day working for Councilmember Mosqueda, congratulating me on the position, and stating that it was evidence that she was a smart woman. Having worked with you on the Housing Levy campaign extensively, this was really something that meant a lot to me. Following my transgression on Twitter a year later, I was not only mad at myself for my actions, but for letting the people down who had worked with me, despite policy differences, over the years. People like you.
See, I wholeheartedly believe that we can and must identify areas of commonality with our perceived political opponents. For instance, where you and I disagreed on the aggressive panhandling ordinance you proposed, we agreed that investing in parks with stable funding was vital to ensuring equity and resiliency of parks and community programming across the city - and now we have a Park District to provide that permanent funding. We had dinner once, and kicked off agreeing to disagree on some of the details of encampment removal policies, and then pivoted to talking about ways we could build on the Housing Levy and HALA broadly to ramp up investments in homes from both the public and private sector. That’s the Tim Burgess I grew to respect.
What bothers me about your lobbing personal attacks at these candidates is that you are diving to the lowest possible form of attacks. You’re not going after them on policy specifics, rather you are taking the Jenny Durkan route, and vilifying them with red-baiting, trying to tie candidates to Councilmember Sawant. And I get it - socialism doesn’t poll well in many parts of the city. We’ve probably looked at the same polls. I also understand that you don’t care for Councilmember Sawant, particularly her method of being a legislator. To be honest, I don’t care for her method, either. But by using that photo of her, and the language you are using, what you are doing is setting up people to tie candidates to the “angry brown woman” on Council that nobody likes. It goes beyond red-baiting, and is racist in its approach to stoke fears in white communities of a woman of color. And don’t tell me you don’t know this - any political consultant with half a brain knows that race-baiting is effective in majority white communities.
Further, you peg candidates as extreme. According to these mail pieces, it is extreme to want racial equity in decision making. It is extreme to advance self-determination, and providing a vehicle for communities to have a hand in shaping development in areas at highest risk of displacement. It is extreme to want to provide those living outdoors with somewhere safe to go. It is extreme to want to save lives and treat addiction as the public health crisis it is. It is extreme to support housing diversity that allows the same types of homes to be built today that we allowed in 1950. These aren’t extreme, and your actions will hurt efforts to find long-term solutions to some of the biggest issues facing our city.
This “at all costs” form of campaigning is gross. Someone tried something similar against Rob Johnson back in 2015, and I came out harshly against the attacks, because that is not what our city needs. At a time when the Chamber and the Mayor have unleashed the worst of our city, emboldening groups like Safe Seattle in order to ensure the wealthiest corporations don’t pay taxes, and having no plan to reign these hate-mongers in, that you have decided to stoop so low as to fan the flames of division is appalling.
Candidates for public office should be able to win based on their ideas, their campaigns, and their exhibited ability to get things done. That you have decided that now they need to also have this extra injection of division is beyond the pale. I expect that you were disappointed in me after the Tweet. So was I.
Today, I am extraordinarily disappointed in you.