Bill Bryant was talking with a close friend recently, whose mother is a lifelong Democrat. She told her daughter that even though she’d never voted for a Republican before, she’d consider casting her ballot for Bryant based on their friendship.
It’s a sweet sentiment, with one big problem: She’d be voting for the wrong Bill Bryant. Her daughter’s friend is William Bryant, a partner at the venture capital firm DFJ. He just happens to share his name with Washington state’s Republican candidate for governor.
This isn’t the first time the two have been confused.
Bill Bryant, the VC, attended a fundraiser for Gov. Jay Inslee with his friend and Washington state CIO Michael Cockrill. He had to politely explain to everyone at his table that he was not, in fact, “a usurper or spy.”
Bryant says that there have been somewhere between 50 and 100 incidents of people confusing him with the candidate.
After seeing venture capitalist Bryant at a GeekWire event this summer, a longtime Seattle tech executive who has been involved in state politics asked if that was the Bill Bryant who was running for governor. No, different Bill Bryant, he was told.
“We get phone calls quite a bit from different organizations that are associated with the Republican Party,” he said. “They get our home phone. They call us and leave messages. I’ve had many personal messages left on our answering machines, trying to reach Bill Bryant and it’s clear it’s not me. It’s some community organizer, coalition, whatever. So that does happen on a regular basis.”
Incidents like that aren’t quite as common for the gubernatorial candidate but they do happen from time to time.
“Somebody sent me either an email or a voicemail — it was years ago — talking about the party they had been at on Friday and they were looking forward to this great ski weekend and left some of the details. I either emailed them or called them back and said that it sounded like a great time,” he said.
But for the Bill Bryant who is a prominent member of the Seattle tech community, it’s been a persistent problem for some time. It began when the gubernatorial hopeful was commissioner for the Port of Seattle.
“He had a recorded message as you were walking onto the skyways from the garage into the terminals and would say, ‘Hello this is Port Commissioner Bill Bryant welcoming you to SeaTac,’ so it’s been going on for a bit now.”
Long before joining DFJ, Bryant did consider a career in politics. He interned for a Seattle City Council member for over two years, as one of his very first jobs. From there he went on to be campaign manager for a state representative race. But in the end, like so many mulling public service, he became disillusioned and turned to the private sector.
He does remain a civically engaged Democrat, however. For reasons of ideology and convenience, he doesn’t endorse his name doppelganger for governor.
“I sure hope he doesn’t win,” he said, “so I don’t have to deal with this for four years.”