Some of the leading voices in the Seattle technology community have signed their names to a letter endorsing Jenny Durkan for mayor.
The letter compares Seattle’s top executive office to running a $5 billion business and calls for a leader with “strong management skills” to balance the needs of all stakeholders. Signatories include Madrona Venture Group co-founder Tom Alberg, Chef CEO Barry Crist, Tech Alliance CEO Carol Rava, Pioneer Square Labs co-founder Greg Gottesman, Amazon public policy manager Eileen Sullivan, Flying Fish Partners co-founder Heather Redman, Zillow Group CTO David Beitel, former Microsoft HR chief Lisa Brummel and other leaders in the community.
“Seattle needs to be a place where we can attract diverse and innovative talent, where our employees can afford to live and safely commute to work, and where our community takes decisive action to solve problems,” the tech leaders wrote in the letter, released to GeekWire just days before the election on Nov. 7. “Next week we have the opportunity to elect a mayor who can partner with us to accomplish these things, which is why we are voting for Jenny Durkan.”
Durkan has curried favor with many leaders in the tech community, including the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber’s Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE) committee has contributed $525,000 to a group called People for Jenny Durkan. Amazon donated $350,000 over the last few months to CASE through a series of donations — marking the company’s biggest political funding effort ever in Washington state.
Durkan’s opponent, Cary Moon has been highlighting corporate contributions like those as evidence that the former U.S. attorney is in the back pocket of big business.
“If big corporate interests want to fund a no-limit campaign for my opponent, they should do so with full transparency and accountability to the voters, and stop using our regional chamber of commerce as a smokescreen,” Moon said in a statement provided to GeekWire.
Corporate interests are a hot-button topic in the Seattle mayoral race, as is Amazon’s decision to establish a second headquarters outside of Seattle. To some in the tech community, Amazon’s HQ2 search is emblematic of the municipal government’s fraught relationship with big business. That’s the tone of the letter endorsing Durkan.
“Our next mayor shouldn’t believe that Amazon’s decision to locate a second headquarters and 50,000 jobs outside Seattle is a ‘relief,'” the letter says. “Instead we need a mayor capable of maintaining a quality of life across our communities and neighborhoods that attracts both businesses and residents.”
Neither Durkan nor Moon has gone into great detail on Amazon or its impact on Seattle, but Durkan did say that the hundreds of cities bidding on HQ2 “breaks my heart” in a debate earlier this month. During the same debate, Moon said that “we have not planned in advance for all the growth that Amazon brought with them so we need some time to catch up.”
Of course, today’s letter and the Chamber endorsement aren’t representative of the entire Seattle tech community.
A quick scan through Moon’s campaign contributions show donations from prominent tech leaders like Tableau Software co-founder Chris Stolte, Trilogy Equity Partners’ Peter van Oppen, former Gates Foundation CEO and Microsoft executive Jeff Raikes, and former Microsoft manager and serial entrepreneur Mike Mathieu, to name a few. Moon is also endorsed by Seattle Tech 4 Housing and Upgrade Seattle, a Seattle group that advocates for municipal broadband.
Moon has said publicly that Seattle needs to do a better job welcoming and including the record numbers of newcomers drawn to the city for jobs in the technology industry.
“I’ve been fascinated by the tech culture in our city, because so many folks moved here at the same time over the past five years, and I think there’s been an exclusion and a distance between the tech workers and other folks who’ve been here longer,” she said during a recent debate. “So I’ve really spent a lot of time reaching out to tech workers and really understanding how much they want to be integrated in the city.”
In today’s letter, tech leaders acknowledge Moon as a “respected candidate” but favor Durkan because of her experience as U.S. attorney, education program, and adaptability.
“Like technology, Seattle is always changing,” the letter says. “While other candidates would prefer to pause our progress and hope change will subside, we know change will happen and we need a leader who will engage all voices, and take decisive action to make change work for all of us.”
Continue reading for the full text of the letter endorsing Durkan.