Tom Albro, an avowed independent, has both Republican and Democratic endorsements that run the gamut from Attorney General Rob McKenna to former Seattle City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck. Running on his background as a businessman and civic leader -- he's past chair of the Municipal League, which is also independent -- Albro is putting in a couple jabs at his opponent, former State Rep. Max Vekich, for what he calls his "partisan" ties.
Vekich, like Rob Holland in the other contested race, is backed by Reform the Port, a labor-environmental and small business coalition that's pointed out the wealthy interests behind both Albro's and Doud's campaigns. Reform the Port may be able to sway votes by spending large amounts in last-minute independent expenditures from its campaign coffers: that's cash amassed from union PACs, some of which are based out of state. Labor's efforts may end up making Albro and Doud, who have chomped down far more money than either Port Reform candidate, look like small fry.
Vekich is proud of his backing by labor. A member of the executive board of the Longshore Workers, he knows that his fellow workers are supporting his campaign with their own pay. "I'm humbled by that," he says. "We're getting money [into a local race] that would normally go back to D.C."
The two differ on an issue neither would have conceived of before entering the race: whether the Port should shelter the homeless.
The Sept. 30 arrests and removal of Nickelsville from Terminal 107 Park, says Vekich, showed how "gutless" local governments have been in responding to homeless people demanding a safe place to stay. Perhaps the Port could find a piece of land to accommodate them?
Albro supported the Port's action, citing legal arguments from state officials that the Port can only use public money for its central governmental purpose. Both candidates acknowledged that the Port hosted Seattle's Hooverville, a shantytown for hundreds of people on the tideflats south of Pioneer Square, from 1931-41.
Vekich, whose day job as a transportation logistician involves planning how to move cargo quickly from ships to trucks or railcars, says he'd bring that expertise to the board. He's also ready to spur the companies using our waterfront to deploy the most environmentally friendly means of conveyance -- which often means rail, he says. At the heart of why he's running, says Vekich: As part-timers with very little paid staff, "We have a commission that's never stepped up to its real role. They tend to rubber stamp what the director wants."
Albro says he's also for reforming the Port, looking for ways to curb its taxes' bite on local property owners, but he's got a host of old-timey connections contributing to his campaign: among them are longtime supporters of disgraced Commissioner Pat Davis, whose closed-door deal to give outgoing CEO Mic Dinsmore a golden parachute spelled her own retirement.
Albro says he jumped into the race last spring believing he would be running against Davis. And the business interests backing his campaign? Politically necessary, he says: To win a seat, you need to ask for help from those who are paying attention.