The race for Port of Seattle Commissioner Position 2 has been narrowed down to Grant Degginger and Sam Cho following this year’s primary election.

Both candidates grew up in Seattle and say they will draw upon their experience heavily to get the job done.

“I’m a fifth-generation Seattle-area resident, so I was born and raised here,” Degginger said. “My great-grandfather had a saloon here in Pioneer Square in the 1890s, and served all those people coming here to live a better life.”

Degginger said his great-grandmother started an organization with the goal of helping immigrants settle in the city. Formerly known as Settlement House, it’s now named Neighborhood House.

“My family was very involved in helping people get acclimated here and feel welcome here in the community in various different ways,” Degginger said, adding his grandmother and father both served as presidents of Neighborhood House, and he was enlisted to help out with the organization quite a bit.

Cho said he also understands the challenges immigrants face in the area.

“My parents immigrated here in the late ‘80s,” Cho said. “They started out in Fremont as dry cleaners and then, in the late ‘90s, they moved to the suburbs of Kirkland and continued their dry cleaners.”

Cho said his parents were seeking opportunity for the family.

“So, you know, as a kid my dad used to hold up dress shirts, the nice ones, and say, ‘Sam, some day you’re going to where a dress shirt like this,’ right? And so, you know, today I’m wearing one,” Cho said.

Cho went to American University in Washington, D.C., for his undergraduate degree in international studies and went on to graduate school at London School of Economics. He then worked as a legislative assistant to U.S. Rep. Ami Bera. After this experience, Cho got his big break.

“I got a call from the White House, and they were like, ‘Would you be interested in coming and working for President Obama?’ To which, I answered, ‘Does anyone say no to that question?’”

Cho worked for the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which does three things: It manages the federal real estate portfolio, manages the procurements as well as acquisitions for federal contracting, and transforms the administration’s use of technology.

Degginger worked as an attorney after studying at the University of Washington and Seattle University.

“I did a lot of contracts and construction law in my practice, and I got very involved in local government over in Bellevue, where I served on the planning commission for six years, then the city council for 12 years,” Degginger said.

Serving two terms on Bellevue City Council, he said his focus was on a number of regional issues, especially infrastructure and transportation. The council elected him to serve as mayor in 2006.

Once the Obama Administration left the White House, Cho started his Seven Seas Export business in spring 2017. Since then, he has shipped 2.5 million pounds of goods through the Port of Seattle.

Even though he has relevant experience, Cho said he hadn’t considered running for public office until his associates began to call him up.

“So when the seat opened up, I didn’t really have any intention of running for any office for a while, or ever,” Cho said, “but a lot of people called me and said, ‘This is the perfect place and timing. Your experience in exports and pushing shipments through the Port of Seattle makes you uniquely qualified.’”

Since the GSA is the federal contracting arm, and Cho helped GSA appoint Obama’s appointees, he said he understands how contracting works, which will be a boon if he were to work for the Port of Seattle.

If elected to the Port of Seattle Commission Position 2, Degginger said he would focus primarily on three areas: The airport, the seaport’s competitive edge, and reforms to the port’s government structure.

Sea-Tac International Airport is expected to see an increase in passengers from 50 million to 66 million in a little over a decade. Degginger said the terminals are too crowded already, and effective growth management is needed. He said he would focus on long-term and interim solutions to alleviate the problem.

The long-term solution involves using his understanding of construction and contracting to ask the right questions at the right time to avoid having issues in the areas of budgeting and timelines, like the new international arrival facility is facing. He said the facility is currently more than a year late and half a billion dollars over budget.

The interim solution that Degginger proposed was to develop remote baggage check-in facilities around town, so passengers can check their luggage at fixed points in Seattle that would cause them to not have to wait longer in line at the terminals or in the drop-off zones at the airport.

“They’re doing that at Pier 91 with the cruise ships, where they can check their bags there, and they don’t have to carry them around all over town during the day and just retrieve them at their final destination,” Degginger said.

Cho also proposes using remote baggage check-in facilities, but his three main areas of focus are ensuring shared equitable growth at the port, tackling climate change in a economically savvy way and combating human and labor trafficking through the port.

He wants to promote shared growth that lets small and minority-owned businesses get a piece of the contracting pie.

“One of the things I worked on in the Obama Administration was diversity contracting… Anything that was below $150,000 had to be given to a minority-, women- or veteran-business owner,” he said.

Degginger also wants to promote more equitable contracting at the port through an incentives program.

On the topic of the seaport’s competitive edge, Degginger said that the port has already made some good policy around the plan to reconfigure Terminal 5 to handle the larger container ships the port is seeing and to continue to electrify the the port’s fleet to reduce its carbon footprint. He said he would support these innovations and others as commissioner.

Cho’s focus on tackling climate change at the port will be focused partly around ensuring off-shore power to the ships, so they do not have to run their engines at port, polluting the air.

“I think we should have a whole charging infrastructure across the whole port,” Cho said. “Not just for cruise ships. I think our ferries should be electrified. Even these huge cargo vessels, these huge berth vessels, in the future will have the capacity to plug in instead of idling on the ports.”

He said hybrid technology in airplanes would reduce noise pollution on take off and landing.

Degginger’s third area of interest, reforming the government of the port, would center on ensuring the organization’s committees and meetings are as transparent as possible, with more public hearings for tissues like the budget, and through creating a better system for distributing public notices about upcoming meetings.

Cho said he is the only candidate for any port position that has a major focus on human and labor trafficking.

“I talk a lot about human and labor trafficking at the ports,” he said. “No one else talks about it… I think it happens every day and we just don’t know it.”

He described how women can come into this country as tourists and then be thrown into massage parlors, or how cruise-ship workers can come from anywhere, and are not subject to the same labor laws that the state of Washington has in place.

“We don’t know where they come from, who works on the cruise ships — they could be labor-trafficked… When they are in international waters, none of our labor laws apply to them,” Cho said, “so making sure that any of the cruise ships that come into ports are buying into labor standards.”

The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 5.