Grant plans on public financing for city council campaign

In last year’s city council race for at-large Position 8 in the newly-created district system, Tim Burgess fended off a challenge from ex-Tenants Union Executive Director Jon Grant, winning another term by approximately 15,000 votes.

In that same election, Seattle voters also overwhelmingly approved Initiative 122, to establish the Democracy Voucher program, giving every resident $100 to donate to municipal campaigns, starting in 2017.

Hoping to use that system to his advantage, Grant is hoping to win the seat Burgess will now vacate after announcing he will not seek reelection.

Late last month, the resident of South Seattle’s Hillman City neighborhood announced he was forming an exploratory campaign for the seat, along with efforts to collect requisite 400 $10 donations from Seattle voters to qualify for the democracy voucher program. Positions 8 and 9 — the two citywide seats on the council — are the only ones up for election in 2017, with the other seven district seats up again two years later.

Grant, who beat out Long Winters frontman John Roderick and longshoreman John Persak in the 2015 primary to advance to face Burgess, said he thinks his previous council bid went fairly well. In that race, he said, he was unknown candidate running against a two-term incumbent, outspent 8-to-1 if you include independent expenditures.

That’s what makes the potential for public financing so crucial.

“What we think is going to be a game changer here is that with democracy vouchers, we have access to up to $300,000 in public financing, so that we can get our message out to the community,” Grant said. “We know that when people heard our message, they agreed with it.”

In 2015, Grant raised just over $75,000 for his campaign, compared to approximately $425,000 for Burgess.

He also said that next year’s election presented “a great opportunity,” to build off of the momentum not only from his first campaign for the seat, along with his work this past cycle as outreach director for Raise Up Washington, the coalition that worked to pass Initiative 1433, to increase the statewide minimum wage to $13.50 over four years.

“This is all momentum that we’ve been building to try and win another progressive voice on the city council, he said.

To help build a platform “driven by people,” Grant said his campaign plans on having a broad-based community discussion with meetings and outreach to many different groups.

“I think we’re going to be talking a lot about affordable housing, building new schools to address overcrowding, gender pay equity, police accountability, and many other important issues,” he said.

In the era of a Trump administration, he said, it’s going to be more and more important the cities become the leaders on progressive issues.

“It’s not just to advance those progressive ideas,” he said, “but also to protect ourselves now from our own government on the national level.”

Grant elaborated on what he meant by that.

“That means working on things to better protect immigrants and refugees, doing more to protect the African American community in particular from police brutality, doing more to make sure that the rights of the LGBTQ community are respected, and I think that for us, we really want to be the platform for all of these ideas and all of these people to come together and make a strong statement that Seattle is not going to change in the face of a Trump administration.” 

To learn more about Grant’s campaign, visit To learn more about Seattle’s Democracy Voucher program, go to