Cargo ships at the Port of Seattle
A view of some of the Port of Seattle's marine cargo terminals. Since 2014, the Port of Seattle and the Port of Tacoma have jointly administered their seaport operations through an official alliance. Together, the two ports are the fourth largest gateway for containers in North America. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The Port of Seat­tle is one of the pri­ma­ry engines of the Pacif­ic Northwest’s econ­o­my, from its marine car­go ter­mi­nals to Seat­tle-Taco­ma Inter­na­tion­al Airport.

The Port is also a local gov­ern­ment in its right, gov­erned inde­pen­dent­ly from the City of Seat­tle and King Coun­ty. Although the Port bears Seat­tle’s name, it shares its bound­aries with King Coun­ty, and port com­mis­sion­ers are elect­ed coun­ty­wide. Three of the Com­mis­sion’s five posi­tions were on the bal­lot this year, con­sti­tut­ing a major­i­ty of the seats. Each con­test attract­ed two candidates.

In ini­tial Elec­tion Night returns, one com­mis­sion­er jumped out to a big lead and seems assured of win­ing reelec­tion, while anoth­er com­mis­sion­er was only mar­gin­al­ly ahead and a third was in a near tie with their challenger.

Over a hun­dred thou­sand votes remain to be count­ed across King Coun­ty, so the two close races could see lead changes before the count­ing ends.

Here’s a look at each race.

Position #1: Calkins vs. Sigler

Ryan Calkins won elec­tion to his sec­ond term eas­i­ly against Nor­man Sigler, with ini­tial returns putting him ahead 73% to 26%.

Ryan had stat­ed that he views the Port as an engine for future job growth, and thus that effi­cien­cy of oper­a­tions and con­tin­u­ing work­ing part­ner­ships with state and fed­er­al offi­cials will help main­tain the high qual­i­ty of oper­a­tions in com­ing years. He sees the cre­ation of Mar­itime High School as an addi­tion­al path, along­side appren­tice­ships, work­force train­ing and new busi­ness guid­ance, toward cre­at­ing those jobs and new oper­a­tions for the Port.

Sigler tout­ed his expe­ri­ence in man­ag­ing com­mer­cial aero­space main­te­nance costs, assess­ing com­mer­cial prop­er­ties for envi­ron­men­tal haz­ards and past work as a health­care strat­e­gy con­sul­tant for Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Sigler stat­ed that he want­ed a spe­cif­ic por­tion of the Port’s prof­its to go toward elim­i­nat­ing Port-relat­ed pol­lu­tion, espe­cial­ly at the air­port, as well as toward mit­i­gat­ing envi­ron­men­tal injus­tice in adja­cent communities.

How­ev­er, Sigler did­n’t raise much mon­ey and did not mount a strong campaign.

Position #3: Bowman vs. Mohamed 

Stephanie Bow­man is in a close race against Ham­di Mohamed, ahead by only 5,500 votes out of over 280,000 cast thus far.

Bow­man cam­paigned on her record of fos­ter­ing job cre­ation at the Port, her efforts to tack­le cli­mate dam­age, and the Port’s part­ner­ship with the Port of Taco­ma through the North­west Sea­port Alliance.

She has also cit­ed expand­ing job train­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for youth of col­or, mak­ing stormwa­ter improve­ments, and devel­op­ing a noise insu­la­tion pro­gram for homes close to the air­port as accom­plish­ments. But she has also been crit­i­cized for tak­ing a posi­tion oppos­ing SeaT­ac’s min­i­mum wage ordi­nance and her 2015 vote to allow Shell Oil to locate its Arc­tic drilling oper­a­tions in Seattle.

Mohamed present­ly works as an advis­er to the King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Office regard­ing the county’s bud­get, small busi­ness ini­tia­tives, com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment and the county’s COVID-19 response. Her father was a truck­er and her moth­er was a Sea-Tac air­port work­er, and that expe­ri­ence led her to desire the cre­ation of both re-entry pro­grams for COVID-19-impact­ed work­ers and a new Small Busi­ness Recov­ery Task­force. She says she is com­mit­ted to mak­ing the Port a key play­er in address­ing cli­mate change and its broad electrification.

Mohamed resides in South King Coun­ty, not far from Seat­tle-Taco­ma Inter­na­tion­al Air­port. South King Coun­ty has his­tor­i­cal­ly lacked rep­re­sen­ta­tion on the Port Com­mis­sion. If Mohamed wins, the com­mu­ni­ties close to the Port’s largest facil­i­ty would have more clout on its five-mem­ber gov­ern­ing body.

Position #4: Steinbrueck vs. Hasegawa

Incum­bent Peter Stein­brueck is ahead of chal­lenger Toshiko Hasegawa by just under 1,600 votes. He has pre­vi­ous­ly served on the Seat­tle City Coun­cil and his father was archi­tect Vic­tor Stein­brueck, who was instru­men­tal in sav­ing the Pike Place Mar­ket back in the 1960s and 1970s.

Like the oth­er two incum­bents, he is enthu­si­as­tic about reduc­ing pol­lu­tion and elec­tri­fy­ing the Port’s oper­a­tions. He con­sid­ers him­self a firm envi­ron­men­tal­ist (espe­cial­ly in his cre­ation of the Port’s first “tree inven­to­ry”) and favors equi­table access to jobs and appren­tice­ship pro­grams and work­ing to achieve cli­mate jus­tice at all lev­els with the wan­ing of the pan­dem­ic. He has been crit­i­cized as out of touch fol­low­ing sev­er­al exchanges with activists and oth­er local officials.

Hasegawa is the daugh­ter of State Sen­a­tor Bob Hasegawa and has pre­vi­ous­ly served on numer­ous boards on behalf of his­tor­i­cal­ly mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties. She has also served as Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Wash­ing­ton State Com­mis­sion on Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­can Affairs since late 2018. She con­sid­ers exist­ing fund­ing for mit­i­ga­tion of Port activ­i­ties for adverse­ly affect­ed com­mu­ni­ties “a drop in the buck­et” and wants sig­nif­i­cant expan­sion of the program.

Like for­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Eliz­a­beth War­ren, who she intro­duced at her final Seat­tle cam­paign appear­ance last year, Hasegawa has pro­posed a Blue New Deal spe­cif­ic to the needs of the Port and the com­mu­ni­ty it serves, with an empha­sis on improved trans­porta­tion (both via rail and roads), elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, off­shore wind and solar ener­gy instal­la­tions and union jobs.

Of the three chal­lengers, Hasegawa is best posi­tioned for vic­to­ry, and could over­take Stein­brueck in the late bal­lots very eas­i­ly if the sub­se­quent drops favor her. This is a race we’ll be watch­ing close­ly through the rest of the counting.

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