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The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

January 6, 2015 at 7:18 PM

Burgess, Sawant get new Seattle City Council opponents

Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess and Councilmember Kshama Sawant, both seeking reelection this year, are each beginning 2015 with new opponents: John Persak and Rod Hearne.

Persak, a waterfront worker active in Local 19 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, announced his candidacy Tuesday for the same citywide seat that Burgess has registered to run for.

The 44-year-old candidate serves on Seattle’s Freight Mobility Plan Advisory Board and is the project manager for Livable, Workable Georgetown, a neighborhood assessment project funded by the city, he said.

“Tim Burgess, being the most conservative member of our council, is just out of step with where the citizens of Seattle are,” Persak said in an interview.

The longshoreman, who moved to Seattle in 1989, said Burgess has let the city down on several fronts, including traffic, neighborhoods rapidly growing more dense and police reform.

Persak lives in the Georgetown neighborhood and was an outspoken opponent of the city locating a new basketball arena in Sodo.

In his earlier years, he was “a fellow traveler in the activist left of Seattle’s political scene on through the WTO protests,” a news release said Tuesday.

Burgess is known as one of the council’s most adept fundraisers but his campaign is sitting on only $3,450 in contributions.

Seven of the council’s nine seats are moving to geographic representation for this year’s elections.

Hearne, 47, has registered with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission to campaign for the council’s 3rd District seat.

Sawant is also registered to run in the 3rd District, which includes Capitol Hill, Montlake, Madison Park and the Central District.

Born in Seattle and raised in the city, on Mercer Island and on Vashon Island, Hearne is the former executive director of Equal Rights Washington, a statewide LGBT political-advocacy organization.

He took the job in 2011 and was a leader in the historic push to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.

Before joining Equal Rights Washington, Hearne worked at the University Bookstore, as a technology consultant and for a biotechnology company, and he ran Deborah Senn’s 2004 primary campaign for state attorney general, he said.

Hearne currently lives in the Central District, he said. He stepped down as executive director of Equal Rights Washington in 2012 but still serves on the organization’s board of directors.

He’s done consulting work since then but campaigning will be his full-time job going forward, Hearne said.

“I’ve been involved in local politics for a long time and I’m very anxious to make the new district system work,” he said in an interview. “The voters of the city chose to change the way council members are elected and the way people engage with the council.”

Hearne possesses attributes that “some other candidates” lack, he said.

“I have great relationships with civic organizations, with elected leaders,” he said. “I have a track record of advocacy at Equal Rights Washington and a track record of building coalitions to get things done.”

Reluctant to criticize Sawant outright Tuesday, Hearne suggested that she might be better suited for a citywide seat.

“A lot of people supported her because she was there to pull the council in a particular direction, not because they agreed with her 100 percent of the time or thought of her as an ideal representative,” he said.

Sawant’s campaign has raised $3,946.

This past November, when Democratic state House Speaker Frank Chopp handily beat challenger Jess Spear — a Sawant ally and, like Sawant, a member of the Socialist Alternative party — Hearne slammed Spear.

“I think it’s perfectly fair to challenge incumbents, even when they have a great track record,” he wrote on Facebook. “But it’s nice to see voters soundly reject the Socialist Alternative’s negative, blatantly false, scorched earth, mudslinging campaign.”

Comments | More in Local government, Politics Northwest, Seattle City Council | Topics: 2015 Seattle City Council elections, Equal Rights Washington, ILWU Local 19

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