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Port of Seattle Commission races prompt infusion of donations, endorsements

Hamdi Mohamed and Toshiko Hasegawa could become the first women of color to serve on the board.

Two candidates are trying to make history in a campaign that has prompted big endorsements and an infusion of donations, and incumbents who are making the case to steady the ship at the waterfront headquarters.  

Hamdi Mohamed and Toshiko Hasegawa have raised tens of thousands of dollars in their independent bids to defeat a pair of long-established career politicians who sit on the Port of Seattle Commission. If either were elected, they would become the first woman of color to serve on the board. Peter Steinbrueck, who served for years on the Seattle City Council before coming to the Port, is not only a former Council President, but a former Commission chair as well and is facing Hasegawa in the head-to-head race.

"Maritime and Aviation [industries] have been conduits for families like mine to break into the working class, but they are historically white, historically male institutions," said Hasegawa when describing her campaign on Wednesday. Hasegawa is running, in part, on pushing the Port to go green. "It's the economic driver of our region, it's also the top polluter - second top polluter of emissions in our state." 

Hasegawa has outraised incumbent and longtime elected leader Peter Steinbrueck. She's also earned endorsements from Gov. Jay Inslee, Lt. Gov. Denny Heck, and Congressmember Pramila Jayapal, as well as the King County Democrats, King County Council members, and multiple unions. 

“I think historically, the Park Commission races have gotten little attention. And it's unfortunate, because the enormous influence that the port has on our region, when it comes to jobs, economic development, and many other good things that we're doing through communities throughout King County,” Steinbrueck said in an interview. “I want to continue the work and the oversight that I provided for our $4.5 billion in public works projects, I am an architect with a lot of experience delivering and public works. Much of it is that SeaTac Airport and its current work that's in our schedule, I also want to see the successful completion of the Sustainable Airport Master Plan process and environmental reviews, and worked hard to ensure that we have whatever unnecessary mitigation is called for is committed to in advance of moving to the next stage of airport expansion. I want to see the phase two of terminal five, which is a premier new terminal facility that will help a lot with this cargo surge when it opens next year.”

Mohamed, who is challenging Stephanie Bowman, says her lived experience has prepared her for this moment. She works for King County Executive Dow Constantine, and previously worked under Congressmember Jayapal.  

"My father was a trucker and my mother was a SeaTac Airport worker," said Mohamed, who lives near the airport today. "They have to work toward being a better neighbor. That community is struggling with air pollution issues, noise pollution." 

Mohamed earned endorsements from the King County Labor Council, Jayapal, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, among others. Though Bowman has outraised her, Mohamed has raised close to $200,000. 

“We have a billion-dollar budget that it takes more than simply lived experience. It actually takes real-world experience to understand how to make these assets return for the voters of King County in the state,” said Bowman in an interview, noting her fiscal management during the pandemic.  “I'm really proud of the fact that the Port of Seattle was operational 24/7, during the pandemic, that we had no major outbreaks at any of our facilities. We leaned into actually keeping jobs going, we kept more than 10,000 jobs in our construction. But by keeping our construction projects going, we opened up a vaccination clinic for airport workers that is so far vaccinated over 7,000 workers at the airport, and we didn't have a layoff.” 

Mohamed and Hasegawa believe the commission misstepped when it decided to move most freight to a rebuilt Terminal 5, and seeking proposals to remake T-46 as a cruise ship terminal. Those latter plans have been placed on hold because of the pandemic. Both candidates say they shouldn't be revisited. 

"Terminal 46 should [be for] load unload break bulk and cargo," Hasegawa said.  

"Cruise does not create year-round jobs, cause it's seasonal," Mohamed said.