A Trump-Loving Mayor Is Running SeaTac, a Majority-Minority Town Full of Immigrants

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A Trump-Loving Mayor Is Running SeaTac, a Majority-Minority Town Full of Immigrants

Erin Sitterley, the new-ish Mayor of SeaTac.

Erin Sitterley, the new-ish Mayor of SeaTac. COURTESY THE CITY OF SEATAC

The majority-minority airport town of SeaTac boasts a robust and growing immigrant population. But it’s currently being governed by a Trump-loving mayor, Erin Sitterley, who was appointed by a mostly white city council in September shortly after the last mayor, Michael Siefkes, abruptly resigned and skipped town. According to The Seattle Times, Siefkes said he was leaving due to “health issues” and “other things,” but he failed to mention that the Washington State Bar Association was threatening to disbar him for “wrongfully extract[ing] as much as $300,000 from a vulnerable client” at his law firm. The mayor before him, council member Rick Forschler, stepped down in 2016 after an independent investigation found that his hand-picked city manager wanted to create a “tactical map” of the city’s Muslim residents.A quick look at Sitterley’s Twitter feed reveals that she’s not much better, ideologically speaking, than Forschler’s old boy.

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She unironically retweets Trump’s all-caps MAGA proclamations, seems to be with him on blocking funding to sanctuary cities (she retweeted Trump’s “SEE YOU IN COURT” tweet, which was his response to a federal judge stalling his executive order), seems to be with him on building the unnecessary and racist border wall, and she appears to have approved of the appointment of Jeff Sessions, a guy who was literally too racist to be a Federal Judge in the 1980s. He further solidified his racist legacy when he helped implement and enforce the barbaric family separation policy, which has led to the detention of 14,000 children in camps.

Sitterley also retweeted “a traditional Conservative journalist” who characterized migration into Europe as a “Muslim invasion.”

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And she also seems to be no fan of students getting involved in political demonstrations:

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This is the woman running a majority-minority city of immigrants. This is the woman who voted to displace Somali business owners who run the shops in the Bakaro Mall, which is now being redeveloped after a contentious and complicated debate between shop owners and the council. (More on all that drama in an upcoming post.)

In a statement, Shasti Conrad, chair of King County Democrats, said the people of SeaTac “deserve a mayor who they can trust to protect them and defend both their civil rights and their humanity.”

“Someone who unabashedly supports Trump clearly doesn’t meet that standard,” Conrad continued. “There is no room for hate. We look forward to helping whoever runs for mayor execute a top-notch campaign.” Mayors are appointed by the city council in SeaTac, but Sitterley’s seat will be up for election this year.

Friday morning I called Mayor Sitterley to ask about her Twitter feed, her position on immigration, and the discrepancies between the people she serves and the people currently governing SeaTac.

“This is my own personal Twitter feed, it’s not relevant to SeaTac, so thank you,” Sitterley said. She then immediately hung up on me.

In a sense, she’s right. The city council seats are supposed to be nonpartisan. But the politicians who fill those seats, their donors, and the policies they implement are not.

Back in 2015, Sitterley rode into office with the rest of the so-called “Forschler Four,” a group of conservative city council candidates who ran for office, some say, as a backlash to SeaTac’s support of the minimum wage increase to $15 per hour.

However, current SeaTac Councilmember Peter Kwon, who was lumped in with the “Forschler Four” but claims he ran an independent campaign, told me over the phone that a PAC invented the term, and that the group did not run as a response to the Fight for $15. He said they ran for several reasons, but partially in response to the anger surrounding a utility tax imposed by the previous council to fund police and firefighting services. We live in a world, though, where both events could have motivated conservative voters to engage and big businesses to support more conservative candidates. Especially in off-year elections, even just a few thousand dollars can make big difference.

A quick look at the PDC from 2015 reveals that Sitterley’s campaign was backed by big developers and Truth for Washington, the same PAC that supported the anti-immigrant “Burien Proud, Burien First” crowd. She ended up beating Mia Gregerson, now a State House Rep for the 33rd Legislative District, by over 650 votes—2,170 to 1,512.

As you might be able to tell from those numbers, voter turnout in that race was a dismal 32.74 percent. If there’s any hope of changing leadership, then more people in SeaTac need to vote.

Conrad and her group pledge to help in this regard. “As we head into 2019, the King County Democrats are committed to working to find candidates who represent the communities that they run in and who will serve the best interests of those communities,” she said. “We will further the grassroots organizing energy that led to the blue wave in 2018 by connecting volunteers with those campaigns and finding inspiring candidates that people are excited to get behind.”