Tim Burgess Fails King County Democrats’ Strict Litmus Test

King County Democrats aren’t really sure whether mayoral candidate Tim Burgess is a real Democrat. In fact, the chairman of its endorsement committee, Michael J. Maddux, went so far as to tell Seattle Weekly yesterday that, “We are concerned that he doesn’t share our Democratic Party values.”

Last Friday, the committee, which represents all 17 legislative districts in the county, chose to take no position prior to the August 6 primary, but instead gave their tentative support to four candidates who they believe are either “viable” or “qualified” to lead the city of Seattle.

Those making the cut are -- and they were listed, intentionally, in alphabetical order -- Councilman Bruce Harrell, Mayor Mike McGinn, state Sen. Ed Murray, and former councilman Peter Steinbrueck.

Missing from the list is one Tim Burgess, an ex-Seattle cop and detective, a former radio reporter at KJR (he covered City Hall), a one-time anti-poverty worker for the Christian humanitarian organization World Concern (Burgess is a Presbyterian), a Seattle councilman since 2007 -- and lifelong Democrat.

So, we wondered, what has Burgess done to have received an ice-cold shoulder from King County Democrats?

Well, it seems plenty of things bother them about Burgess.

Where to begin?

The candidate questionnaire Burgess filled out prior to his appearance before the committee in late April is as good a place as any to start.

In it, Burgess is asked, as all the other mayoral wannabes were, whether he’s ever given money to a candidate from another party.

Wrote Burgess: “I supported Mark Sidran for state Attorney General in 2004, but when he lost in the Primary I then supported Rob McKenna. I also gave a contribution to John McCain in 2000 when he was viciously attacked by the religious right with homophobic and racist slurs.”

Burgess did add, however, that “these contributions account for 5 percent of my total giving history, the other 95 percent have been to Democrats, nonpartisans and progressive causes.”

It would appear 95 percent is not good enough.

(Burgess, by the way, has given Barack Obama $10,100, according to campaign disclosure reports, since April 2007.)

Then, there was the guest column that appeared in The Seattle Times on Jan. 26, 2005. Titled “Question what you’re told about faith-driven voters,” Burgess wrote, “The wisest course for Democrats -- and Republicans, too, for that matter -- is to get to know and understand people who are driven in life by their faith beliefs.”

This was followed in the same column by a sure-fired deal-breaker (at least in the eyes of King County Democrats last week), when Burgess added, “We don’t like abortion. We value the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

Even though Burgess put an “X” in the box that asked, “Do you support women’s absolute right to reproductive freedom?” Maddux suggested the column sewed doubts as to whether he was “100 percent” pro-choice. It also didn’t help that Burgess, during his days as owner of a communications consulting firm, had as one of his clients Concerned Women for America, a Christian activist group known for his anti-choice and anti-gay stances.

Maddux, a member of King County Democrats’ executive board the past four years, strongly suggested that Burgess’ desire to crackdown on panhandlers did not serve him well among some members of the endorsement committee.

In February 2010, Burgess announced plans for a new ordinance -- his new ordinance -- that would get tougher with aggressive panhandlers. His proposal called for a ban on panhandling near ATMs and parking meters, with a $50 fine meted out for the civil infraction. The measure was aimed at making people feel safer in the downtown shopping district.

“We have serious problems downtown with open-air drug trafficking. We have an extremely serious problem with robberies downtown,” said Burgess at the time. “These are not members of our homeless community that are committing these crimes ... Homeless and impoverished people deserve safe streets just as anybody else does.”

Said Maddux, “I think there was a question as to his commitment to civil liberties for the homeless.”

Note: Burgess could not be reached for comment yesterday, but we will update this post with his response as soon as we hear from him.

Maddux said the committee was also non-plussed that Burgess offered a “qualified” explanation on the issue of charters schools, which King County Democrats vigorously oppose.

“When you looking at the totally of Tim’s record, we can't be certain his shares our party values. We were burned with Rodney Tom calling himself a Democrat and then deserting. We don’t want that to happen again.”

Pressed on who he supported in the mayor’s race, Maddux hedged before finally he said, “I’m torn between McGinn, Harrell and Murray.”

Not Steinbrueck?

“No, I disagree with him on density at South Lake Union.”

Burgess, who leads the field in terms of campaign money raised through April, may be on the outs with King County Democrats at large, but last week the executive board of the 36th legislative district, which encompasses Queen Anne, Ballard and Magnolia, last week recommended two candidates -- Burgess and Murray.

“I’ve heard those critiques about Tim, but I think our recommendation speaks for itself,” said district chairman Jeff Manson. The 36 district will formally endorse one of them on May 22.

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