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Burien candidate says defaced signs, racist messages are attempts to suppress vote

Jimmy Matta, Burien’s first Latino mayor, says he is being targeted again as he seeks a city council seat. 

Matta, the son of undocumented farmworkers from Guatemala, says someone is tearing down his signs and defacing them with the word “corrupt.” 

An individual or group has also put up campaign signs with a "Vote Against" message that feature lightning bolts – a known white supremacy symbol when two appear next to each other – and the names of Matta and other marginalized political candidates in Burien.

"These tactics in my mind are to suppress the Latino vote in the city. We're 25 percent Latino here, you know, and people are upset that the signs are bilingual. But what's wrong with that?” Matta said in a recent interview, referring to his own campaign material.

Burien, a suburb located just south of Seattle, hasn’t always been friendly to Latinos. 

City leaders were at odds on whether Burien should become a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants. In 2016, the Burien City Council narrowly passed the ordinance which prohibits city personnel from asking about a person’s immigration status. 

A few years later, someone circulated letters condemning immigrants. 

“We now are concerned about our way of life being threatened by the Mexican Illegal Aliens,” the 2019 letter read.

The letter claimed undocumented immigrants “are putting a burden on social services,” such as food stamps or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Medicaid.

Matta’s tenure as mayor hasn’t been easy for him either. 

In 2018, a white man grabbed Matta’s neck and pushed him to the ground at a block party in Burien while muttering something about illegals. 

Matta is calling for a federal investigation into the latest attacks against marginalized candidates. He says he's offering $2,000 of his own money as a reward to anyone who comes forward with information that leads to an arrest and conviction.  

“The Latino community, the Brown, the Spanish-speaking community. That's my reflection. That's the group that looks to me," Matta said. "So, yes, I'm standing up and I'm calling it out." 


Updated with description of what are referred to as SS Bolts. 

Lilly Ana Fowler covers social justice issues investigating inequality with an emphasis on labor and immigration. Story tips can be sent to