Seattle City Council races: A crash course
Fifty-five candidates are running for seven seats on the Seattle City Council. Here's our take on what's happening in your neighborhood's election.
(Voters: Ballots are due August 6.)
Seattle will have four first-time council members no matter what, as no incumbents are running for re-election in four districts.
This election has ushered in a battle between progressive, democratic socialist candidates, and more moderate candidates who are tough on crime and big on business. (The latter, if elected, would benefit Mayor Durkan's policy goals.)
The issue on every candidate/voter's mind: homelessness. Most candidates have a platform on whether to manage the crisis from a service centered approach or an enforcement approach.
DISTRICT 1: West Seattle and South Park
- This is the biggest council district, with the fewest candidates.
- Incumbent: Lisa Herbold
- Two challengers: Brendan Kolding and Phil Tavel (pronounced like gavel)
Kolding is a former police officer who has the most donors after Herbold.
Kolding says Seattle needs an experienced law enforcement professional.
He doesn't favor of upzoning and says West Seattle neighborhoods wouldn't be able to handle upzoning until public transportation improves and light rail is expanded.
On homelessness, he's concerned about unsanitary conditions for residents and people living without homes, and says tent camps are not a solution.
Tavel, a defense attorney, got the Seattle Times endorsement over Lisa Herbold. He is supported by the political arm of Seattle Hotel Association and the Seattle Restaurant Alliance. And ... he's a trivia night regular.
Both challengers have run unsuccessfully for local office before, with Kolding running for state legislature in 2016, and Tavel running for King County district court judge in 2014 and Seattle City Council in 2015.
Herbold is favored in this race, as shown by her fundraising and the number of individual donors who support her (more than 1,100 before the primary).
She is a policy wonk who has worked at City Hall for years. As a council member she advocates for tenants' and workers' rights, is critical of Amazon's business practices, and has taken on local issues in West Seattle such as an illegal tree cutting by homeowners.
This is the only race where every candidate is participating in the Democracy Voucher program, which is intended to limit the amount of big money in local politics.
DISTRICT 2: Southeast Seattle (Georgetown, Beacon Hill, Columbia City, and parts of Chinatown/ID)
- Incumbent: Bruce Harrell is not running again so it's wide open
- Seven candidates total
- You may have heard about this race because Mayor Durkan weighed in on it! And it got a little heated!
Four candidates have momentum going into the primary:
Tammy Morales, who the mayor dissed as a socialist, is a community organizer. She calls herself a Democrat and represents the progressive wing of the party, saying she's running to shift control of the city away from corporations.
Ari Hoffman, "a rigid conservative" in Durkan's words, is a businessman and a board member of his synagogue. He's made waves advocating for the removal of tent camps, and organizing movements against people camping in parks or in RVs in the city.
Mark Solomon has some big endorsements, namely Mayor Durkan and the Seattle Times. Solomon works for the police department as a civilian in crime prevention, and is considered slightly left of center on policies.
And one more!
Phyllis Porter is also gaining steam in this race. She is an educator, community organizer and a woman of color, and is pulling in donors.
DISTRICT 3: Central Seattle (Capitol Hill, Central District, Madison Park, First Hill)
- Incumbent: Kshama Sawant
- Six candidates total
- Residents from this district have given $453,041 this election — in dollars and Democracy Vouchers — more than any other district.
This is a district to watch.
Does Capitol Hill stick with socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant, or pick someone similar to her but new, like school board member Zachary DeWolf? Or does the district go the other direction toward a more moderate, business friendly Democrat?
Sawant is not participating in the Democracy Voucher program, to the chagrin of some of her supporters. She's far ahead of other candidates in the amount of people supporting her campaign and the amount of money raised.
This race has attracted a lot of money, including attention from a group that's donating to more moderate Democrats that's called People for Seattle. That group is backing Egan Orion.
Egan Orion is the founder of Capitol Hill's PrideFest and says he's in the race to fight for policies that bring living-wage jobs and affordable housing to the city.
A cluster of others are trying to pull ahead, but no clear favorite. Among them:
- Ami Nguyen, a King County public defender and new mom. She's endorsed by King County Democrats.
- Logan Bowers is an urbanist who would advocate for upzoning and the interests of small businesses.
- Zachary DeWolf, who has similar policies to Sawant and stole some of her endorsements within the labor movement this year.
DISTRICT 4: Northeast Seattle (University District, Roosevelt, Sand Point, Eastlake)
- Incumbent: It's Rob Johnson's old seat, which he left for a National Hockey League job. Abel Pacheco has held the role in the interim.
- 10 candidates
Will voters choose someone to the left of Johnson, who proved to be a detail-oriented, more-moderate Democrat?
Alex Pedersen, Emily Meyers, and Shaun Scott look to be pulling ahead in the race for the top two.
Meyers is a pharmacology PhD student and union organizer who wants to focus on affordable childcare and climate justice. Scott is a democratic socialist and advocacy journalist, endorsed by the Stranger, and wants Seattle to pass its own green new deal.
Alex Pedersen has the endorsement of more conservative /moderate groups such as the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. He has private and public sector experience on working on homelessness and affordable housing. He's raised the most money in the race.
Another to watch: climate focused Cathy Tuttle.
DISTRICT 5: North Seattle (Northgate on up)
- Incumbent: Debora Juarez
- Six candidates total
- Juarez is among only three of seven council members running for re-election, and would be one of the longest serving members if re-elected.
Juarez has made a name for herself in representing her district, holding frequent "Live in D-5" events, and advocating for transit and businesses to come to north Seattle — such as a National Hockey League training facility. She has most of the major endorsements, with one exception being the Seattle Times.
Challengers that could advance with her to the November election:
John Lombard, who has nearly as many donors as Juarez going into the primary. He's leaning on a platform about public safety, crime prevention, and says the drug crisis and housing crisis are what's producing homelessness. Lombard is backed by the Duwamish Tribe.
Ann Davison Sattler, an attorney and arbitrator, has the Seattle Times endorsement. She worked for the NBA's Seattle Supersonics, and was among the people who wanted a pro sports arena in Sodo, which Juarez ultimately voted against.
DISTRICT 6: Northwest Seattle (Fremont to Ballard, parts of Greenwood)
- Incumbent: Mike O'Brien is not running again
- 13 candidates in this race — the biggest pool of any district!
- Homelessness is a top issue in every district, but it's a major talking point here, where outgoing council member Mike O'Brien was constantly criticized for the number of tent camps that popped up in places like Ballard.
Voters have a lot to choose from with such a large pool of candidates. Those leading the pack in fundraising and early voter support are: Heidi Wills, Dan Strauss, Jay Fathi, and Sergio Garcia.
Heidi Wills actually has elected experience already... on the Seattle City Council.
She served one term, with it ending after an ethics scandal involving taking political donations. This round, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Seattle Times want to see her to win. Wills is interested in a regional response to homelessness, and has experience working at the county level that she would bring to the table.
Dan Strauss has worked for years for city and state lawmakers, and wants to dig in on policy when it comes to how to address homelessness, housing, and adding more protected bike lanes. Strauss has received a lot of donor support compared to other candidates.
Jay Fathi is a professional in health-care management and a former physician. He's backed by FUSE's progressive voters guide and has the business-friendly endorsement of the Chamber of Commerce. He's pushed back against a more conservative group called Moms For Seattle that's made political donations in this election.
Sergio Garcia is a police officer who has received noteworthy donor support in District 6. He wants Seattle Police to have a permanent foot-beat unit, with officers patrolling certain high crime areas on foot, and he wants traffic enforcement officers to help direct traffic. (His flyers are detailed with a mustache, which he also wears.)
DISTRICT 7: Pioneer Square to Magnolia, including downtown Seattle and Queen Anne
- Incumbent: Sally Bagshaw who is not running for re-election
- 10 total candidates
- One very local issue of note in this district: the Magnolia Bridge. Nearly all candidates share the same platform so far, which is that the bridge needs to be replaced.
In addition to writing the future for the Magnolia Bridge, this council member will represent people living face to face with the homelessness crisis downtown.
The list of who is supporting who (i.e. endorsements) has been broad in this district. For example, the Chamber of Commerce supports two candidates, Jim Pugel and Michael George. Labor groups have funded ads for candidate Andrew Lewis, including the odd ads involving the Edith Macefield house, which is not in the district.
Among the candidates with major endorsements and dollars raised:
Andrew Lewis, an assistant city attorney endorsed by the King County Democrats, FUSE and MLK Labor Council. His top priority is building more affordable housing in the city.
Jim Pugel was the interim police chief in Seattle for a time. He's an advocate for reforming Seattle Police, which has made him controversial in some police circles. Along with the chamber, he's endorsed by the Seattle Times.
Michael George has professional experience managing transportation projects, as well as affordable housing and land projects. He says he's opposed to a head tax on businesses, and wants to bring accountability to City Hall. George is Co-founder of Parents for a Better Downtown Seattle.
Jason Williams, a businessman, has attracted donor attention in District 7. He works at Microsoft now, and has been an adviser to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, NBC Universal, and The Rockefeller Foundation.
A reminder to residents:
For the first time, Washington state will allow same-day voter registration for this year's primary and general elections. New voters, such as those who just turned 18 or moved here, can register any day up until the voting cut-off on Election Day.
People will need to go to a county voting center to register, such as the one on 4th Avenue in downtown Seattle.