2019 Will Be a Crowded Year for Seattle City Council Races

Some 21 candidates have already filed to run in the city’s seven competitive races.

The current Seattle City Council. Courtesy of seattle.gov

The current Seattle City Council. Courtesy of seattle.gov

This year’s Seattle City Council races are sure to be hotly contested, with all but the District 5 race already having attracted multiple candidates. In recent months, District 2 incumbent Bruce Harrell, District 4 council member Rob Johnson, and District 7 representative Sally Bagshaw have all announced they will not seek re-election. Candidates have until May 17 to file to run in the 2019 election.

The election could reshape the Council’s makeup, swinging it dramatically to the left or right. It has attracted attention from Democratic socialist candidates like Shaun Scott, who is running in District 4. Incumbent District 3 councilmember and socialist Kshama Sawant has filed to run for election. If both are voted onto the Council, it would undoubtedly push the city’s politics to the left: Sawant was instrumental in pushing for Seattle’s $15 minimum wage and has been a vocal critic of Amazon’s effect on the city. Scott is a labor organizer with the Campaign Workers Guild and has promised to make zoning regulations to increase affordable housing a priority.

District 6 incumbent Mike O’Brien has also filed to run, and has worked with Sawant on issues like pushing a head tax for Amazon, an effort ultimately rejected by the City Council. O’Brien has attracted ire from conservative organizations and middle-class homeowners in north Seattle neighborhoods, including Ballard, for his progressive stances and policy proposals on homelessness. One such proposal would set up areas in which police would not enforce homelessness camping regulations as strictly. Groups such as Safe Seattle have been created in the district, and when they’re not busy taking pictures of homeless folks, they spend much of their time organizing against O’Brien.

O’Brien’s challenger, Kate Martin, appears to be making opposition to upzoning—presumably in her largely single-family zoned district—a priority. She’s also making the case that homeless people are moving to Seattle due to a lack of law enforcement. Pushing for a citywide public option for health care is also on her agenda.

Many other candidates are running on pro-business and law-enforcement platforms. These include businessman and nonprofit director Beto Yarce, who told The Stranger in November that he was planning to move back to Seattle from Mill Creek to run on what appears to be a fairly pro-business platform against Sawant. Another District 3 challenger, Pat Murakami, has also said on her campaign website that she’s running on a small-business platform and opposition to upzoning.

District 2 candidate Ari Hoffman, a pro-police candidate, is joined by actual police lieutenant Brendan Kolding from District 1. They are running on law-and-order platforms. Hoffman is campaigning against safe consumption sites and putting a moratorium on bike-lane projects. Matthew Perkins, running in District 2, is also pushing for a pro-police ticket, against consumption sites, and against a head tax.

District 2 has long been represented by Bruce Harrell, who announced he will not seek re-election after narrowly beating Tammy Morales in 2015. Given Morales’ performance—losing to Harrell by less than two percentage points—it appears she already has a clear lead on Hoffman and Perkins.

Five candidates have already filed to run for the District 7 seat after Sally Bagshaw announced last year she would not seek re-election. Of the candidates, Andrew Lewis has raised the most so far, with a balance around $12,000 at the time of this writing.

The only candidate to qualify for the Democracy Voucher program, in which residents are given public money to spend on a political campaign of their choosing, was District 4 candidate Alex Pederson. Pederson’s website lists experience working for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as serving as a legislative aid to Tim Burgess on his campaign. Several other candidates have also filed, including Alex Tsimerman, whose inflammatory rhetoric has earned him bans from City Council meetings.

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