Illustration by Jose Trujillo

Election 2017

Our Endorsements for Seattle’s August 1 Primary Election

A complete guide to all the 2017 races.

King County Proposition 1 (Access for All)

YES The Access for All program that this tax increase would fund is a good one. A penny of tax for every $10 spent would support hundreds of institutions that maintain the area’s cultural identity just as it is being warped by market forces. More important, it will also make those institutions available to all county residents through free and discounted entry fees for those in need. Most important, the sales tax will fund the development of educational programming by those institutions, to be accessed by our public schools, filling in some gaps left by destructive cuts in arts and cultural curricula—gaps that no amount of GoFundMe campaigns and teacher pocketbooks can fill. To make sure each of the 300-plus nonprofits involved is doing right by taxpayers, the program includes annual check-ins during its seven-year lifespan. The program has reportedly been a success in Denver. We believe it will be a success here as well. Read our full endorsement.

King County Executive

Dow Constantine The choice for King County Executive this year really isn’t a choice. The candidates include: Bill Hirt, a single-issue candidate fighting against light rail on the Eastside; Stan Lippmann, who says he got into politics to raise awareness of the dangers of vaccines (nope!); and Goodspaceguy (don’t be charmed by his quirkiness; he’s a free-market Republican). Then you have the incumbent, Dow Constantine. As far as we can tell, Dow hasn’t even set up a website for his re-election this year, and he probably won’t need to. That said, it’s not for want of a better option that we endorse Constantine. In his eight years as county executive, Constantine has led King County to a place that is more transit-friendly, more responsive to homelessness, and more innovative at solving public-health problems. As chair of the Sound Transit board, he led the fight to pass ST3, possibly the single most important transportation project this region has ever undertaken; he joined Mayor Ed Murray in declaring a state of emergency on homelessness, which delivered millions more dollars to the effort to house those on the streets (though clearly more is needed in that area); and he’s now pursuing the politically brave effort to establish a pilot safe drug site in King County, a program that will save lives but also stir up NIMBY animosity. Constantine’s response to the No New Youth Jail movement has been less than inspiring, but recent statements that he wants to work with prison abolitionists suggest that he may yet show leadership on the issue. In sum, he’s had a successful eight years at the county helm; let’s give him four more.

Port of SeattleCommissioner Position No. 1

Ryan Calkins Incumbent John Creighton has a fairly impressive environmental resume, but when Shell barged into Puget Sound with its Arctic drilling platform in 2015, he was unwilling to stand against dirty energy. Calkins, on the other hand, says he would have said Shell No, and we believe him. No candidate for Port Commissioner has been so precise in his opposition to the Port’s potential role in fossil-fuel extraction. “I will vote No on any effort to lease Port facilities to fossil-fuel-extracting equipment,” Calkins says. Add to that some very specific ideas for how to use the Port’s authority and dollars to help reduce urban sprawl, wean us from our car addiction, and reduce carbon emissions, and you’ve got a fresh, eco-conscious voice to add to a Commission that could definitely use another shove in that direction. For years, Calkins ran one of Seattle’s Greenest Businesses (a designation awarded by Seattle City Light in 2015), and he currently works for a nonprofit that supports low-income entrepreneurs. He’s also on board with labor rights. He fought for a $15 minimum wage and paid leave, supports fair wages and union jobs, and makes a specific plug for the importance of ethics and transparency at the Port. Given the agency’s string of scandals and lawsuits in recent years, that’s a welcome stance.

Port of SeattleCommissioner Position No. 3

Ahmed Abdi A Somali immigrant and refugee who has built his career through supporting low-income workers and immigrants (too often one and the same), Abdi would be a refreshing and crucial voice on a Commission too often dominated by career politicians and corporate businesspeople. Abdi was in on the ground floor of Washington’s very first fight for $15, counting himself among the advocates who helped pass a minimum wage in the city of Sea-Tac—the first such win in the nation. He’s now an outreach manager for Seattle’s Fair Work Center, providing Know Your Rights trainings and other opportunities for the region’s low-wage workers. He also serves on the Board of Commissioners for the Seattle Housing Authority, advocating for struggling families. Incumbent Stephanie Bowman does a respectable job, but Abdi has a chance of truly shaking things up, and, when it comes to the rights of low-income, immigrant workers, calling out lip service when he sees it.

Port of SeattleCommissioner Position No. 4

John Persak A longshoreman and current Vice President of the ILWU Local 19, Persak is a voice for labor in this race, no question. He puts fair wages and collective bargaining at the top of his priority list, and as a union advocate he’s spoken on behalf of workers’ rights countless times and also settled specific, Port-related worker disagreements. He has served on a slew of boards and committees, including the Port’s Energy and Sustainability Committee, the City’s Freight Mobility Plan Advisory Committee, and a stakeholder group for the Duwamish River Opportunity Fund. He’s also a blue-collar guy who talks a green game: He strongly opposes coal and oil exports from any port in Washington state, advocating instead to transition those workers into sustainable-energy careers. That might seem far afield for the Port of Seattle, but his spot as Port Commissioner could influence statewide policy. His strongest opponent, former City Council President Peter Steinbrueck, is a smart and capable leader with a lot of good ideas, but he may care more about Ivar’s being booted from the airport than about Port contracts with fossil-fuel companies.

City of Seattle — Mayor

Nikkita Oliver We are all concerned about our city’s future, but many among us are beyond concerned—these people are frustrated and frightened and they have every right to be. So often relegated to the margins in political discourse, they are accustomed to the lip service of leaders and the fleeting hope that accompanies minor victories. By the force of their will, they have scored some recent wins in this city, but in this representative democracy, they have never truly been represented in City Hall. It is through their advancement that this city will truly prosper, and it is only with an advocate in the mayor’s office that they will be treated as something more than a set of statistics. It is for this reason that we are endorsing Nikkita Oliver for mayor of Seattle. We will not pretend that Oliver is a conventional candidate, or that voting for her would be a normal thing to do. In some ways, it is a radical thing to do. But it is also a rational thing to do. And in these abnormal times, it is the right thing to do. Informed by her work as a public-service attorney, spoken-word artist, political agitator, and educator, Oliver’s platform revolves around social and economic justice. She comes from the grassroots Seattle left and has had a front-row seat to the struggles facing those who are most threatened by the city’s unyielding growth. As an activist, she has pushed for social change and entertained unconventional solutions, and in the fights that matter, she does not pull punches. As a representative of the Peoples Party of Seattle, she answers to a vocal and involved activist base. Yet we believe her agenda of radical democracy, inclusion, and justice will benefit all Seattleites because socioeconomic and cultural diversity are essential to making a community both prosperous and sustainable. Read our full endorsement.

City of SeattleCouncil Position No. 8

Jon Grant Both ubiquitous and consistent, Jon Grant has painstakingly grows a grassroots campaign that relies on a hell of a lot of real conversations with Seattleites. And it shows, even down to the finances: He’s gathered more than $128,000 in campaign donations from $25 Democracy Vouchers—which earned him specific ire in a lawsuit against the program by those who’d prefer to shut out those voices. Combined with his experience leading the Tenants’ Union, this suggests a clear dedication to a lot of the goals we’d hope to see cemented through an already-progressive City Council. The race for Position 8 is crammed with excellent candidates. But Jon Grant has a bold agenda, and he’s been pushing it in Seattle for a while. On police reform, he, like Nikkita Oliver, wants more effective civilian oversight with true accountability measures, such as giving the Community Police Commission authority to demand investigation on specific issues; he also wants to make the city’s negotiations with the police union open to the public. His most formidable opponent, Teresa Mosqueda, argues that that kind of transparency would overpoliticize the process. That may be, but it is a price we should be willing to pay to bring more accountability to such negotiations. Grant also wants to end sweeps of homeless encampments and create more 24/7 low-barrier shelters. He urges divesting city pensions from fossil fuels, and even got himself arrested at a Chase Bank protest over Keystone XL. He would push for an end to the statewide ban on rent control, and wants to give tenants the right to collectively bargain with landlords. Read our full endorsement.

City of SeattleCouncil Position No. 9

M. Lorena González In the two years of her abbreviated term on the Seattle City Council, M. Lorena González has distinguished herself as a conscientious leader. We would like to see what she can do with a full four years, which is why we are endorsing her for Position 9. On her core competencies, namely police reform and immigration, Gonzalez has shown strong leadership. As the primary sponsor of the recently passed police-reform ordinance, she deftly maneuvered the massive piece of legislation through a months-long process full of potential pitfalls. As the daughter of Mexican immigrants and a president emeritus of OneAmerica, González has also been an important voice in the city’s resistance to President Donald Trump’s hateful anti-immigration rhetoric. In the fearful first month of the Trump presidency, González sponsored an ordinance doubling down on Seattle’s commitment to immigrant communities, and assisted in the creation of a $1 million fund to help cover the legal costs of people facing deportation. Where González hasn’t led, she’s shown a laudable willingness to follow. In the debate over the $160 million North Precinct building, she listened to community concerns and put the project on hold. One area in which we hope González shows more leadership in her new term is homelessness. We were disappointed that González, a human-rights activist, did not get on board with an ACLU-WA-crafted ordinance that would have given people living in unauthorized encampments more protections against arbitrary sweeps. Given her willingness to bend toward the moral cause on other issues, we are hopeful she’ll do the same in this arena in the next four years. Read our full endorsement.

Seattle School District 1Director District 4

Eden Mack Eden Mack co-founded Paramount Duty, which lobbies the state legislature to adequately fund public education per the state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling. She’s racked up a slew of endorsements from local Democratic organizations and elected officials, as well as from Lyon Terry (2015 state Teacher of the Year), according to her website. Just as important, Mack’s competitors are wanting. To describe just a few: One supports charter schools, another is literally worried about busing her children across the railroad tracks, and a third uses the phrase “LGBT lifestyle choice” on his campaign website. We’d prefer to endorse a candidate who’s more aggressive and specific than Mack has been on racial equity in Seattle’s schools. Still, Mack is the clear choice here.

Seattle School District 1Director District 5

André Helmstetter A Central District resident since the 1990s, André Helmstetter used to run a cafe where Broadcast Coffee now sits. He’s seen the process of gentrification worm its way through our city as only old-timers can. A black man in a blanching city, Helmstetter takes a historical approach to understanding the causes of Seattle schools’ appalling racial achievement gap today. Now a policy consultant, the Navy veteran has been involved in the PTA as a parent of two students, and he worked with teacher Jesse Hagopian (now famous for being randomly pepper-sprayed by Seattle’s Finest) in 2009 to oppose the closure of Seattle schools by the School Board.

Seattle School District 1Director District 7

Betty Patu If re-elected, Betty Patu would be the longest-serving member on the Seattle School Board. And in this case, we believe that’s a very good thing. Her emphasis on racial equity, consideration of her constituents’ concerns, and deftness at navigating the controversial (and at times very tedious) waters of public education policy are indispensable assets, burnished by her deep understanding of what it actually feels like to teach inside Seattle schools. Prior to serving on the Board, Patu worked in Seattle Public Schools for 32 years, directing award-winning programs that helped increase graduation rates and reduce violence while winning half a dozen awards herself. Plus, her opponents in this race don’t pass muster: Chelsea Byers’ only teaching experience is two years with Teach for America, and she has spent most of her career working for private education-technology companies, not schools. And Tony Hemphill’s background as a father with children who attend Seattle public schools doesn’t uniquely qualify him for the office, either.

Primary ballots will be mailed Wednesday, July 12. Ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday, August 1. Wondering where your ballot is? Check the county’s Ballot Tracker.

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