Nikkita Oliver, an attorney, community organizer and spoken-word artist, is Mayor Ed Murray’s highest-profile challenger so far.
Nikkita Oliver, a community organizer and spoken-word artist who’s been active in Seattle’s Black Lives Matter movement and in the Rainier Beach neighborhood, will run for mayor against Ed Murray.
Oliver, 31, is seeking office under the banner of the Peoples Party of Seattle, a new “community-centered grass roots political party led by and accountable to the people most requiring access and equity,” says a website for Oliver and the party.
South Seattle Emerald and Crosscut first reported her candidacy. An attorney who spends most of her time working as an educator, she is Murray’s highest-profile challenger so far as he seeks a second term.
In an interview Wednesday, Oliver said Donald Trump’s inauguration as president and conversations with community members inspired her to run.
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Oliver said she was “feeling stuck, not having a voice in the process and not knowing how we change things at the federal level” before she decided to become a candidate.
“We have to get involved locally, because that will begin to shift the narrative and the policy,” she said.
The Indianapolis native, who moved to Seattle for college, is an attorney but devotes less time to legal work than to other endeavors. She said her campaign will focus on housing, education and ending the school-to-prison pipeline.
She said officials should reassess the “area median income” benchmark they use to define affordable housing. The Seattle area’s median income is higher than what the average working person actually makes.
A rent increase, Oliver said, led her to move from the Central Area to White Center last year.
“Displacement has become the story of so many Seattleites. Construction cranes, blocked roads, and rerouted buses are the status quo. Developer-driven rezones and growth are swallowing our city whole!” her campaign website says.
“The residents who made the Emerald City the innovative and cultural gem it is today are being pushed out and replaced with murals, cultural relics, and colorful crosswalks. Seattle is quickly becoming a museum of our contributions, a place we can visit but we cannot live.”
Murray has critics across the political spectrum, including voters who say he’s too aggressive in clearing away homeless encampments and voters who say he’s not aggressive enough.
The mayor has tried to build a brand around compromise, pursuing a “middle way” on encampments while using citizen task forces to strike deals on growth and the minimum wage.
Oliver could attract support from some of Seattle’s most liberal voters and those with concerns about Murray’s approach to development. She’ll also be looking for support from younger voters and renters.
The party is running Oliver to “open doors for collective leadership” in order to “divest from practices, corporations, and institutions that don’t reflect the values and interests of our city,” the website says.
Oliver works as a teaching artist and mentor in Seattle Public Schools and through Creative Justice, a nonprofit that uses art to work with youth involved with the court system.
She holds law and education degrees from the University of Washington, was the 2015 grand champion of the Seattle Poetry Slam, and received the 2015 artist human-rights leader award from the Seattle Office for Civil Rights.
She’s been a leader in efforts to stop the city from building a $160 million North Precinct police station and King County from building a new youth jail.
Oliver said her work in schools and with kids who have gone through the court systemwould help her craft better policy as mayor. She said Murray talks about aiding young, black men in Seattle but hasn’t been engaging enough with community activists.
Oliver told the Emerald, “We’re going to lack financially. But what we lack in funding we’ll make up in actual, real community relationships. If you see pictures of me with young people, it wasn’t a photo op. It’s not because I went down to Rainier Beach High School to have a fake conversation with young people and take a picture and say it happened. It’s because I actually spend time at Rainier Beach.”