In Seattle’s western and northern reaches, a pair of City Council races have drawn a total of 17 candidates: nine vying in District 1 and eight in District 5.
In Seattle’s western and northern reaches, a pair of City Council races have drawn a total of 17 candidates.
Choosing among nine hopefuls in District 1, which includes West Seattle, Delridge and South Park, and eight candidates in North Seattle’s District 5, may prove tricky for voters in the Aug. 4 primary election.
There would have been a familiar name on the District 1 ballot and a clear favorite in that race had Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who lives in West Seattle, decided to seek a fourth term. But Rasmussen bowed out in January, citing long hours at City Hall and saying he wanted to spend more time with his elderly mother and with his partner.
The District 5 race was never going to include a current council member because none live along Seattle’s north edge. That’s one result of the city’s moving this year to voting by geographic district for seven of the council’s nine seats.
Both of the wide-open districts have candidates supported by the city’s political power-structure, but the sheer number of hopefuls has made each race unpredictable.
The nonpartisan contests are also similar in that each could be decided by voters who believe that their neighborhoods, far removed from downtown Seattle, have been overlooked.
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“People who live in the north end, particularly, sometimes feel like their needs aren’t understood or recognized by elected officials and people passing through,” former Mayor Mike McGinn said.
Those needs include sidewalks — many parts of District 5 don’t have them — and strategies to manage growth in pockets that are becoming more urban, McGinn added.
District 1 voters are likewise focused on infrastructure, with an emphasis on improving transportation between the West Seattle peninsula and the rest of the city, says Les Treall, who coordinates precinct-committee officers for the 34th District Democrats.
Two front-runners lead District 1
Treall has been stumping for Shannon Braddock, who’s worked for the past four years as chief of staff to Metropolitan King County Councilmember Joe McDermott.
“I’ve knocked on more than 400 doors for Shannon and most people aren’t thinking about the election at all,” he said. “But the people who are thinking about it are thinking about transportation because West Seattle is so isolated.”
Braddock has raised the most money in District 1. The North Admiral neighborhood resident has pulled in more than $65,000, while Lisa Herbold, an aide with super-liberal Councilmember Nick Licata for 17 years, has netted more than $56,000.
Braddock and Herbold, who live in Highland Park, have received the most prominent endorsements in their race.
Braddock is backed by Rasmussen and King County Executive Dow Constantine, while Herbold has City Attorney Pete Holmes, the Martin Luther King County Labor Council and Licata, who isn’t running for re-election, on her side.
The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s political-action organization used an independent-expenditure committee this month to buy Braddock more than $40,000 in media advertising.
But neither Braddock nor Herbold are household names, says Michael Taylor-Judd from the North Delridge Neighborhood Council.
“I have no idea how this is going to turn out,” said Taylor-Judd, who has attended several candidate forums. “We have four or five people really stepping up their games.”
Brianna Thomas is a political organizer who helped lead the 2013 campaign for a $15 minimum wage in Sea-Tac. She’s endorsed by the Sierra Club and, like Herbold, the Labor Council and a number of unions.
Chas Redmond is an Army veteran, onetime copy editor and retired NASA public-affairs officer turned activist for urban trails and neighborhood festivals.
Phillip Tavel is a former high-school teacher and entrepreneur who currently works as a defense lawyer and runs a weekly trivia night at a West Seattle pizza parlor.
Less likely to make the two-candidate runoff for the Nov. 3 general election are Pavel Goberman, Arturo Robles, Jody Rushmer and Karl Wirsing.
West Seattle Chamber of Commerce board chair Hamilton Gardiner says none of the hopefuls have locked up support from small-business owners.
“I haven’t heard too much from any of the candidates about business and education,” he noted, saying the chamber will work with whoever is elected.
Speaking as a resident of West Seattle’s Alaska Junction neighborhood, Gardiner said he expects Braddock and Herbold to split votes among people who want a new council member with legislative experience. That could open the door for one of the outsider candidates to finish second.
When it comes to the issues, the leading candidates mostly agree, Treall says. But Braddock has played up her commitment to transportation, including dedicated bus lanes on the West Seattle Bridge, while Herbold has emphasized housing affordability through new developer fees and more protections for renters.
Herbold on Monday ripped Braddock’s independent-expenditure committee support as a “contribution by big businesses to sway communities against progressive legislation” and questioned “just how truly independent this expenditure is” because the commitee’s political consulting group is the same one Braddock uses.
Thomas, a renter herself, may win favor from voters in less affluent neighborhoods thanks to her focus on crime reduction, police reform and better conditions for low-wage workers.
But primary voters tend to be older and more conservative, so the Aug. 4 results could hinge more on which candidates have knocked on the most doors, Taylor-Judd said.
Support spread out in District 5
The District 5 race is just as difficult to handicap, because no one candidate is a powerhouse and nearly all of the hopefuls have enjoyed some success in building support.
Former Methodist minister, homeless-services advocate and gun-safety activist Sandy Brown was fast out of the gate, garnering endorsements from Mayor Ed Murray and a slew of unions. Brown has raised more than $80,000, tops in District 5.
But Debora Juarez, a former public defender and King County Superior Court judge, a lawyer for Native American tribes and a member of the Blackfeet Nation, recently scored endorsements from both The Seattle Times and The Stranger.
Phillip Duggan, president of the Pinehurst Community Council and chair of the 46th District Democrats, says the 46th Dems’ endorsements of Brown and Halei Watkins, an organizer for Planned Parenthood’s political organization, will be important.
“We do a lot of outreach. We have a printed election guide that our (precinct-committee officers) are distributing throughout the district,” he said.
Watkins, of Northgate, has endorsements, too, from the Sierra Club, Cascade Bicycle Club, several unions, state Rep. Gerry Pollet and Councilmember Jean Godden.
The race also includes Debadutta Dash, endorsed by McGinn, who says the Indian American sales manager can represent District 5 immigrants and refugees, and Mercedes Elizalde, a young policy expert who works for the Low Income Housing Institute. Elizalde calls herself a “social-services champion” and says she’ll carry on Licata’s legacy.
Real-estate broker Kris Lethin looked like an also-ran until the National Association of Realtors Fund, an independent-expenditure committee, splashed more than $64,000 earlier this month on mailers, phone calls, online advertisements, consulting and polling for his campaign. Lethin, who wrote in a Facebook page that he was surprised by the move, is opposed to rent control.
Juarez, who lives in Pinehurst, is the other District 5 candidate benefiting from independent-expenditure committee money. The NW Tribes for Debora committee has raised $15,000.
David Toledo, who works for the Seattle Housing Authority, has lived in District 5 since elementary school and has been using artwork from comic books, music, television and movies to sell himself as an everyman with a sense of humor.
Hugh Russell, District 5’s eighth candidate, had been running a less active campaign.
McGinn says the diverse field reflects demographic changes at work in District 5.
“You have a lot of seniors and single-family homeowners who aren’t sure about how much change they want to see,” McGinn said.
“But you also have growing immigrant populations and growing numbers of young families being priced away from downtown who want more walkable communities.”
Ruth Williams, president of the Thornton Creek Alliance, favors Brown. She says she trusts him to preserve North Seattle’s green spaces — despite him moving to District 5 only last year — because “he listens to us.” Brown lives in Licton Springs.
“He’s been running an incredible campaign,” Williams said. “He really seems to care about people and our natural areas.”
Rob Fellows, president of the Greenwood Community Council, says candidates with the political know-how to secure amenities as the Bitter Lake and Haller Lake neighborhoods continue to become more dense should do well.
“I’m looking for someone who understands the legislative process and where the levers are to pull on downtown,” Fellows said.