The race for Metropolitan King County Council District 1, representing Northeast Seattle, Shoreline and Bothell, pits a well-funded veteran council member against a first-time candidate running a shoestring campaign.

It’s a contest between two progressives: Councilmember Rod Dembowski, who touts providing paid family leave to county employees and moving the county toward an electric bus fleet as among his top accomplishments, and Sally Caverzan, a social worker who wants to create a county conservation corps to pay people for completing environmental projects.

Dembowski, 49, was appointed to fill a vacancy on the council in 2013. He won the office handily in the election later that year and ran unopposed in 2017.

Caverzan, 40, left her job with the city of Seattle’s Human Services Department earlier this year to run for office.

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Dembowski, a lawyer, says his top priorities should he win reelection will be choosing a new sheriff (the next sheriff will be appointed early next year by the county executive and approved by the County Council) and looking for law enforcement reforms, executing the county’s homelessness response with the newly functioning Regional Homeless Authority and passing a climate bond.

He said he’d like to see the county implement a third — social services — response to 911 calls, “beyond just police or fire.”


The climate bond, which he envisions at somewhere between $1 billion and $2 billion, would help the county more quickly electrify its transit fleet, buy and conserve natural spaces and decarbonize buildings, Dembowski said.

He’s not sure yet of the funding mechanism, but the bond would likely require voter approval.

“The damage we’re doing is, you know, over decades,” Dembowski said. “And if you were to go into the future, I think people would say well, ‘I’d like to have made an investment 20 years ago, to reduce the impact that we’re seeing.’ “

He cited the paid family leave law, which the county passed for county employees in 2015, as a model. Both Seattle and Washington have since passed paid family leave laws.

“I’ve had so many stories of people just expressing appreciation and telling you what a difference that’s made,” Dembowski said. “When you lead by example, other jurisdictions can pick it up, and that’s what happened there.”

Caverzan wants to create an environmental conservation corps, create more access to inpatient addiction services and, broadly, ensure that county programs are focused on people who need them most.


Expanding light rail and building electric car charging stations are good, she said, but, “our poor citizens, our poor residents, they’re not going to have access to electric cars.

“All these things that are being done, the target population of all this seems to be the wealthy,” Caverzan said.

The county currently has a pilot project conservation corps, which provides homeless people with jobs, largely doing garbage pickup in unincorporated communities.

Caverzan envisions vastly enlarging the program and expanding it to the general population. Participants would do environmental work — clearing invasive species out of medians and greenbelts, planting trees — and would be compensated with credits that could be used for rent or utility bills.

People who do well would be able to move on to more independent projects, she said. Church groups could do projects and then donate the credits to those in need.

Caverzan didn’t have a specific cost estimate for her proposal but said it would be “quite expensive.”


Dembowski has touted his work on the successful $1.7 billion bond to expand Harborview Medical Center, including a new building for behavioral health.

Caverzan says she wants to build a new “King County regional treatment facility” that would have inpatient services for addiction and mental health.

Dembowski has raised more than $137,000 for his campaign as of Thursday but spent only about $14,000, according to state Public Disclosure Commission filings. He is endorsed by Attorney General Bob Ferguson, U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda and the MLK Labor Council.

Caverzan says she has been offered donations but has declined, choosing to self-fund her campaign on a “micro budget.” She has filed with the Public Disclosure Commission under an option that limits her campaign spending to no more than $5,000. Her website cites no endorsements.


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