The Seattle City Council is in for big changes this year with seven seats up for election. Facing neighborhood and business dissatisfaction over homelessness, public safety, taxes and transportation, four incumbents bowed out.

There are 55 candidates competing in the Aug. 6 primary, and ballots are being mailed to voters this week.

Confused? The Overcast is here to help.

On Episode 111, Seattle Times City Hall reporter Daniel Beekman breaks down one of the most interesting elections in recent Seattle history in a discussion with Times political reporter Jim Brunner and with Simone Alicea, who reports for 88.5 FM KNKX public radio (The Overcast is recorded at KNKX’s Seattle studio).

The candidate frenzy has been driven partly by last year’s fight over a “head tax” on high-grossing employers that was passed by the council and then abruptly repealed less than a month later.

The tax meant to fund homeless services had been bitterly opposed by Amazon and other business interests, as well as some labor unions. The council’s repeal was seen as too late by critics and as a shameless cave-in by some supporters.

“There was a lot of furor about that and all the council members currently are still dealing with the fallout of that in terms of public opinion,” Beekman says.


The head-tax controversy is carrying forward into 2019, with homelessness and housing affordability top of mind for many voters evaluating the candidate field.

Whether concerned with garbage-strewn tent encampments and a sense of lawlessness or feeling like it’s a disgrace that a city as rich as Seattle hasn’t tapped that wealth enough for solutions, “everybody is upset and concerned about that issue,” Beekman notes.

There’s much more in the election breakdown, including:

  • How Seattle’s taxpayer-funded “democracy vouchers” are influencing campaigns and making different types of candidates viable.
  • The role of Amazon and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which are funding big independent expenditures in pursuit of a more business-friendly council.
  • Whither the socialists? With incumbent Councilmember Kshama Sawant facing a tough reelection fight, will she be ousted, or could she win and be joined on the council by other avowed socialists?
  • How neighborhood concerns are playing a key role as the city’s district-races system replaces the old system of at-large council positions.

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