They all want to unseat Kshama Sawant, Seattle’s socialist City Council member. But they’re running against her from different angles in what might be the year’s most important race.
One says Seattle should allow a triplex on every block. Another says homeless people could be sheltered on a cruise ship. Yet another wants to see apartments built around public schools.
The six challengers — Logan Bowers, Sara Mae Brereton, Zachary DeWolf, Pat Murakami, Ami Nguyen and Egan Orion — joined Sawant at a District 3 candidate forum hosted by the Speak Out Seattle advocacy group Tuesday night at the Northwest African American Museum.
All seven of the council’s district seats are up for election this year. District 3 includes neighborhoods such as Capitol Hill, the Central District, Montlake and Madison Park. Two candidates in each district will advance from the Aug. 6 primary to the Nov. 5 general election.
Four incumbents are leaving City Hall at the end of 2019; of the three seeking reelection, Sawant is widely viewed as more vulnerable than Lisa Herbold in District 1 and Debora Juarez in District 5.
Every District 3 candidate criticized the existing council to some extent Tuesday, speaking to voter discontent over the city’s protracted struggles with homelessness and inequality. The six challengers directly or indirectly blamed Sawant, while she blamed her nonsocialist colleagues.
The council member’s detractors have long argued she should work with business leaders to solve problems rather than bashing companies such as Amazon at rallies. She says Seattle must tax large corporations more to provide the public housing and services the city needs.
“Our representation isn’t working for all of us,” said Zachary Dewolf, the latest candidate to launch a campaign. “We need leadership that is focused on solutions.”
The challengers all said something like that, and candidates can sometimes struggle to distinguish themselves in crowded races. The District 3 contenders each had their own pitch, however.
Bowers hammered home his message on land use. Seattle has added more jobs than apartments in recent years but could solve its housing shortage by allowing new triplex blocks where none are now allowed, said the cannabis-store owner who once worked for Amazon.
Brereton, who ran a Central District coffee shop and was previously homeless, pledged to audit the city’s nonprofit contractors, oppose rent control and support the police force.
Touting his school-board position and day job working on homelessness at King County, DeWolf suggested Seattle site apartments not only near transit stations but also near schools. To close his statements, he read the names of homeless people who’ve died on the streets.
Murakami aimed her comments at homeowners and would-be homeowners, calling for City Hall to help with property taxes and down payments. Like Speak Out Seattle, she has opposed safe drug-consumption sites. The city could shelter and provide treatment services to people on an old cruise ship, she said.
Nguyen repeatedly cited her own lived experience, telling the crowd her upbringing as the child of Vietnamese refugees who relied on food stamps and her work as a public defender have prepared her to craft policies that work “on the ground.”
Orion sounded like a candidate who might win support from Seattle’s business lobby. “We should bring everyone to the table,” the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce leader said, echoing a theme the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber has been pushing.
Sawant stayed on message, hammering home her support for rent control, public housing and taxing large companies. She had some red-shirted backers in the crowd, but they weren’t the majority.
The incumbent has raised the most money in District 3, reporting about $102,000. Sawant isn’t taking part in Seattle’s publicly funded “democracy vouchers” program, so she can accept individual contributions of up to $500, rather than $250.
Bowers is taking part in the vouchers program and has reported about $82,000, including more than $45,000 from vouchers. The other candidates are trailing money-wise, having reported under $20,000 each.