Tuesday night’s primary results show a competitive race shaping up for one of two citywide Seattle City Council seats in the Nov. 2 general election.  

In the race for Position 8, council incumbent Teresa Mosqueda is headed for the general election with nearly 55% of Tuesday’s vote count, an expected outcome given her fundraising advantage over her lesser-known competitors. The other citywide position, vacated by council President M. Lorena González in her run for mayor, yielded a more competitive split between Sara Nelson and Nikkita Oliver, with 42% and 35% of Tuesday’s results respectively, leaving Brianna Thomas trailing in third place.

Results from mail-in ballots will continue to trickle in over the next several days. The top two vote-getters from each race will move on to the November election.  

Whoever wins these seats could shift the tone and trajectory of the council, which over four years has regularly clashed with Mayor Jenny Durkan over issues related to homelessness, policing and the racial justice protests of 2020.  

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Complete coverage of the 2021 primary in Seattle, King County and Washington state

Mosqueda’s main competition could be either small business owner and engineer Kenneth Wilson, who has 18% of Tuesday’s votes, or designer and activist Kate Martin, at almost 13% of the vote.

Mosqueda has been a council member since 2017. Last year, she spearheaded the council’s adoption of a “JumpStart” tax on high salaries paid by businesses with at least $7 million in annual payroll to cover major deficits in the city’s budget and pay for affordable housing starting in 2022. Mosqueda is backed by labor groups, U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal and many local Democratic leaders. 

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Mosqueda said she sees Tuesday’s results as an affirmation of the progressive policies she’s advanced on the council.

“We have broken down this misconception that progressive taxation is going to create this ‘sky is falling’ conflict,” she said.

Nelson and Oliver, the two candidates with the most name recognition entering the Position 9 race, are campaigning at opposite ends of Seattle’s political spectrum.  

Both previously ran for citywide seats in 2017. Nelson, the co-owner of Fremont Brewing, campaigned for Mosqueda’s seat, but placed third in the 2017 primary.  Oliver, a community activist, educator and lawyer, ran an energetic mayoral campaign as part of the Seattle Peoples Party that year. Oliver came in third, trailing by less than 1% of the vote to then-candidate Cary Moon, who went on to lose to Durkan in the general election. 

Nelson worked at City Hall as an adviser to then-Councilmember Richard Conlin, pausing her council work from 2008 to 2010 to start Fremont Brewing with her husband. But the candidate has been critical of newer causes taken up by the council, like decreasing funding for police. Nelson has also said that “well-intentioned policies” like increased renter protections championed by the council can have negative consequences that push small landlords to sell their properties. 

Nelson said she was “elated and relieved” by Tuesday’s results, which she said showed voters “want change.”

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“They’re tired of the ideological rhetoric and the failed policies that come out of council, and I think they put their hope in me to see something different,” she said.

Oliver has become well-known in Seattle for their racial justice activism, including work with a coalition of groups that pushed the city last year to invest in policing alternatives. As a council candidate, Oliver has pitched ending funding for homeless encampment removals and investing in resources for people living outside, as well as lifting zoning restrictions on multifamily housing.  

Oliver also opposes Compassion Seattle, an unfunded charter amendment that would mandate more shelters or permanent housing, though critics fear the measure would also codify encampment removals in the city charter. Nelson supports the initiative.  

“I think that the results point to: Seattle is ready to do the work to address the root causes of the crises that we’re facing [with] solutions that are actually commensurate to its crises,” Oliver said.

Despite winning the endorsements of Councilmembers González, Lisa Herbold and Dan Strauss, the Teamsters and other major political figures and groups, Thomas, who has served as legislative aide and subsequently chief of staff to González on the council for the last five years, lagged behind Oliver and Nelson in fundraising. As of Aug. 2, Nelson amassed $247,670, Oliver had raised $197,342 and Thomas pulled in $142,932. Mosqueda raised more than $180,000, and her closest opponent, Wilson, raised $3,125.