May 24, 2023 - Politics

Seattle City Council races "a free-for-all" with four open seats

Illustration of Seattle City Hall with lines emanating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Nearly four dozen people are seeking jobs on the Seattle City Council this year, in an election that will replace at least four members of the nine-member body.

Why it matters: The City Council makes decisions about issues such as land use, public safety and local taxes, giving its members an important role in shaping Seattle's future.

Details: Seven council seats are on the ballot this fall, with four incumbents not seeking re-election. That's created four open seats, which generally draw high interest.

  • Candidates had until last Friday to file to appear on the ballot.

By the numbers: In the most crowded Seattle council race, 10 people are vying to replace outgoing City Councilmember Debora Juarez in District 5, which includes Lake City and Northgate.

  • Meanwhile, eight candidates are running to replace retiring Councilmember Lisa Herbold in District 1, which includes West Seattle.
  • Another eight candidates are competing for the open seat in Central Seattle's District 3, where socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant isn't running for re-election.

What they're saying: "Looking at the open seats, it sort of feels like a free-for-all," Seferiana Day, a founding partner of the political consulting group Upper Left Strategies, told Axios this week.

  • She said Seattle's democracy vouchers, a form of public campaign financing, have made the city's elections more accessible, helping create "a wide open field."

Yes, but: Some candidates have already notched a fundraising advantage, which could be hard for others to overcome, especially if they entered the race only recently, Day said.

  • For instance, cannabis and hemp entrepreneur Joy Hollingsworth has raised more than $92,000 in District 3, outpacing other candidates by a wide margin.
  • The next best-funded in that race is Alex Hudson, the former executive director of the Transportation Choices Coalition, who has raised about $53,000.

Plus: The three incumbents on the ballot — Councilmembers Tammy Morales, Dan Strauss and Andrew Lewis — also face challengers and will have to fight to win re-election, political consultant Dean Nielsen of CN4 Partners told Axios.

  • Nielsen predicted "all seven of these seats are going to be competitive, which I think for a voter is pretty exciting."

The big picture: Polling shows Seattle voters remain frustrated with street disorder and slow progress addressing homelessness, political consultant Ben Anderstone of Progressive Strategies NW told Axios.

  • Housing costs are also a key issue, he said — and dissatisfaction with the current council remains high.

What's next: The Aug. 1 primary election will whittle the number of candidates in each race down to two.

  • Between now and then, candidates will be competing for endorsements from The Stranger and The Seattle Times to help distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack, Nielsen said.

Of note: A fifth Seattle council seat could turn over this year if incumbent City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda wins her bid for county council.

  • If that happens, the council will have to appoint a replacement — meaning more than half the City Council would be new next year.

Go deeper: A list of who's running


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