Nov 17, 2023 - Politics

Two-thirds of the Seattle City Council will be new in 2024

Illustration of Seattle City Hall with lines emanating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Come January, the Seattle City Council is set to have six new members, the highest level of turnover the council has seen in decades.

Why it matters: Only three of nine sitting City Council members are on track to return in 2024, setting the stage for what could be a big shift in Seattle's political direction.

Details: Two of the three incumbents on the Nov. 7 ballot, Tammy Morales in District 2 and Dan Strauss in District 6, appear to have won new terms in office.

  • Another sitting council member, Teresa Mosqueda, won her race for King County Council, creating a vacancy that the rest of the council will soon have to fill.

That leaves six new faces who will be making decisions on issues such as housing policy, police reform and how to fill a $250 million budget hole the city is projecting in 2025.

  • Of note: Councilmember Andrew Lewis conceded his race to Bob Kettle in District 7 last week, making him the only Seattle council incumbent to lose this year.
  • Four other incumbents decided not to seek re-election.

State of play: Except for Morales and Strauss, the candidates who appear to have prevailed last week were considered the more moderate or centrist options in their races.

  • All five newcomers benefited from independent spending by third-party PACs backed by business and real estate interests.
  • They all emphasized the need to hire more police officers and supported a new law that lets the city prosecute drug possession and public drug use.

What they're saying: Robert Cruickshank, chair of the Seattle Sierra Club, predicted the new council will be somewhat reluctant to increase taxes on wealthy corporations and businesses to help pay for social services, housing and other programs.

  • Three of the prevailing candidates — Rob Saka in District 1, Kettle in District 7 and Maritza Rivera in District 4 — were hesitant on the campaign trail about raising taxes to help solve the city's projected budget deficit, emphasizing the need to audit spending and find cuts.
  • Cruickshank — who volunteered for Ron Davis, the left-leaning candidate who trails Rivera — said turnout among younger voters was particularly low this year, which likely hurt Davis and other progressive candidates.

Yes, but: Two of the new incoming council members, Joy Hollingsworth in District 3 and Cathy Moore in District 5, "are very into raising more progressive revenue to fund our priorities," Erin Schultz, a political consultant who worked on both candidates' campaigns.

  • That makes it less clear how the council might approach its upcoming budget problems, especially given that the council has yet to decide who is taking Mosqueda's place.

What's next: Mosqueda told Axios she plans to resign from the City Council at the end of the year.

  • That will trigger a 20-day window for the eight sitting City Council members to appoint her replacement, who will become the council's ninth and final member.
  • If the council members don't appoint a replacement in 20 days, the city charter directs them to meet and vote every day until they pick someone.

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