Never Mind the Mayoral Race. Here’s the City Council Position You Should Be Watching.

This story originally appeared at Seattle Magazine.
With 21 candidates in the mayor’s race, it’s easy to focus on the parade of curiosities—the also-rans who thought it was worth their while to spend $1,951.86 to have their name on the August ballot. It’s also understandable; in August, voters will peruse a ballot that includes perennial candidates such as the guy best known for addressing Seattle and King County Con members with a Nazi salute and a string of expletives; a real-deal militant Socialist who frequently praises Cuba; and a young Libertarian who says he wants to “stop spending your money on partisan profligacy.”

Look down the ballot, though, and you’ll notice something surprising: In the open race for Seattle City Council Position 8, which will be vacated when Tim Burgess retires at the end of the year, there are almost no names that can be easily dismissed as “also-rans” or vanity candidates. (The one exception is Rudy Pantoja, who became briefly Internet-famous after a “Block the Bunker” activist accused him of sexually harassing her when he told her his name was “Hugh Mungus” in a videotaped interaction that went viral.)

Position 8 is a citywide seat, meaning that all Seattle residents are eligible to vote for the seat. Here’s a look at who’s running, their qualifications for the job and their potential liabilities.


Photo courtesy of People for Hisam Facebook.

Hisam Goeuli
About: A physician who works in gerontology and geriatric psychiatry at Northwest Hospital & Medical Center, Goeuli has decried the “warehousing” of mentally ill homeless individuals at hospitals like the one where he works and argues that everyone in Seattle deserves a physical, cultural and medical home.

Strengths: For an unknown candidate, Goeuli has an impressive grasp of the issues, a coherent platform and a strong onstage presence at campaign events and forums. He also has an intriguing profile—a gay Muslim American son of immigrants, whose Peruvian partner came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant.

Liabilities: First-time candidate with limited potential for raising money.


Courtesy of Jon Grant for Seattle City Council Facebook.

Jon Grant
About: A former Tenants Union organizer who is running as a Democratic Socialist, Grant sought this same position two years ago when Tim Burgess ran for reelection. This time he suggests that he is the true populist and progressive in the race, and recently got arrested while protesting Chase Bank’s relationship with the Keystone XL pipeline.

Strengths: Appeals to supporters of socialist city council member Kshama Sawant, who has endorsed him, and others who believe the city is in the pocket of big banks and corporate interests. He’s already raised more than $100,000 from “democracy vouchers”—small, publicly funded contributions from individual supporters.

Liabilities: Heavily criticized by labor supporters of his opponent Teresa Mosqueda for what they call showboating on issues like Keystone and the $15 minimum wage while living in a house that was bought for him as a foreclosure by his parents.


Courtesy of Vote Mac McGregor Facebook.

Mac S. McGregor
About: A member of the city’s LGBTQ commission and diversity educator, McGregor would be the first transgender member of the city council. He’s said he was motivated to run by Donald Trump’s election and will represent all marginalized people.

Strengths: McGregor is an energetic candidate with a strong pitch on the stump and a sense of humor. (Earlier this month, he announced he was running as a “non-binary candidate”—that is, not a Democrat or a Republican).

Liabilities: A first-time candidate with a low profile outside the LGBTQ community, McGregor may struggle to stand out in a crowded field.


Courtesy of People for Teresa Facebook.

Teresa Mosqueda
About:
Currently a statewide lobbyist for the Washington State Labor Council, Mosqueda touts her work helping to draft last year’s statewide minimum wage initiative, advocating for Apple Health Care for Kids as chair of the Healthy Washington Coalition and working on paid sick-leave legislation in Olympia.

Strengths: Mosqueda can point to a long list of concrete accomplishments in Olympia as well as a long list of supporters from state government and the labor movement, including 22 state legislators, more than a dozen unions, and Congresswoman (and former state legislator) Pramila Jayapal. With labor support comes financial support, and so far, Mosqueda has raised almost as much as Grant, who got a months-long jump on fundraising when he announced his campaign last year.

Liabilities: Mosqueda is little-known outside state government and the labor movement, and may struggle to translate her work on state issues into a city campaign. Plus, she’ll have to cede the far left to Grant, who has touted his own work as an organizer on the statewide minimum wage campaign.


Courtesy of Sara Nelson for Seattle City Council Facebook.

Sara Nelson
About: A longtime aide to former Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin and currently the owner of the Fremont Brewing Company, Nelson says she’ll bring experience and a small-business sensibility to the council. As president of a growing brewery, Nelson says she has integrated green practices into her business and committed to paying her workers a living wage. She promises to focus on “wonky stuff,” like clean water rules.

Strengths: Nelson has strong support from the small-business community and could appeal to old-style Seattle moderates and environmentalists who supported Conlin and two-term mayor Greg Nickels, who has also endorsed her.

Liabilities: Nelson has been out of city politics for several years, and council aides don’t have high profiles to begin with. As a business owner who opposed legislation that would have halted Mayor Ed Murray’s homeless encampment “sweeps,” she risks being shoehorned as the “conservative” in the race, which could be a liability in a race against several high-profile progressives.


Courtesy of Sheley Secrest for Seattle City Council Position 8 Facebook.

Sheley Secrest
About: An attorney and vice chair of the Seattle NAACP, Secrest has been a member of a police oversight body and was a finalist for a temporary appointment to the council seat vacated by Sally Clark in 2015. Secrest opposes the new King County youth jail, gentrification in the Central District and supports “ban the box” legislation that would bar landlords from making rental decisions based solely on criminal history.

Strengths: As someone who has run for office before and held numerous city appointments, Secrest is fairly well known. She’s also the only candidate focusing primarily on racial justice, a prominent issue following the Department of Justice consent decree requiring Seattle police to address biased policing and use of excessive force.

Liabilities: When she sought Clark’s old seat, Secrest faced tough questioning about a suspension from the Washington State Bar Association, which helped torpedo her candidacy. This is also Secrest’s fourth attempt to win public office—in addition to Clark’s seat, she ran for the state senate in 2014 and sought appointment to the same office last year when Pramila Jayapal was elected to Congress—which puts her at risk for the “perennial candidate” label.


Courtesy of Elect Charlene Strong Facebook.

Charlene Strong
About: Strong was spurred to activism in 2006 when her partner drowned in the basement of their Madison Valley home during a severe rainstorm and she was denied access to the hospital room. She has promised to be a voice for neighborhoods that feel unrepresented in the ongoing debate over homelessness, drug addiction and growth, and says the council has moved too far to the left.

Strengths: With her advocacy for property owners’ rights, Strong is the only candidate in the race explicitly reaching out to traditional neighborhood activists and homeowners who feel the city has been too accommodating to renters, developers and homeless people living in unauthorized encampments.

Liabilities: Strong’s pro-business, pro-homeowner message may not be enough to put her over the top in this crowded field where candidates are focusing on issues like housing, affordability for renters and the plight of low-wage workers.

2 thoughts on “Never Mind the Mayoral Race. Here’s the City Council Position You Should Be Watching.

  1. Hugh Mungus for City Council!

    I’m totally voting for Rudy. Not just for my own entertainment, but I also think he’s sincere and genuinely wants to help the people of Seattle.

    Like

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