Remember when we said it'd be "our dream come true" to have the Seattle City Council elected through a district system, and then demanded you vote for the idea? Yeah, we don't either. But the internet tells us it happened a couple years back, and look—district elections are finally here! Good job, stoners!
And hey, it turns out we were right back in 2013 when we wrote that district elections would be a glorious, incumbent-rattling shitshow. Just the threat of district elections scared two shitty incumbents and one decent one—Tom "NIMBY Love" Rasmussen, Nick "NIMBY Like" Licata, and Sally "I Can't Decide" Clark—into early retirement. (We're going to miss you, Nick.) There are now 47
shitstains hopefuls running to represent one of seven geographical districts or one of two citywide council seats. Hooray for democracy and delusions of electability! And hooray for some new blood to take on everything that's fucking up life in Seattle right now, from out-of-control rents to out-of-control cops to out-of-commission tunnel-boring machines.
But what we didn't dream about when we were dreaming about district elections was having to do candidate interviews with 47
fuckwits hopefuls running for city council, plus a few more running for Seattle's port commission and school board. (Ah, the Seattle School Board, that graveyard of good intentions and political aspirations. Every few years, we toss a few goo-goo lambs into that wood chipper only to have more goo-goo lambs show up at our next round of endorsement interviews.) Add 90-degree heat and a dank conference room to this clusterfuck, and we had candidates shouting "Fuck!" at the Stranger Election Control Board (which got us even hotter), complaining about pebbles being thrown in the room, alleging conspiracies, talking about "resting bitch face," yammering on about themselves in the third person (Bruce Harrell is looking at you, Bruce Harrell), talking about flamethrowers, and looking straight at an SECB member and telling him that he was "dead-ass wrong"—and being right! More on that one later, it was special.
This here list of SECB-endorsed candidates took real effort—sweaty effort—but we got through it with the help of legal weed and summer shandies. (We're officially endorsing that drink, by the way!) So pour yourself one—we're partial to equal parts ginger beer and real beer—open your ballot, grab a pen, and help elect a city council that might suck less; help elect a port commission that might be less likely to welcome a giant, planet-destroying Arctic oil-drilling platform into Elliott Bay; and help toss a few more doomed baby lambs into the school-board wood chipper. Then get your ballot in by August 4 and go back to the beach!
Director of Elections
PORT OF SEATTLE
Commissioner Position No. 2
The port commission answers to hardly anyone but the big maritime and airline interests that fuel its campaigns, which is how Seattle ended up hosting a Shell drilling rig that will go probe the melting Arctic for oil and gas. Courtney Gregoire, the daughter of former governor Chris Gregoire, made impassioned speeches about the fragility of Arctic ecosystems, Shell's boneheaded mission, and the role of elected officials to stop it. But she didn't use her position to force a vote—or a longer public process—that might have kept Shell's drilling rig from parking on port property.
So, yeah, Gregoire screwed that up. (But hey, nice speeches!) So why endorse her? For starters, her challengers are the biggest pair of sweaty, mansplainy assholes the SECB has ever had to share an airless conference room with. (And we regularly have to share a conference room with both Dan Savage and Tim Keck, so that's saying something.) And Gregoire did introduce SOME legislation to increase the wages of SOME airport workers. But not all the workers—because the port refused to adopt SeaTac's $15 ordinance! Best of all: After one of the most batshit, pedantic SECB meetings ever, Gregoire shouted "Fuck!" at the SECB and peaced. That, along with Gregoire's insistence that she'd made mistakes on the Shell deal and learned from them, makes us believe that Gregoire has the potential to stand up for what's right. (And you know how we love them F-bombs.) Hopefully, she'll find a friend in whoever is elected to Position No. 5 and find the spine to push policies that actually benefit the people of King County, not just the oil companies looking to park their world-destroying floating Death Stars in the Duwamish Waterway. Vote Gregoire.
Commissioner Position No. 5
As mentioned, the port is a shadowy, greed-driven racket that operates with almost no oversight. What the port commission needs is someone who knows it well enough to change it from the inside out. Fred Felleman could be that guy. He's a fisheries biologist by training, he has fought for nitty-gritty environmental gains at the port over the last nine years, and he's the only candidate with good, specific ideas on how to clean up port pollution. Other candidates had some okay ideas, too, like Norman Sigler, who wanted a truth and reconciliation commission to address what's happened to the Duwamish River in the last 150 years. But the port desperately needs someone who knows enough about its sordid inner workings to call bullshit and stand up to the port staff who run the show. Fred Felleman is that guy. Vote Felleman.
CITY OF SEATTLE
Council District No. 1
There are a bunch of unqualified dildos in this race, a few semi-qualified dildos, and one or two actual human beings. The human who deserves your vote is Lisa Herbold. She's been a legislative aide to Nick Licata since he started on the council in 7600 BC, and her work for Licata helped get us paid sick leave, mandatory rental housing inspections, and a new city department to enforce our labor laws. Herbold needs sharper transit ideas (more bus-only lanes, plz), but her housing chops are impressive. She's pushing for better protections for renters, a linkage fee to make developers fund affordable housing, inclusionary zoning to make developers keep affordable units in new structures, and free pot lozenges at city council meeting where we have to listen to people talk about zoning. If you live in West Seattle because it's more affordable—we hear that's a thing—Herbold is the candidate most likely to help it stay that way. Vote Herbold.
Council District No. 2
Here's the thing. Harrell's biggest accomplishment is "banning the box"—outlawing check-box questions about one's criminal record on job applications in order to stop employment discrimination against ex-cons and people of color, who are disproportionately prosecuted and jailed by the criminal justice system. That was a major deal, but Harrell has been on the city council for seven and a half years and should have more to show for it. This year, Harrell is facing criticism that he hasn't been tough enough on police oversight in his position as chair of the council's public safety committee, and his main challenger is Tammy Morales, a progressive with good intentions but not enough specifics. She takes Harrell to task for falling short on police reform and not coming around soon enough on good issues, like paid sick leave. Sing it, sister. We agree. But we aren't convinced Morales would be any better. When we asked her what she would do differently from Harrell, she sent us the e-mail equivalent of bird shit splatter.
When we asked Harrell for a full accounting of his record at the council, he sent us a 10-page PDF in which he talks about himself in the third person (we're not kidding). "A logical conclusion," he wrote at the end of the monologue about his biography, "is that this same person would deliver and create a record of excellence." Um, okay! But excellence is not the word that comes to mind when you look at your record. Once again: You've been on the city council for seven and a half years, Bruce, by now you should be running on a record of excellence, not promising to create that record three or four terms from now.
The SECB hopes that the new district election system will make Harrell a better city councillor. Harrell will now be serving one part of the city—a long-neglected part of the city that struggles with bad policing, poverty, displacement, and unsafe infrastructure. Southeast Seattle has barely benefitted from Citywide Harrell but could definitely benefit from District Harrell. And now that he only needs District 2 voters to reelect him, maybe Harrell can stop caving to the wealthy interests that have long backed him (hey there, Comcast!) and start getting aggressive on issues that might make a real difference to his district even when they run counter to those wealthy interests (hey there, municipal broadband!). Harrell fancies himself the swing vote on the council. But he needs to start swinging for the fences on issues that could really help his new constituents, a smaller—and poorer—slice of the city.
And just to be super clear: You haven't earned our endorsement, Bruce, you're getting our endorsement by default. (Unlike the pansy-asses at the Seattle Times, the SECB doesn't take the "no endorsement in this race" cop-out.) Make some shit happen, and next time—because you're on the council for life, right?—we'll be able to endorse you like we mean it. Oh, and those accusations you made against the SECB in two off-the-record conversations with individual SECB members? Total bullshit and easily refuted. We dare you to say that shit on the record.
Council District No. 3
Sawant's election and her work after being elected were instrumental in getting Seattle a $15 minimum wage. Now she wants to force the question of rent control at the state level (she wants the state to give Seattle the power to consider rent-control measures), which a lot of political types are saying is impossible. You know what else they said was impossible? A $15 minimum wage.
Yes, Sawant's style—her inspiring badassery—has bunched the collective panties of her colleagues on the council and the mayor. But those panties needed bunching. And don't be fooled: "She who shall not be named"—as Sawant started calling herself when other council members took to criticizing her while refusing to say "Sawant" out loud—is more than just a necessary disrupter of the Seattle-nice process that blocks reform and preserves the status quo. Her activism as a council member—marching with Black Lives Matter protesters, working to call attention to increased violence against LGBT residents of Capitol Hill, riding in a Duwamish tribal canoe to protest Shell's Arctic drilling rig—has pulled the council and the mayor to the left. Would Council Member Mike O'Brien be getting detained at protests if Sawant weren't in the mix? Would Mayor Ed Murray be hopping onto flatbed pickup trucks and leading union rallies? No and no.
On the downside, Sawant was the lone vote against the confirmation of Seattle police chief Kathleen O'Toole—which now seems like a mistake to us—and, perhaps because she loves a righteous defeat, she's light on passed legislation. (Another scenario: The hacks at city hall are pulling a McGinn on Sawant: attack her, refuse to work with her, and then accuse her of being divisive and incapable of working with anyone.) But Sawant's strong line on fixing the Seattle Police Department (she gives the mayor a grade somewhere between a D- to F on police reform), her demands for publicly financed affordable housing in this city, and her insistence on progressive taxation to pay for better transit represent a perspective that this city needs to hear as these issues get debated and (hopefully) addressed.
Sawant's challengers left us underwhelmed. Morgan Beach has good things to say on gender pay equity but hasn't lived here long, seems uninformed on some issues, and admits she doesn't have a chance. Rod Hearne helped lead the final stages of the fight for marriage equality in Washington State, but he seriously sat in our offices and argued that Sawant has to go because she makes people in Bellevue uncomfortable. (You know who else makes people in Bellevue uncomfortable? Gays and lesbians, pot smokers, young people, musicians, artists, sex workers—basically a huge chunk of the people who live in District 3.) And local Urban League president Pamela Banks was unsteady once we got into the details of housing affordability and tax policy. (For example, she said at a forum that she was against an income tax and then told the SECB she was for a state income tax but against a city income tax—which makes no sense.)
Sawant still won't tell us exactly what a fully realized Socialist revolution will look like. But her presence and her politics are having a hugely positive impact on city politics. Vote Sawant.
Council District No. 4
But if that happens—we hope it won't—it'll at least be interesting. You know what would be worse? Another four years of Jean Godden. While the city outside her office burns in a garbage fire of rent hikes, hate crimes, and racist cops, Jean Godden is napping at her desk until the mayor calls and asks her to do his bidding. Sure, Godden talks a lot about gender pay equity, but she's not getting shit done on that issue. Meanwhile, she's flat-out ignoring other pressing issues. Godden couldn't even bring herself to list housing affordability on the "Issues" page of her campaign website. NEXT, PLEASE.
Michael Maddux will be the anti-Godden. A gay single dad who rents a basement apartment, Maddux is living the city's biggest issues right this second. He's a feisty longtime Democratic Party operative who happily splashed around in last year's shit-bath of a debate over a new parks district—ZZZZZZ and ew—so that the rest of us wouldn't have to. He wants to push progressive taxation like the employee head tax Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata have been trying to make happen. He wants better transit, city-owned affordable housing, and a new shelter for LGBTQ youth—and he wants to pay for it all by raising taxes on the city's richest assholes.
The other Godden challengers include young dude Abel Pacheco, an interesting candidate and someone who should run again someday. Pacheco needs seasoning, and his iffy stances on police reform were a clear disqualifier. Maddux's main competition to make it to the general election with Godden is a preppy transportation nerd named Rob Johnson. Johnson would be better than Godden—a pile of the used condoms we step over in Cal Anderson Park on the way to work would make a better city council member than circa 2015 Jean Godden—but Johnson is taking cash from the miscreants over at the chamber of commerce and the Seattle Restaurant Alliance. Vote Maddux.
Council District No. 5
Council District No. 6
The incontinent codgers at the Seattle Times editorial board dismiss O'Brien as a "far-lefty." That's music to our ears. Too bad O'Brien, who bikes to City Hall, describes himself—and his political style—as "Seattle nice."
Mike? Dude. You're a politician. Let go of "nice." You know that moneyed interests almost always carry the day at city hall. That angers us, and it should anger you. And wouldn't it be great, Mike, if everyone on the city council stopped fronting? Drop the niceties, Mike, and go fuck somebody up. Our suggestion: Tim Burgess, who ruthlessly prevented you from bringing a campaign-finance proposal to the floor for a vote last year—remember that, Mike? Yes. Yes! Let the rage boil up inside you. LIBERAL HULK SMASH. Vote O'Brien.
Council District No. 7
This guy showed up looking very tech now—chunky glasses, Fitbit-looking watch, clothes that probably cost more than the SECB's collective wardrobe—and told us he was running because the new tech arrivals in this city act like their mere presence is such a civic good that the rest of Seattle should bow and scrape and thank them. We were with Hartmann until it turned out he had shown up to our meeting with zero—literally, zero—actual ideas for what should change in this city. In other words, he felt that his mere presence in this race was such a civic good that the SECB should bow and scrape and endorse him. In other words, he was exactly exemplifying the problem he supposedly launched his candidacy to combat. We were not pleased, and after a bit of a verbal thrashing, Hartmann admitted that showing up and wasting our time was "literally the least I could do." You got that right, Gus.
Bagshaw, by way of contrast, came to life during a glorious pissing match with a misinformed SECB member who accused her of voting to block more homeless encampments. "You're dead-ass wrong," Bagshaw told him—and she was dead-ass right! Vote Bagshaw.
Council Position No. 8
Burgess does terrible things with his power. He's backed the disastrous downtown tunnel project, opposed local progressive taxation measures while hypocritically complaining about the state's regressive tax system, tried and failed to criminalize panhandling, shot down campaign finance reform, and voted against funding homeless encampments. His signature project, a universal prekindergarten program for kids, is a huge achievement—but it would have been easier to celebrate if Burgess had managed to tamp down his condescend-o-meter and collaborate with local daycare workers' unions instead of ending up in an epic fight with them. Seattle needs to harness the energy of grassroots progressives in order to address growing wealth inequality and a housing market that's spiraling out of control. But Burgess hates grassroots lefties. You can read it on his ruthless, condescending face.
We want to see Jonathan "the rent is too damn high" Grant on the city council dais instead. Grant is the former director of the Tenants Union of Washington State, where he's done yeoman's work on a shoestring budget assisting the masses of Seattle renters with their shitty landlords. Grant says he's been "fighting Tim Burgess tooth and nail" on affordable housing for years. And okay, he's probably the nerdiest candidate we're endorsing. But if Grant can marry his off-putting brand of nerdiness to savvy political work, we trust he will make this city a more affordable place to live. Although, just so ya know: Nerdiness may not be a strong enough a word to describe Grant's demeanor. Snarling, impatient piety seems to be his default setting. We wouldn't want to see him glowering at us in our offices every day, but we do think being locked in a room with a humorless wonk with a serial-killer vibe is just what some of Grant's potential future colleagues on the council deserve. Plus, he'll be independent and strong on police accountability reforms. He fully supports the recommendations of the department's civilian oversight commissioners, whereas Burgess has been all but silent in public about the issue, content to play second fiddle on the issue to Mayor Ed Murray, who hasn't advanced the reforms in more than a year. Grant says the council has made "glacial" progress under Burgess's leadership, and he's 100 percent right.
Oh, we sure liked John Roderick, the former lead singer of the Long Winters who's fresh on the political scene. Yes, he's poetic and dashing and once wrote a book called Electric Aphorisms. We think he even said a few of them to us, and they sounded delicious, but we needed to hear fully-fleshed-out policy proposals that can stand up to the Burgess Machine. And we didn't.
But either Grant or Roderick would be a better choice than Burgess—we'd stir them together into one charismatic-former-rock-star/kinda-ragey-housing-wonk supercandidate if we could. Whichever one doesn't make it through the primary should work for the other in the general election campaign.
So, yeah, vote Grant, but in the end, ABB—anyone but Burgess.
Council Position No. 9
Remember the Latino man a Seattle cop threatened to "beat the fucking Mexican piss" out of? She does, too—because she represented him in his lawsuit against the city. (She won him a $150,000 settlement.) She's also worked on a string of other excessive-force cases in Seattle, Lynnwood, and Brewster. The outcomes have been mixed, but she's more than proven her willingness to take on cops. Once, when an officer who had tased a Latina woman testified in court that getting tased was like feeling static shock from a doorknob, González challenged him to take his Taser out right there in court and zap her in front of the jury. He refused. In a town where it can, apparently, be hard for elected officials to stand up to cops, we think González will break that mold. Plus, at one point in our meeting, she said she's been told she has "Resting Bitch Face"—and she does not appear to give one fuck. Vote González.
Seattle School District No. 1, Director District No. 3
Her main competitor, Lauren McGuire, didn't offend us, but she didn't give off Geary's laser-intense vibes. Geary seems ready to bully her more reticent colleagues on the board into exerting meaningful oversight over the school district's administrators, whose record is one of attracting the attention of federal investigators over allegations of institutional racism and sexism and lots of other terrible crap. Vote for Geary so she can get in there and fix things.
Ha! Did you see what we did there? We pretended for two whole paragraphs that putting a passionate progressive on the school board will "fix things." Ha-ha-ha! That's never worked before—why would it work now? Still: Vote Geary.
Seattle School District No. 1, Director District No. 6
The brain of Nick Esparza, one of McLaren's challengers, seems partially liquefied already. He sent a confounding, incoherent video message to us over the internet. So, hey, let's all vote for the only candidate in the race who isn't a zombie and whose brain appears to be somewhat intact: Leslie Harris. She didn't bother showing up to the SECB interview, but then again, we wouldn't have attended either if we'd had a choice. Harris, a paralegal and longtime PTA volunteer, said her political views align with Sue Peters and Betty Patu—both school board members who've stood up to corporate reformers and who we've happily endorsed in the past. Our dream is that Harris will join forces with them and destroy the board's zombie bloc once and for all. Vote Harris.
This article has been updated since its original publication.