It's almost time to vote our kid-caging, planet-destroying, pussy-grabbing "president" out of office. And by almost, we mean you have a bit more than a year to go. (You! Can! Make! It!) BUT, right now, right where you live and work and fuck and vape, there are some life-and-death, local-history-altering votes to be cast. So for now, focus on what's directly in front of you, people. Grab a black pen, walk out to your mailbox, and find your ballot. This couldn't be easier.
Right here, locally, is everything you say you're always mad about: disgusting levels of inequality, humans dying in the streets for lack of shelter, ICE flights, unprotected green spaces, and Big Business doling out Big Money in order to get its way.
That last one—Big Business tossing its cash around—is key to understanding this year's epic battle for the soul of the Seattle City Council. The council is in trouble with Amazon and other major Seattle corporations for daring to try to tax Big Business last year to (gasp!) fund local homelessness services. Amazon and friends are now out for revenge, opening their political cash spigots in an attempt to manipulate public opinion ahead of the August 6 primary election so that a bunch of business-boot-licking candidates will be installed in the seven council seats currently up for grabs.
Will the Stranger Election Control Board sit on our pot suppositories and watch as Jeff Bezos and our other corporate overlords flood Seattle's local elections with Citizens United–approved cash that warps our democracy and tilts the playing field in favor of the Tesla-driving titans? Fuck no! (Except in one very special city council race where, to our shock and confusion, we find ourselves on the same side as the cash-spewing overlords. Weird!)
In addition to guiding you toward a less-corporate council, we have some urgent things to tell you about votes you need to make to fund local libraries and parks (literacy and fresh air! Two things our president really hates). Plus, there's the civil-rights legend on the King County Council who this year has a challenger we like even better, the never-ending stream of masochists who want to be on the Seattle School Board, and the wannabe ballers who aspire to sit on the port commission.
So put down the edible—and the edible underwear, and the new ASMR video that makes your nipples hard—for a hot civic minute. This won't take longer than your last edging session. Did you find your ballot yet? (We already told you: It's in your mailbox.) Then vote how we tell you and no one gets hurt.
Last step: Mail in your ballot by August 6. (Or stuff it in your nearest ballot drop box.)
After that's all done, please return to your edibles, hit play on that ASMR video, and resume edging your way through the Iowa caucus and beyond. Soon enough, we'll all get to vote against the orange asshole who can't go a single day without telling 20 fucking lies, and whose name will not—at least, not right now—sully the SECB's plump, Glossier-coated lips.
Don't want to read our endorsements? Skip 'em. Just consult our cheat sheet and vote for the candidates we endorsed. If you want to know why you'll be voting for the people we've endorsed—and you will be voting for the people we've endorsed—go ahead and keep reading.
The SECB is Lester Black, Chase Burns, Christopher Frizzelle, Nathalie Graham, Katie Herzog, Jasmyne Keimig, Laurie Saito, Eli Sanders, Rich Smith, and Ari Hoffman's neighbor. The Stranger does not endorse in uncontested races or in races we forgot.
King County Proposition No. 1
Parks, Recreation, Trails, and Open Space Levy
Before we get into all the drama of who needs to be voted out, who needs to be voted in, and who's promising to suck Amazon's dick best while a brand-new Amazon delivery drone films from above and Alexa records audio, let's all take one deep breath together. Good. Now exhale and imagine you're in a pristine section of King County that hasn't yet been paved over for a freeway, or had a blanket of sprawl dropped on it, or seen one of Bezos's "fulfillment centers" pop up. This beautiful place is a King County park. It's supported by county property taxes, paid every year by fortunate people in this county who actually own homes. Seems like a pretty good deal. Now imagine never being able to take another calming breath in this park again.
That's pretty much what could happen if you fail to vote for King County Proposition 1, which renews a property tax levy that's responsible for 80 percent of King County's park-related budget.
But it doesn't have to be this way! By voting to renew (and, yes, modestly expand) the county parks levy, you'll be preserving the spaces that help preserve our collective sanity while also funding more county trails, better trailhead parking, refurbished play areas, more ballfields, nicer pools, and more opportunities for kiddos to get into Seattle's zoo and aquarium for free.
Metropolitan King County,
Council District No. 2
Now back to the dirty business of politics. In this episode: a political newcomer trying to dethrone a not-yet-retired lion of the local left.
The newcomer, Girmay Zahilay, is a lawyer with an impressive pedigree (Stanford undergrad, University of Pennsylvania law, and Franklin High School, baby!) who was raised in public housing in the South End. With all that fancy schooling, he started a nonprofit called Rising Leaders, which offers mentorship programs for middle-school kids.
He's taking on incumbent King County Council member Larry Gossett, a living civil-rights legend. Gossett is the reason we now see the face of Martin Luther King Jr. on the official county seal. He's good.
But Gossett hasn't faced a serious challenger since he first won his seat in 1993, and it's been starting to show. For a municipal relations position at the county, he recently voted for a white guy over a qualified woman of color who was recommended by the employment committee. He also voted for the King County Council to take over local arts funding organization 4Culture, opening up a previously independent public authority to political cronyism. And he doesn't seem to be up on the latest policies for dealing with kids who commit violent crimes.
Zahilay, on the other hand, is dedicated to meeting the county's stated goal of zero youth detention—and he's got some good ideas for making that happen, including experimenting with close-to-home facilities for children who commit violent crimes. He also promises to fight, populist-style, for a county bank and a public investment vehicle, both of which would bring in more money for housing. Plus, he scored an endorsement from Insecure star Issa Rae! (They went to Stanford together.) Gossett has earned our admiration and gratitude—and you know admiration and gratitude are two things the pouty, potty-mouthed SECB rarely dish out. But District 2 needs some new energy in this seat.
Metropolitan King County,
Council District No. 8
We've got two serious doofuses running against incumbent and first openly gay King County Council member Joe McDermott. These two doofuses are perennial candidate Goodspaceguy and some Speak Out Seattle member named Michael Robert Neher, who, according to his Facebook page, decided to run after attending "a social event organized by a group of concerned Seattle voters."
Shocker: Neher is against safe injection sites, against LEAD (a nationally renowned diversion and harm reduction program), and pro Saul Spady's "farm jail" idea for homeless people "who commit crimes," an idea the SECB will not dignify with an explanation. (And if you're looking for us to explain who Saul Spady is... just type his name and "Dick" into Google and let the algorithm take care of the rest.) We don't know what it is about this year that is making so many of these quivering law-and-order types run for office, but, fuck, they're really coming out of the woodwork.
Anyway, McDermott is good. He cosponsored and passed the secure gun storage ordinance, increased protections for immigrants, scored more money for affordable housing, and fought (but ultimately failed, thanks in part to fellow council member Larry Gossett) to keep 4Culture independent and free from crony politics. He's been a strong and effective leader on the council. Give him four more years.
Commissioner Position No. 2
Your ballot is going to ask you to vote someone onto the port commission, so you should probably know what a port commissioner does. Hint: They commission the Port of Seattle, an especially powerful entity (that includes the airport) with a $670 million budget largely drawn from local property taxes.
There's no incumbent in the Position 2 race, and it's dense with wannabe Fred Fellemans (see Position 5), but we think that out of this pack, Sam Cho is most up to snuff.
Cho was previously a special assistant in the Obama administration. And he was a staffer for state senator Bob Hasegawa (D-Beacon Hill). Currently, he's president and owner of a business called Seven Seas Exports (at his endorsement interview, he brought the SECB eggs; they made for great omelets). Cho promised us he'll sell the business if he's elected, and the obvious benefit of Cho being in the import/export biz is that he knows the ins and outs of something we're told the port is "really big" in.
Speaking of things the port does, Cho has some big ideas. We're not sure how attainable some of them are, like the one where he wants the port to invent hydrogen planes. But we're into his love for moving cargo flights away from Sea-Tac International Airport to Grant County International Airport to cut down on congestion. Cho was also the only person to propose legalizing sex work as a solution for combating human trafficking—yes, legalize and regulate it. He acknowledges the port doesn't get to write sex-trafficking laws. Still, we like where his head is at.
Commissioner Position No. 5
Fred Felleman is the only choice for this job. A former fisheries biologist with a passion for the environment, Felleman needs another four years to keep jawboning the port into being a better steward of its giant cargo- ship parking lot (aka Puget Sound).
With his wind-tousled gray hair, twinkly eyes, and infectious excitement for all things Port of Seattle, Felleman is also the only person who could ever get the SECB to listen to triumphant stories about how he made sure the light-rail stop at Sea-Tac was enclosed (yay!), how he started a system of ferrying people to the airport via golf carts to make it more accessible (okay...), how he's at the forefront of fighting cruise-ship scrubber discharge (what? But go, Fred!), how he wants to cut down on idling planes' emissions (do it!), and how he has a vision for improving the Seaport Alliance with Tacoma (end of interest, but keep on twinkling!).
Felleman's competition is Garth Jacobson, an attorney who we're pretty sure just got into the race to (A) brag about his frequent flier status and (B) complain about TSA lines, and Jordan Lemmon, a theater supervisor and technician who's running just to be in an election. His words.
At a time when our airport is expanding, air travel congestion has never been higher, and new cruise terminals are coming on Elliott Bay, we need Felleman and his compelling, twinkling, go green approach.
Council District No. 1
We have now arrived at the battle for the soul of the Seattle City Council! And what better place to start than incumbent council member Lisa Herbold, who last year voted for the homelessness-services-funding "head tax" that made Amazon so furious that the company halted construction of a downtown office building in protest. Such a big-ass, floor-pounding fuss was kicked up over this "head tax" that the council—including Herbold—soon voted to repeal it. But Amazon is not done flexing, and a political action committee the corporation is bankrolling is now going after Herbold.
Good thing Phil Tavel, one of the folks getting help from Amazon, is pretty much a walking reason to vote for Herbold. Just listen to what Tavel told the SECB: "Lisa cares more about the renters' rights"—sold!—"and not necessarily someone who owns a home, or is a landlord, or owns a business."
Herbold does care about homeowners and small-business owners, by the way, and there are plenty of them in West Seattle, where Herbold is quite popular. Among other reasons, people in District 1 like Herbold because she's spent her first term on the council as a dependable vote on progressive issues, fighting for secure scheduling laws and more renter protections, and trying to find ways to make Seattle's tax system more equitable.
In being a strong voice for her district, Herbold has at times come dangerously close to sounding like a NIMBY. For example, she wants to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on an expensive light-rail tunnel in West Seattle just because some wealthy West Seattleites don't want to see an elevated light-rail track. She also voted against allowing reduced parking requirements. But Herbold has community-first defenses for these stances and her opponents are far, far worse.
Tavel, a public defender and former video-game developer, lost when he ran against Herbold in 2015. (He also lost in 2014, when he ran for district court judge under the slogan "Give the gavel to Tavel.") This time around, Tavel is pledging to fight like hell for parking spaces. He also helped sue the city to try to stop up-zoning. Herbold's other opponent, Brendan Kolding, is a cop who wants the city to be tougher on clearing encampments, hates up-zones, and makes campaign statements that sound like promises to fight police accountability. Yikes.
Council District No. 2
This South Seattle district is currently represented by Council President Bruce Harrell. But Harrell is retiring, and longtime community advocate Tammy Morales, who came within a few hundred votes of pushing Harrell into retirement back in 2015—just like the SECB wanted her to!—is still the right person to take Harrell's job.
Morales grew up with a mom holding down three jobs, sometimes living in public housing. She wants to "serve working families so they don't have to struggle the way my family did." She has a master's degree in community planning and experience working on tough issues in Texas, New York, and Seattle. Most importantly, she's ready to tax Big Business and fight for more progressive taxation in general. "We can't keep growing this city on the backs of working folks," Morales says—to which the SECB says, RIGHT ON.
She has sophisticated views on how to achieve both greater density and less displacement, which is the trick that needs to be pulled off in the fast-gentrifying South End. And to the people who are always calling for more police in her diverse but under-resourced district, Morales says: "If we're going to hire more officers—and I don't think we need to be hiring more officers—then in the South End, at least, they need to be unarmed community service officers who are there for conflict management and resolution, and relationship building."
Morales is endorsed by Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, she's for housing rent control and commercial rent control, and her bottom line is this: "We need to stop prioritizing the voices of corporate power brokers in this city and shift economic control back to our communities." YES, YAAASSS, AND YES AGAIN. Her most interesting opponents—city employee Christopher Peguero and Black Girls Do Bike member Phyllis Porter—were each a real pleasure to chat with, but they lack the kind of deeply researched, comprehensive vision this district needs.
Council District No. 3
After watching Council Member Kshama Sawant loudly tell the SECB a thing or two, one SECB member, quoting Lizzo—and meaning this as a high compliment—described Sawant as "100 percent that bitch."
For sure, Sawant's brash, uncompromising, movement-style politicking offends those with delicate sensibilities. But she's not worried about the comfortable and delicate, and those "movements" she's always uplifting have helped win us a $15 minimum wage, progressive renter protections, $29 million for affordable housing, and more. Give her another term, and we might win more rent and relocation assistance, as well as significant investments in public housing.
The big businesses in the big glass buildings all around us are going to do everything in their power to unseat Sawant, in part because they fundamentally don't want to pay their fair share. And there's no doubt—not even in the SECB's cynical, pot-addled brain—that Sawant will do everything in her power to make sure they do pay their share.
Sawant's opponents call her "divisive" and "ineffective." But if being "divisive" and "ineffective" means voting for all the up-zones, casting one of only two votes NOT to repeal the "head tax" on big businesses, and being the sole vote against a bad police contract, then we could use a little bit more of that kind of "divisiveness" on the council.
Sawant challenger Egan Orion is chamber of commerce bait who cannot wait to prostrate himself before
Daddy Amazon "the biggest innovators" in the city. Zachary DeWolf is an elected official, but he hasn't done much with his post on the Seattle School Board. King County public defender Ami Nguyen moved here two years ago, and she sounds like it when she talks about the issues. Logan Bowers is a small-business owner and urbanist who does a good job explaining wonky things to people, but up-zoning isn't the answer to everything.
Sawant's pressure continues to make legislation and budgets more progressive. If she's not in there calling out the bullshit and being "100 percent that bitch," then Seattle will just regress to patting itself on the back for hating Donald Trump while people continue to die in the streets. Fuck that.
Council District No. 4
Northeast Seattle's District 4 is poised to become one of the most exciting and diverse districts in the city. With two light-rail stations opening up in the next two years, a University of Washington master plan that's set to reshape the University District as we know it (hello, Innovation District), and one controversial street—35th Avenue Northeast—that's at the center of a brawl over bike lanes, District 4 needs a city council member who's adept, progressive, and not a fucking snake.
That's Shaun Scott. The 34-year-old knows District 4 inside and out. He was a student at UW, where he studied the nitty- gritty of racist zoning laws, and now he's a Democratic Socialist of America member and a force in this election. Scott is maxing out on Democracy Voucher donations because so many Seattle residents recognize his vision: a more inclusive city, a promise of transparency, and a Green New Deal for Seattle that puts climate ahead of everything else (because IF YOU DIDN'T KNOW, we are all doomed).
If the lawn signs in Wedgwood and other wealthy, white parts of this district are anything to go by, Scott has his work cut out for him. Those signs are generally for Alex Pedersen, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Amazon favorite who's sweeping little old ladies off their feet and winning the single-family vote with a promise of accountability and trust. Hard pass on that guy.
And even with a few other compelling liberal candidates in this race (hi, Emily Myers and Cathy Tuttle), Scott is the clear choice. You and all your friends better turn the fuck out for him, because YOU KNOW the older crowd and their bike-phobia and homeless-people-panic are going to stuff the ballot boxes with their Pedersen votes. Scott especially needs an edge in the primary, since the crucial student vote will be hard to come by in August, when UW is on break.
Council District No. 5
Seattle needs a vibrant North End that is more than a bedroom community for downtown and a rest stop for Interstate 5—and reelecting Council Member Debora Juarez is North Seattle's best chance for getting more housing, more jobs, and more transit.
As a council member, Juarez voted for the Mandatory Housing Affordability up-zones, brought a $75 million hockey training facility to Northgate, and lobbied Sound Transit to build a new light-rail station at 130th Avenue Northeast. She told the SECB she supports even more up-zones, including allowing duplexes and triplexes in all single-family-zoned areas.
Juarez's strengths on housing make up for her other failings. She rarely talks to the media and, according to many community members, is slow to respond to constituents. She also has a problem taking responsibility for her fuckups. She can seemingly admit wrongdoing and pass the buck in the same breath. (Which is a good skill for a politician! But also pretty annoying.) Juarez always seems to find a way to show how everyone other than herself is mistaken, or as she put it to the SECB in the midst of one long-winded, sidestepping response, "Let me just finish this, and then I'll tell you how you're wrong."
When asked about her repeal of the head tax last summer, Juarez told the SECB, "You're absolutely right, we fucked it up," while also finding a way to blame former mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine for not putting the head tax to the voters. Confusing!
Juarez's repeal of the head tax is especially troubling now that the Amazon-backed Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce PAC has endorsed her this year. But Juarez assured the SECB that she wants to bring the head tax back (her preference is a voter initiative) and make the tech companies pay more in taxes.
While Juarez is not the SECB's favorite member of the city council, and she's hardly the best on police reform, and we really can't believe we're endorsing someone who's also endorsed by the Amazon-funded PAC (she's the one drowning in money in the illustration at the top of this article), she's also a lot better than her competition.
Ann Davison Sattler is a Safe Seattle–aligned NIMBY who describes legalizing backyard cottages as opening the "floodgates to mindless up-zoning development." Yuck. And John Lombard is a well-intentioned activist who is against legalizing density in single-family-zoned areas and seems like someone who would call the cops on his neighbors for growing weed.
Council District No. 6
Dan Strauss introduced himself to the SECB as "Ballard's paperboy" because, well, he actually delivered papers around Ballard as a kid. That's how he comes off: a bright, affable young guy who everyone seems to know. Sort of like a younger Mike O'Brien without the baggage that apparently comes with being Mike O'Brien. (We'll miss you, buddy.)
But Strauss is no chummy dummy. He's been a professional wonk for a decade, serving as chief policy adviser to Council Member Sally Bagshaw and as a legislative aide to state senator David Frockt. He understands the severity of the challenges ahead. "Kids that I grew up with are living homeless," he said. "We've been in a state of emergency, and people continue to die in the streets." Of the approximately 172 people running for this seat, Strauss is the candidate with the depth of knowledge and the community connections to address those issues.
Strauss is also impressive on transit, which will be especially important as the process for expanding light rail to Ballard continues. His good ideas include supporting an increased network of protected bike lanes, requiring big employers to subsidize ORCA cards for employees, and using normal buses on RapidRide routes so we can speed up transit now.
Chamber-backed candidate Heidi Wills has too many mob ties. (No, we are not over "Strippergate"! Google it!) Chamber-backed Jay Fathi couldn't give us a straight answer on anything. Melissa Hall was good on the issues, but she hasn't generated enough excitement to be viable in the general election. We invited Jon Lisbin to the meeting just to make sure he still sucks, and he absolutely does. And though Sergio García's mustache is undeniably beautiful, he told us he was against I-940, the statewide police accountability initiative.
Council District No. 7
We have to be honest. We didn't really love anybody running for Council Member Sally Bagshaw's soon-to-be- vacated seat, which covers downtown and Queen Anne.
Michael George said he was "ideologically opposed" to the head tax, so we were ideologically opposed to him. Jim Pugel, a former cop hated by other cops for his reputation as a reformer, seemed progressive during our endorsement meeting, but then we read his Chamber of Commerce questionnaire and discovered he's talking in circles on taxes. Jason Williams is a broken PowerPoint presentation who said he wanted to approach big employers "with humility" and then work with them to "define the problem [of the housing shortage], use design thinking to diverge and converge on a series of solutions... and then to ideate on those kinds of solutions." If we weren't so stoned, we would have gotten out of our chairs and chased him out of the room.
Andrew J. Lewis is an assistant city attorney in Pete Holmes's office. He describes himself as a "labor Democrat" who descends from a long line of union workers, and he's endorsed by SECB fave former city council member Nick Licata. (Miss you, buddy.)
He's also a renter who organized in support of the Fort Lawton housing project before it was cool, and, of all the candidates, his housing policies seem the most fleshed out. Lewis got our attention when he said he wanted to create a "public option for housing," where the city buys up and sets low rents for tons of housing units and then uses our bonding capacity get more money for more units. And though he was against the head tax, he said "there could be a scenario" where he would support a head tax, which was, unfortunately, the best answer out of the whole group.
Proposition No. 1
Property Tax Levy Renewal for the Seattle Public Library
If you don't vote to approve this measure, we will throw books at you—heavy books, banned books, smutty books with extra- sticky pages, and even e-books, with their special, pixelated sting. This is a vote to reasonably fund Seattle's libraries, which makes it a no-brainer.
But if "no-brainer" describes you now that you've dragged your ass this far down the ballot, don't worry, we got you. Take another pull—or sip, or dab—and listen closely: The Seattle Public Library system, with its Central Library and 26 branches in neighborhoods throughout the city, is absolutely the best taxpayer-funded thing going in Seattle. Try to think of some other free public service that offers nice facilities, accessible bathrooms, all the books and movies and music you could want, free internet access, free meeting rooms, help with school homework, connections to housing and addiction resources for teens, and early learning and literacy programs (including Drag Queen Story Hours—suck it, Fox News!).
You can't think of another service like this because it doesn't exist, and so you will be voting to renew and expand a local property-tax levy that makes up a quarter of the library system's operating budget. "Wait!" you say. "Expand the levy? By how much?" By about $3 more a month in property taxes if you own the average Seattle home, you cheapskate. Oh, and guess what? Some of this new money will be used to forever do away with library late fees! Case closed.
Seattle School District 1,
Director District 1
Why the fuck would anyone want to be on the Seattle School Board, a job that requires you to listen to angry parents while getting paid less than a part-time dog walker? It's a thankless task, truly, but with a billion-dollar budget and more than 50,000 students to worry about, it's also one that requires a wealth of knowledge about the problems the city's public schools are facing.
For this reason, we're endorsing Liza Rankin, a Seattle Public Schools (SPS) parent, education advocate, and school volunteer who is deeply involved in the public schools. Rankin has stood with striking teachers, supports a reduction in standardized testing, and is opposed to charter schools, which drain the public school system of funding.
She says her priority will be making sure every student feels safe and valued at school (yes, including Shitty Timmy). This means implementing an ethnic studies curriculum, relying more on restorative rather than punitive discipline, getting special-education students back into classrooms with their peers, improving equity, increasing funding, and hiring more goddamn school nurses than the nine currently serving all 50,000 SPS students.
Will she be able to get all this done? Probably not. SPS moves at the pace of a one-lunged sloth coated in concrete, but she's the best candidate in this race.
Seattle School District 1,
Director District 3
We got two answers when we asked school board candidates for the single biggest issue right now: funding and equity. Chandra Hampson, a consultant, education advocate, and current president of the Seattle Council PTSA, said the latter. It's not hard to see why: A criminally large opportunity gap persists between black and white students, and the next school board must be serious about addressing it.
Hampson, a HoChunk/Winnebago and Ojibwe/White Earth with a BA from Stanford and an MBA from UW, says she will work to make SPS an equitable, anti-racist organization with space for all students' cultures, values, and language. She wants administrators held accountable for failures, has been working with SPS to become more transparent, and says she'll work to retain teachers and staffers of color. Hampson has been endorsed by the King County Dems, the 46th District Dems, city council member Debora Juarez, and school board members Zachary DeWolf and Jill Geary. She's also got some serious tough-mother energy—exactly what SPS needs to handle all the flaming shit its facing (and we aren't just talking about Timmy).
Seattle School District 1,
Director District 6
In case you haven't gotten the point already, it's really bad out there in the Seattle Public Schools, which is the reason we're endorsing incumbent board president Leslie S. Harris for reelection. Hang with us for a moment and it will all make sense.
Harris was first elected to the school board in 2015. While we liked Harris's current challenger, Molly Mitchell, and her hot burning fire for tackling inequity in SPS, Harris won us over in one major respect: experience. She's a veteran school board member now, with an eye for detail and a take-no-bullshit-from-anyone-including-Timmy's-mother kind of attitude. At a time when SPS is facing many multifaceted crises, someone with Harris's experience is required. As she said, "I know where the bodies are buried."
Dig up those bodies, Madame President! (Holy shit, it feels good to say Madame President. Hurry up, 2020!)
***Correction: This post originally stated that Chandra Hampson is a Winnebago Tribal member. She is actually a member of both the HoChunk Nation from the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and the Anishinaabe from the White Earth Nation. We regret the error.