The majority of the Stranger Election Control Board voted to endorse Cary Moon for mayor. We voted to endorse Nikkita Oliver. Here, we explain why. Find the full SECB endorsements here and the cheat sheet here. Ballots are due August 1.
Democrats keep losing. In recent special elections in South Carolina, Kansas and Georgia, Dems counted on outrage over Trump to bring voters to the polls. That messaging didn’t work during the presidential election, and it continues to fail. “We’re not pussy-grabbing racists,” does not constitute a political strategy, but don’t tell that to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Seattle has the opportunity to chart a path forward for liberals and progressives alike. But we won’t lead by paying lip service to Trump outrage. We won’t lead by electing cookie cutter Democrats promising to guard the city’s status quo. True leadership in Seattle means grappling with our extreme income inequality, our housing affordability crisis, and our police violence. We lead by developing ideas that actually solve the city’s most pressing problems for people. We lead by inspiring young and historically marginalized voters to hit the ballot box.
In Seattle’s mayoral race, Nikkita Oliver offers the best platform for the people most impacted by our city’s rapid change. She's one of them. As Oliver told the hosts of the Breakfast Club, a morning radio show in New York: “We’re at a crucial pivot point, a crucial time when if we don’t actually grab some elected power—especially in Seattle—we’re not going to get to live in that city anymore.”
The only renter in the field of frontrunners for mayor, Oliver understands the struggles of tenants who pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing, about 47 percent of all renters in Seattle. She’s experienced homelessness. And as the only queer woman of color among the top mayoral contenders, Oliver has lived, first-hand, the harsh economic and racial realities of being displaced by tech wealth.
That’s why the newly-formed Peoples Party selected Oliver to run for office. Oliver's background is also why her platform has the most inclusive and transformative vision for the city. And on top of her bold ideas and impressive career in art, law, education and activism, it's why we think she's the best choice for Seattle’s next mayor.
On housing, Oliver believes we must encourage density while recognizing the free market won’t be able to generate enough affordable housing for low-income people on its own. She supports City Council candidate Jon Grant’s plan to require developers make 25 percent of new buildings affordable, wants to increase public housing, and recognizes the critical need for widespread, affordable mass transit. She supports taxing corporations to fund “housing first” models for people living on the street. To help address disparities in the criminal justice system, Oliver wants to work with the City Attorney’s office to devise restorative justice programming that will send fewer kids into juvenile detention.
Oliver's political group, the Peoples Party, is a grassroots organization in every sense of the word. Without taking donations from corporations or tribes, the party has raised more than $85,000 in six months. Oliver’s average donation, $68, is less than any other major candidate eligible for campaign fundraising. Every candidate says they won’t cave to special interests. We believe Oliver.
Critics will blast Oliver for past statements saying we ought to eventually abolish and replace police. But Oliver’s mayoral platform doesn’t go that far. Before the Seattle City Council voted on historic police accountability legislation in May, much of her platform echoed its ideas. On top of that, she wants to give the Community Policing Commission a bigger role in police reform and increase the number of mental health professionals on hand to assist police when intervening with people in crisis.
Critics might also bring up Oliver’s opposition to the North Precinct and new juvenile detention center as harbingers of a more radical future to come, but even former mayor and current mayoral candidate Mike McGinn agrees that a $160 million North Precinct is a misplaced priority, and the Seattle City Council just passed an ordinance that will allow anti-youth jail activists to challenge the new facility’s permitting. Besides, what’s wrong envisioning a future that relies less on our racist criminal justice system to tackle problems rooted in economic injustices?
Is it unfortunate that Oliver didn’t vote against the new youth detention center when it appeared on the ballot? Yes. But given Oliver’s prior role as an activist working explicitly outside the system of electoral politics, her choice is not surprising. Plus, did McGinn or Murray actually represent Oliver’s political interests in the last go-round? It’s a worthy question to ask. During the last mayoral election, more than half the city didn’t vote either. The median age of those who did vote was 50, despite the fact that 18 to 34 year-olds make up nearly 40 percent of the city. Whiter and richer neighborhoods turned in their ballots, while more diverse, low-income parts of the city had some of the lowest turnout.
Harumph over non-voters all you want, but if Oliver’s grassroots campaign successfully leverages her popularity with underrepresented groups into casting ballots, she could change the future of political engagement in the city. That prospect alone is much more exciting and productive than tsk-tsking a candidate whose voting record is spotty. How the hell is it democratic to discount a candidate from office because she didn’t have faith in the system in the past?
And let’s be real here. Nikkita Oliver isn’t that radical. She’s a candidate for political office, just like the other 20 hopefuls running in this race. We don’t even agree with all of her policies. But while Oliver has acquired a reputation as a NIMBY—and has, to our chagrin, used the words “neighborhood character”—her housing policies are, in fact, NEARLY IDENTICAL to those of urbanist Cary Moon.
Oliver fits the mold of other activist-candidates picking up steam in cities and counties across the country. Look at Chokwe Antar Lumumba, an attorney who successfully ran on a “People’s Platform” for mayor in Jackson, Mississippi. Or khalid kamau, a Democratic Socialist who won a City Council seat in South Fulton, Georgia. Civil rights lawyer Larry Krasner, who, after a “career of suing cops,” won the Democratic nomination for Philadelphia district attorney. Tishaura Jones, the St. Louis city treasurer, made Black Lives Matter a central element of her mayoral campaign. Hell, even Montana’s Rob Quist, who campaigned as an advocate for single-payer healthcare, got closer to winning a Congressional seat than Democrats had in the last four years.
Anyone who chalks up Oliver’s appeal to “identity politics”—a term that could encompass both Trump’s appeal to angry white voters and centrists’ appeals to white homeowners, but is usually lobbed against young women and people of color as an example of political correctness “gone too far”—hasn’t been awake for the last eight years. The status quo has already been unacceptable for too many people for too long, and it’s only getting worse. We need to lift up the basic living standards in our city as much as economic and social forces continue to push people down and out.
And we believe Nikkita Oliver has more momentum than Moon to actually win the election. According to a KUOW/KING 5 survey of prospective voters published on June 21, Oliver came in third place at 9 percent, after former US attorney Jenny Durkan at 14 percent and former Seattle mayor Mike McGinn at 19 percent. (Moon came in at 3 percent.) A second poll of prospective voters by landline found Moon ahead of Oliver by just one percentage point: 4 percent to Oliver’s 3 percent.
Unlike Moon, Oliver had already jumped into the race when Ed Murray was still the top contender, a bold move that showcased a dedication to change before it became easier for other candidates to file. She’ll bring with her the experience and the ideas of communities who are regularly paid lip service in city government but not truly heard. If we believe the system is not broken, but in fact working exactly as it was designed, if we believe it’s time to address structural inequities that force people of color to the physical and economic edges of our city, if we believe we need a new model of leadership for the left, it’s time to make a change to who holds the power. It’s time for Nikkita Oliver.