A true underdog story unfolded today in City Hall. After Tanya Woo lost a campaign supported by more than $100,000 in donations from big business interests, the new Seattle City Council dutifully obeyed the wishes of its corporate overlords by voting 5-3 to appoint her to the citywide seat left vacant by Teresa Mosqueda, effectively replacing a strong advocate for progressive taxation with an anti-tax extremist. It doesn’t get more grassroots than that!

The vote comes more than a week after Tim Ceis, a corporate-PAC-wrangler and consultant to Mayor Bruce Harrell, told corporate donors to push the council to appoint Woo. The new council members apparently knew it would be a bad look to so easily fulfill the wishes of big business, or at least during the meeting they defended themselves as if it were a bad look 

Council President Sara Nelson, who cast the decisive vote for Woo this afternoon, asked her colleagues not to allow the “weaponization of a leaked third party email distract us from what should be a celebration of making this body whole so we can go about the important work of the City." She accused people who mentioned the letter of trying to cast doubt upon the process that happened to result in their friend getting elected. 

Council Member Tammy Morales, who voted for her own nominee for the position, Mari Sugiyama, voiced a different perspective. In her remarks before the vote, Morales said she felt “disappointed” in the process that all along seemed like a “forgone conclusion.” She claimed that the nominees did not get a “fair shake” because of Ceis’s attempts to tip the scales toward Woo. Morales said that Seattle voters do not want corporate interests “buying” influence. They said that loud and clear during the backlash election against Amazon in 2019. So, no, Ceis. The corporate donors who backed the newbies on council did not have a right to decide who fills the vacancy, as he suggested in his letter to them. 

Council Member Cathy Moore, also a “proud” Woo supporter, pushed back. No matter how journalists report her vote for Ceis’s darling, no one bought her vote, she said. 

Regardless of who put Woo’s name in the council’s ear, one thing is clear: This is a solidly conservative City Council. Nelson, once a conservative outcast, got elected council president and will likely lead a strong conservative bloc with Council Members Rob Saka, Maritza Rivera, Bob Kettle, and now Woo, who gives them a five-person majority. Like any other conservative majority, that means they will support austerity measures to preserve the wealth of corporations, bend over backwards to hire more cops that do not exist, promote sprawl and NIMBYism in its housing planning, and to roll back important protections for workers and renters in Seattle.

Woo’s appointment also sends an obvious “fuck you” message to Morales and to the progressives she represents. Woo lost to Morales, making the incumbent the only purely labor-backed candidate to win a seat in 2023. Now, not only is she a minority on the council, but her colleagues undermined her victory by giving the person she beat a consolation prize. Not to mention—though Morales mentioned it on the dais—Saka also nominated another one of her former election rivals. Morales agreed to play nice with the new council despite their differences, but they aren’t making it easy for her!

The vote split in itself may reveal challenges to come. While Nelson, Saka, Rivera, Moore, and Kettle voted together, Council Members Dan Strauss, Joy Hollingsworth, and Morales all voted for their initial nominees—Vivian Song, Linh Thai, and Sugiyama, respectively. If progressives hope to win anything or even defend what the last council already won, these three will have to work together and whip some fucking votes.