An early frontrunner has emerged in the race to unseat Kshama Sawant, the divisive socialist running for reelection to the Seattle City Council. Zachary DeWolf, a Director of the Seattle School Board, announced Tuesday that he was running for election in District 3. Many residents may not know who DeWolf is but his credentials make him an early favorite in the race to represent Capitol Hill, the Central District, and the surrounding neighborhoods on the council.
DeWolf is the only elected official currently challenging Sawant and he’s armed with major endorsements, including Teresa Mosqueda and Lorena González, the only two sitting council members who are not up for reelection this year. DeWolf also has endorsements from the entire school board.
Seven of the Seattle City Council’s nine seats are up for election this year, with a top-two primary taking place in August followed by a general election in November. Sawant has drawn a crowded group of opponents, including local pot businessman Logan Bowers, public defender Ami Nguyen, and Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce Director Egan Orion.
DeWolf held his official campaign announcement at Tougo Coffee, a newly opened shop in the new Yesler Terrace housing complex. DeWolf said the black-owned business and the Yesler Terrace redevelopment represented a success story in Seattle’s fight for housing affordability. DeWolf said during his press conference that he would bring his “lived experience” as a gay and native man that has experienced homelessness and sexual assault to the council.
“I’ve had to practice resilience and problem-solving in the face of some of the great challenges confronting our communities, my own experiences of homelessness and sexual assault included,” DeWolf said.
DeWolf repeatedly tried to frame his campaign around Seattle's issues rather than an argument against Sawant; he never said Sawant’s name during his press conference or in a follow-up interview, only referring to her as “whoever is in office.” But DeWolf repeated some of the same talking points that Sawant’s other opponents have started lobbing her way. Sawant’s opponents have said she prioritizes her socialist agenda over the needs of her constituents. DeWolf said essentially the same thing Tuesday, just leaving Sawant’s name out of his attack.
“I also believe we need a leader that is uncompromising and absolute in their commitment to listen to constituents, rather than allow their own personal politics to set their agenda,” DeWolf said Tuesday. “While it might be easier to deliver soundbites or yell our problems away, we simply don’t have time for that.”
DeWolf seems to be centering his campaign around the city’s response to homelessness. He is on staff at All Home King County, a governmental body that attempts to coordinate the region’s response to homelessness, and he told me after his press conference that the city needs to spend more money on policies that are working, like diversion programs, which work to connect people with housing as soon as they are at risk of being homeless, rather than waiting till the person completely loses housing.
“Diversion is one of the lowest cost interventions and it actually provides quick access for people to end their homelessness. There are really great interventions that we are doing and we just need to do more of them,” DeWolf said.
DeWolf also said the city should be doing shallow rent subsidies, a policy where “each month we give them a certain portion of dollars that pay for their rent.”
He told me the city “certainly needs to bring in more revenue” for fighting homelessness but he declined to tell me what sources of revenue he would raise.
“Part of it is not having an answer right now to tell you, part of it is making sure we’re bringing folks in, having community education and talking about what that might be,” DeWolf.
DeWolf also declined to tell me if he supported the now-doomed head tax, which would have imposed a per-employee tax on big employers like Amazon to pay for homelessness.
Before our brief interviewed ended I asked DeWolf how he felt about receiving Mosqueda and González's endorsements, a coordinated endorsement that is a direct attack on Sawant from two of her colleagues (including one, in Mosqueda, that occasionally is on the same side as the controversial socialist). DeWolf, in what appears to be a pattern, declined to use the endorsements to attack the incumbent he is running against.
“I think all it communicates is that those people believe in me and have great experiences working together,” DeWolf said. “It continues to affirm that I work together on issues, institutions, to get things done for my neighbors.”
Also, for what it's worth, the Stranger's Election Control Board basically asked DeWolf to run for council back in 2017 when the endorsement committee (which I was not a member of at the time) endorsed him for the Seattle School Board.
"Zachary Pullin DeWolf—young, progressive, indigenous—should be running for city council or state legislature. But DeWolf has set his sights on the school board, for some mysterious reason, the place where political ambitions go to die," the board wrote.
It looks like DeWolf is still ambitious two years after winning his position on the school board with 64.5 percent of the vote.