Scott brings home the crown for District 4.
Scott brings home the crown for District 4. Timothy Kenney

Last night, 10 of the 14 candidates running for city council attempted to impress the youths gathered at Neumos for Candidate Survivor 2019, a candidate forum organized by the Washington Bus and The Stranger. Judging by the amount of premium heckling coming from the audience, many of the candidates did not succeed in their mission to win the youth vote.

But with an actually pretty funny standup routine and a bold stance on affordable housing and environmental justice, the audience crowned socialist Shaun Scott—who is facing off against former Tim Burgess aide Alex Pedersen in District 4—their favorite candidate. Tammy Morales, who's running in District 2, and who showed up wearing a Wonder Woman costume, was the audience's clear second choice.

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A lot of weird shit happened and it was a lot to process, so let's take a moment and break it all down.

Your panelists this evening included Chris Lampkin, Kirsten Harris-Talley, and yours truly.
Your panelists this evening included Chris Lampkin, Kirsten Harris-Talley, and yours truly. Timothy Kenney

The No-Shows

District 3 incumbent Kshama Sawant, District 4 candidate Alex Pedersen, and the entire District 5 slate—incumbent Debora Juarez and attorney Ann Davison Sattler—declined their invitation to the event, citing various scheduling conflicts. District 7 candidate Jim Pugel had to dip out at intermission due to a family emergency.

Though she does cancel a lot of her own committee's meetings, Sawant's decision to decline was somewhat surprising. Her opponents constantly slam her for not being district-focused, and the fact that she dodged a candidate forum located in her district and oriented toward getting out the youth vote (which she badly needs) gives those opponents more ammo for that critique.

Pedersen's dodge comes as no surprise, nor does Juarez's and Sattler's, though it's a shame because Juarez is funny. But, you know, maybe they all really did have better places to be.

Cookie Couture holding down the crew of candidates.
The evening's host, Cookie Couture, holding down the crew of candidates who came. Timothy Kenney

Round 1

In this round, candidates attempted to distinguish themselves on broad policy issues.

To explain why he took a middling stance on whether millennials lacked work ethic or opportunity, Phil Tavel, who is running against incumbent Lisa Herbold in District 1, made some strange argument about solving the work ethic "problem" by solving the lack of opportunity problem. That line was particularly rich coming form one of the largest beneficiaries of Amazon-backed PAC money in the race.

When panelist Kirsten Harris-Talley, the former city council member who partnered with Mike O'Brien to reintroduce the head tax, asked where candidates stood on bringing back the tax to pay for homeless services and shelter, only Scott and Morales stood strong in their support.

Herbold, District 3 candidate Egan Orion (who was in drag as "Shegan Orion" all evening), and District 6 candidate Dan Strauss meaninglessly stood in the middle. District 2 candidate Mark Soloman, District 6 candidate Heidi Wills, District 7 candidate Andrew Lewis, and Tavel stood for "burying" the head tax. If I'm remembering correctly, someone in the crowd yelled "COWARDS" after the candidates lined themselves up on this question, and that is precisely the correct take.

Later on, Strauss, Wills, and Solomon all expressed a willingness to ban vapes, an idea Mayor Jenny Durkan floated on Twitter shortly after San Francisco banned them. Banning vapes is a dumb idea for reasons I outline here. Pugel, Herbold, and Orion equivocated on the issue, while Lewis, Tavel, and Morales stood strong for vapes.

Tammy Morales really scored some points with this Wonder Woman get-up.
Tammy Morales really scored some points with this Wonder Woman get-up. Timothy Kenney

Round 2

In Round 2, the panel switched to asking district-specific questions in order to draw more distinctions between candidates who were running against each other.

Both Herbold and Tavel said they wanted to build a tunnel for the West Seattle light rail station, and neither said they wanted the city to require developers to build a parking space per unit of housing. They also both didn't have direct answers for how they'll make specific considerations for the Duwamish people as that district continues to grow, with Herbold only mentioning her community resident preferences policy as a way to ensure that people displaced by development can still keep their place.

Morales said people of color could not be gentrifiers, which raised a few eyebrows on the panel. And Solomon came pretty close to admitting he'd accept an endorsement from Ari Hoffman by saying he wanted Hoffman's voters, but ultimately claimed he would not. Neither said much of substance on the issue of making Rainer Ave S.—the most dangerous street in Seattle—safer.

Orion said he supported longer sentences for people convicted of hate crimes, which will not go over too well with criminal justice advocates for reasons I outline here. He also said he wouldn't support an ordinance that would force landlords to pay relocation assistance when they jack up the rent 10 percent, which means he wouldn't support a Sawant bill designed to do just that. When asked about his favorite progressive tax, he eventually settled on "the wealth tax."

Scott stood out during this round of questioning by calling himself neither a NIMBY nor a YIMBY but a PHIMBY, which stands for Public Housing In My Back Yard. He also said he'd support affirmative action and forcing large employers to provide Orca cards to employees.

The District 6 candidates continued to disappoint, announcing their support for the new $130,000 park concierge program in Ballard, which dedicates two staffers to teach park-goers how to "activate" a fucking park. The panel took to calling the staffers "park butlers," and laugh-cried at the absurdity of basically hiring people to shoo away the homeless or to force them to play a round of cornhole if they want to, you know, survive outside.

Strauss, however, came out in support of a safe consumption site located in Ballard, while Wills said she wouldn't have it. Good job, Strauss!

In District 7, Pugel, unlike Lewis, said he did not want to upzone every neighborhood in his district, though they both said they'd advocate for removing hostile architecture from the city. Both also spoke out against transforming Seattle's public golf courses into land for affordable housing, envisioning a hellish future where Seattleites would have to pay $200 for a tee time. Can you imagine!

For his talent, Strauss threw rolled-up papers into a bin to highlight his past a Ballards paper boy.
For his talent, Strauss threw rolled-up papers into a bin to highlight his past as Ballard's paper boy. Timothy Kenney

Round 3

As promised, this was the most cringe-y part of the evening. I'm not going to run through all the talents, but let's tick off the lowlights and the highlight.

In an incredible implosion of white feminism, Wills recited a speech from Susan B. Anthony, the suffragette who opposed ending segregation and who refused to ally with black civil rights leaders pushing for the 15th Amendment, while the music for Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts" played. As she spoke, photos of women leaders flashed on a screen behind her, including, for some reason, cheesy headshots of Oprah and Ellen. Wills had to restart her performance due to heckling. “Thank you for your kindness, thank you for your kindness” Wills said when she restarted the track.

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For his talent, Lewis performed a magic routine that ended up looking like a bad Tinder date. After running through a series of coin tricks with a woman randomly selected from the audience, he appeared to flub his finale. To the casual observer, the whole thing just came off looking like a woman saying she was wrong a lot. After the awkward scene, the audience member told Lewis that she lived in his district in a tone that did not indicate enthusiasm for his candidacy.

So uh, do you have any siblings?
"So uh, do you have any siblings?" Timothy Kenney

Solomon gave a brief power point presentation about his comics obsession, which was sweet, but his thesis went something like, "I became a cop because of increased representation of black superheroes in comic books."

Egan "Shegan" Orion admitted to never having "dressed in drag" before and then sang a bit from Michael Bublé's "Feeling Good." With a green dress, white face, and tall wig, Orion's look matched Candidate Survivor host Cookie Couture's outfit a little too closely, causing Cookie to say that Shegan was coming for her wig. "Those espadrilles said a lot about his politics," another observer said to me after the show.

In his stand-up comedy routine, Scott ribbed the Seattle Times and rich white people. "If we had a nickel for every time somebody came up to us and said they would have voted for Barack Obama for a third time, we would not have needed Democracy Vouchers," he said. He drew the loudest cheers from the crowd when he hit the other candidates for their views on climate change: "They cared so much about climate justice that they all tried recycling my ideas."

Round 4

Let's talk about The Big Mistake. Round 4 gave each candidate 90 seconds to make his or her final pitch to the crowd. Scott used his time to call for a moment of silence for Charleena Lyles, Tommy Le, and other people of color killed by Seattle Police officers. But then Cookie, not hearing Scott's pitch, quickly cut off the moment of silence and moved on to Orion, who proceeded to pitch his candidacy to the youths.

The shade was thick.
The shade was thick. Timothy Kenney

Thankfully, Herbold realized what had happened and told Cookie that she'd inadvertently snubbed Scott. After Orion's pitch, Cookie honored Scott's call for a moment of silence and repaired the situation as best as she could. Kudos to Herbold for being the council member who is willing to point out a problem and suggest a solution under pressure.

For her final pitch, Wills dressed up as this emoji 👩🏻‍🌾 and made the case that "farmers markets matter." That was her environmental policy, I guess.

In his last speech, Solomon argued that he could bring communities and cops together as one, and more or less called for an end of black-on-black crime, gesturing toward an idea that falsely suggests that black people are somehow "uniquely predisposed to commit crimes against each other." It was a cringe-y moment after a lot of cringe-y moments.

Before the final vote, candidates were awarded superlatives. Lisa Herbold won Most Talented for playing Jeopardy against herself, Shegan Orion won Best Dressed, and Tammy Morales won Most Spirited.

As is typically the case, last night the progressive candidates fared better than the more conservative candidates. Of course, because this is politics, anyone can spin the night however they'd like. Tavel, Pugel, Solomon, and Wills can go back to their respective bases and raise money on the fact that they stood before a room of progressive young people and, without fear, upheld their conservative values. Knowing that, what could I do but love the heckling?

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