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Beto (but not that Beto!) challenges Kshama Sawant as Seattle council races heat up

caption: Beto Yarce launched his city council campaign from a preschool on Capitol Hill. He says his business background would be an asset to the council.
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Beto Yarce launched his city council campaign from a preschool on Capitol Hill. He says his business background would be an asset to the council.
KUOW/Amy Radil

Beto Yarce is a Mexican immigrant and entrepreneur who’s seeking the District 3 seat held by Kshama Sawant. He said he would bring a business background that is currently lacking on the council.

“It’s not that they don’t want to support small businesses, I think they don’t know how,” he said.

Yarce serves on the mayor’s Small Business Advisory Council and directs the nonprofit Ventures, which helps people start businesses. He said he would support a new head tax for affordable housing, but it must have a clear spending plan.

“The problem we had was bad implementation," he said. "We didn’t have a good plan to represent it.”

Jimmy Matta, the mayor of Burien, endorsed Yarce, saying he’d be a good partner as cities seek solutions for housing and homelessness. Yarce said he's lived and worked on Capitol Hill for years, but currently lives in Mill Creek, in Snohomish County, where he moved for his partner's job. He said they are looking for housing in Seattle.

Yarce said the district needs new leadership, and criticized Sawant for often being the lone “no” vote on the council, as she was with the recent city budget. Sawant said the budget didn’t provide enough funding for affordable housing. She didn’t respond to a request for comment for this story.

District 3 includes Capitol Hill and the Central District. In 2015, Sawant easily won re-election to that seat, defeating her opponent Pamela Banks by more than 12 points.

Seven of the council’s nine seats are on the ballot next year, and two of those seats will be open. Rob Johnson in District 4 and Sally Bagshaw in District 7 have both said they will not run for re-election.

Alex Pedersen is running for District 4, which includes the University District and northeast Seattle. Pedersen was a staffer to former City Councilmember Tim Burgess and has worked in financing affordable housing since then.

“I bring that affordable housing expertise to the table,” he said.

Pedersen said he wouldn’t necessarily seek new legislation, but instead provide “oversight” on city housing efforts. As legislative aide to Burgess, Pedersen worked to fund Seattle’s preschool program and gun violence research at the University of Washington.

Pedersen said he wants to “take the temperature down” and restore trust in the council after a tumultuous year: “By listening, by being transparent about how the funding’s being spent, by producing results and being responsive.”

Shaun Scott is also running in District 4. He’s a writer and the editor of the Real Change newspaper. Scott said Seattle should use its bonding capacity to build more affordable housing.

“It’s something we do for stadiums at the county level all the time,” he said. “I think housing is really, really core to the crisis of affordability that we’re seeing in Seattle, but it’s also a core climate justice issue.”

That's because more housing closer to jobs could reduce car commuting. He said Seattle should use its wealth to live up to its reputation as a climate leader.

Scott lives in the Eastlake neighborhood and said the district includes many students and renters who haven’t been politically active before.

“Young people and people of color in particular tend to have lower rates of turnout, I think because we’re not used to seeing ourselves represented and spoken to," he said.

“I see my candidacy as a real vessel for those who are underrepresented currently to be able to have their issues brought to the forefront. And I also understand that I work for the entire district, not just the constituency with which I’m more familiar,” Scott said.

He’s interested in extending voting rights to foreign students and all city residents.

“I also want to see what it would take to build the political will to have undocumented folks be able to vote in our local elections," he said. Scott said there are efforts in other states to allow undocumented people and legal residents to vote in municipal elections.

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