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Tanya Woo faces these candidates in bid to keep her Seattle City Council seat

Tanya Woo
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Courtesy of the Tanya Woo campaign

Seattle will have one City Council race on the ballot in November.

Councilmember Tanya Woo will face off against at least two challengers in her bid to keep the citywide Position 8 seat.

Alexis Mercedes Rinck and Saunatina Sanchez recently filed with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission to run for the seat, which Woo was appointed to in January.

Former Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda left the position open when she was elected to the King County Council. Woo's appointment to the seat is temporary. Voters will get their say on a more permanent legislator in a special election this year.

RELATED: Seattle Council picks CID activist Tanya Woo to fill open seat

Both Rinck and Sanchez are running on progressive platforms, compared to Woo's more moderate stance, particularly on matters of public safety.

In an interview with KUOW Thursday, Woo welcomed the competition.

"That's the great part of, you know, our democracy," she said.

Who is Alexis Mercedes Rinck?

caption: Alexis Mercedes Rinck
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Alexis Mercedes Rinck
Photo courtesy of the Alexis for Seattle campaign

Rinck previously worked at the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, or KCRHA, where she helped develop the agency's five-year plan. In an interview with KUOW, Rinck acknowledged some of the challenges the KCRHA has dealt with over the last few years since it came online, but she also pointed to an array of experience she gained at the agency that she's now using to bolster her candidacy.

"Something that I built a reputation around is bringing people together," she said.

Specifically, she said she wrangled Seattle's northern neighbors, Lake Forest Park, Shoreline, Bothell, Woodinville, and Kenmore, to discuss regional solutions for homelessness.

Compared to Woo's experience, particularly as an activist in the Chinatown-International District, Rinck said "it's a matter of scale" — where Woo has made inroads in the CID neighborhood, Rinck said she has done that work across the Seattle area.

Rinck said she will focus her campaign on three key areas: growing and diversifying the city's investments in affordable housing, while protecting renters and supporting BIPOC communities; supporting worker protections, in part by ensuring the Office of Labor Standards is resourced and perhaps expanded; and evaluating community safety solutions, particularly with regard to the opioid overdose epidemic.

As for whether she supports progressive revenue streams to get the city out of a looming budget deficit, Rinck said that was an easy "yes."

"We need to make sure that there's transparency and engagement about what this does mean if there are cuts to programs and being able to line up with what communities are expecting of us," she said.

RELATED: To tax or not to tax? Tanya Woo, Seattle's newest councilmember, enters the job

Who is Saunatina Sanchez?

caption: Saunatina Sanchez
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Saunatina Sanchez
Photo courtesy of Saunatina for Seattle campaign

Sanchez has been a community organizer for the last two decades. She's worked as a guest relations coordinator and young programs coordinator with the Seattle International Film Festival. As someone who identifies as queer and who described her background as Mexican and white American, Sanchez told KUOW her goal has been to "elevate voices that aren't normally heard."

"I want to progress our society forward and look to the people who are going to be living in this world longer at this point, which means the youth," she said.

Sanchez highlighted several issues that will be central to her City Council campaign: land use, including how the city uses its streets and manages housing stock; housing, broadly speaking, including matters of housing insecurity and how the city's neighborhoods are designed; and community involvement in all matters before the City Council.

Sanchez noted her position as a resident representative on the board of Community Roots Housing, an affordable housing organization in Capitol Hill, and how her work has put her face to face with people who receive and provide community services. Like Rinck, she also emphasized how her experience has been across the city, not focused in one neighborhood, as she said Woo's work has been.

Sanchez said she wants to look at how the city budget can better reflect the Seattle Solidarity Budget, which is a progressive agenda that has supported efforts like redirecting city funding away from policing to community-based alternatives and programs.

And throughout her work, Sanchez said she has sought input from residents to know how best to use the city's resources.

Without the kind of input — from Seattleites and various community organizations — she's not yet entirely sold on the need for new taxes.

"What I do believe is that we can look at our budget and see if the money that we're getting from our taxes is being spent the way that our community wants them to be," Sanchez said. "The conversation about whether or not to add or take away taxes is something to discuss with the community."

RELATED: Should Seattle consider a high-pay CEO tax? That’s one option to fill the city’s budget gap

Incumbent Tanya Woo

A small business owner and activist in the CID, Woo made a name for herself running a community watch group focused on public safety. She also led a successful effort in 2022 to kill the expansion of a homeless shelter in the CID and surrounding neighborhoods.

Speaking with KUOW Thursday, she addressed her challengers’ criticism that much of her work has been solely focused in the CID.

"I don't think a lot of people realize the CID is three neighborhoods, but that's beside the point," she said. "Those three neighborhoods are underserved, under-resourced, and are basically the crucible for a lot of ills that we see in the city."

She noted her concern for unhoused residents, small businesses struggling to stay afloat, and those affected by the opioid crisis.

This won't be Woo's first time running for Seattle City Council, of course. Last year, she ran unsuccessfully against Councilmember Tammy Morales, who represents District 2. During that campaign, Woo voiced support for homeless encampment sweeps and a city ordinance criminalizing public drug use and possession. Her subsequent appointment to a citywide Council seat, despite her recent loss in a district race, rankled critics; the City Council selected Woo from among eight finalists to fill the open citywide seat in January.

Now, Woo is campaigning on her experience in the CID — and the experience she’s gaining on the Council as she campaigns. In particular, she said she is focused on the city’s plans around development and transportation, and on her work on the Housing and Human Services Committee.

"My goal has always been the same: How do we make sure that everyone is heard?" she said.

When she was interviewed for the Position 8 seat, Woo was the only one of the finalists to say she wasn't open to new progressive taxes to fill the city's looming budget gap. But she later backpedaled a bit, in an interview with KUOW's Soundside, saying she would be open to progressive revenue options, but that imposing additional taxes "should be a last resort."

RELATED: Sharp disagreements over homeless sweeps, policing in South Seattle City Council race

The top two vote-getters in the August primary will have a final face-off in November.

City Council hopefuls must file a declaration of candidacy with King County Elections officials by May 10.

Update, 3:25 p.m., 3/28/2024: This story has been updated to include comments from Seattle City Councilmember Tanya Woo.

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