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Who will replace Kshama Sawant as she exits Seattle's city council (and will they be different)?

caption: Joy Hollingsworth, left, and Alex Hudson Oct. 9, 2023, at KUOW in Seattle.
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Joy Hollingsworth, left, and Alex Hudson Oct. 9, 2023, at KUOW in Seattle.
Juan Pablo Chiquiza / KUOW

This year, two candidates are vying to replace socialist Kshama Sawant on the Seattle City Council. Sawant, known for her uncompromising political style, has served in District 3, which includes Capitol Hill and the Central area, for nearly a decade.

This year, she made international headlines for her first-in-the nation law banning caste discrimination. She also announced she will not seek re-election, kicking off what has become one of the most competitive City Council races of 2023.

At a KUOW debate event this week, we asked cannabis entrepreneur Joy Hollingsworth and transportation advocate Alex Hudson how they’d be different from Sawant and how they’re different from each other, given that fewer than 100 votes separated these District 3 hopefuls during the primary election this summer.

Hollingsworth implied that she would focus more closely on the specific needs of residents “to prioritize local policies, neighborhood by neighborhood,” in District 3. “Just because we pass a policy at City Hall doesn't mean that it fits for all these neighborhoods,” Hollingsworth said.

Hudson sounded a similar note.

“I'm excited about the opportunity of providing really excellent constituent services, by listening to folks, by being responsive to folks, and by really prioritizing their needs.” Hudson said.

But meaningful differences between the candidates also emerged at KUOW, including during a speedy “lightning round.”

Hollingsworth said she favors the Capitol Hill Blog over The Stranger, and that in 2021 she voted for Mayor Bruce Harrell and City Attorney Ann Davison. Hudson picked the Stranger instead, and said she voted for Lorena Gonzalez for mayor and Nicole Thomas Kennedy for city attorney.

The two also clearly disagreed on their approaches to public safety.

caption: Joy Hollingsworth Oct. 9, Seattle, 2023
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Joy Hollingsworth Oct. 9, Seattle, 2023
Juan Pablo Chiquiza

Hollingsworth spoke about the experiences that inform her personal perspective calling for more and better police.

“I come from a community that has been unfortunately ravaged by a lot of gun violence. Our community wants some type of relationship with police, but they don't want warriors going out on the street. They want more of that guardian relationship,” she said. She added that the “tone” of the current council makes it harder to retain and hire police officers, which she sees as a top priority.

“When I'm calling for more first responders, it's not only people responding to priority one calls, but also detectives,” Hollingsworth said.

In contrast, Hudson said Seattle is “like every city in this country” for having a hard time hiring new police. In the meantime, she said the city should focus instead on standing up alternatives to policing that can also improve safety.

“Right now, we have two crisis teams, but we can't deploy them until a police officer goes there first. That creates a bottleneck to the help that we all want and prevents people from getting the care that they need,” she said.

caption: Alex Hudson Oct. 9, Seattle, 2023
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Alex Hudson Oct. 9, Seattle, 2023
Juan Pablo Chiquiza

Both also spoke about the need for a new Seattle Police union contract that ensures greater police accountability.

On homelessness, Hollingsworth earlier told KUOW she “maybe” supports Mayor Bruce Harrell’s increased clearing of encampments, while Hudson said she does not.

In the debate, their differences on the issue were muted. Both candidates, for instance, said Seattle should prioritize getting people the services and support they need if they’re living in encampments in sensitive areas like schools or playgrounds.

“I think it is really important in parks that are next to be hyper-focused on connecting people to resources in those,” Hollingsworth said.

"We want to make sure that our schools and parks are places that are safe and accessible to all people, and that means that we should prioritize people who are living there to get connected with services," Hudson said.

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