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45 candidates are running for Seattle City Council. Who are they and what do they stand for?

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The stage is set for the Seattle City Council races later this year.

The primaries will be held in August. The top two vote-getters in each district will advance to the general election in November.

Forty-five candidates are running across the city’s seven districts, including three incumbents.

KUOW’s politics editor Cat Smith has been talking to the candidates since last week’s filing deadline. She joined Morning Edition host Angela King to talk about some of the key issues and races so far.

The Candidates

Broadly speaking, the majority of the candidates, about three-quarters, are first-time contenders.

They're majority white, majority male and generally agree on the top campaign issues: homelessness, housing and public safety.

Five candidates say they have either been homeless or experienced housing insecurity (Margaret Elisabeth, District 2; Ry Armstrong, District 3; Andrew Ashiofu, District 3; George Artem, District 4; ChrisTiana ObeySumner, District 5), and several others currently work in a role — in the legal system, advocacy or mutual aid — that brings them into direct contact with people who are experiencing those issues today.

On the whole, these candidates are generally leaning more left of center.

The Issues

Voters won't be surprised to hear that homelessness and housing are among the candidates' top concerns. Nor will they wonder why public safety is on that list.

However, what might be surprising this year is the general tone of the public safety debate.

It's been a hot-button issue in the Seattle area for years, but it really took center stage after the murder of George Floyd. May 24 was the three-year anniversary of his death. The outcry that resulted from his killing led to the "defund" movement, a message of pulling police funding that was picked up by some Seattle officials, including members of the City Council.

It's decidedly less prominent among this candidate pool, though.

While many of the candidates said policing and community safety were important issues, they mostly avoided talking about the defund movement.

Consider District 5 candidate Tye Reed. She was the campaign manager for Nicole Thomas Kennedy, a police abolitionist who ran for Seattle City Attorney in 2021 and ultimately lost to the more conservative Ann Davison. In an email to KUOW, Reed did not explicitly mention the police. She instead listed stopping homeless encampments sweeps and preventing deep cuts to the city budget as some of her top priorities.

Other candidates are trying to strike a delicate balance on policing. Several who said they want to hire more Seattle Police also advocated for either new reforms to department policies, or additional resources for non-police intervention services, or efforts to repair community trust in the department.

Again, these are broad themes.

The details of the candidates' policy ideas will help them stand out. But some may have more trouble doing that than others, depending on just how crowded the field is in their district.

Here are some of the races to watch:

District 2

Who's running:

  • Tammy Morales - incumbent
  • Margaret Elisabeth
  • Tanya Woo

District 2 has had its share of the public safety debate, particularly as residents have organized community watch groups and fended off frequent break-ins in some areas. The area includes the Chinatown-International District, which has been in the news recently as Seattle looks to build a new public transit hub, an issue that has the community divided.

Incumbent Council Member Tammy Morales is running to keep her seat. She's not currently in the lead, though, at least not as far as funding is concerned.

Instead, business owner and community activist Tanya Woo is pulling ahead. She's raised about $25,000 more than Morales so far.

Woo's lead may speak to her profile in the community. She traces her family's Seattle roots to 1887 and says they opened the first Chinese bakery in the city. In her community work, she led protests last year that stopped a proposed expansion of a homeless shelter in the CID.

Margaret Elisabeth is also challenging Morales in District 2. Elisabeth identifies as trans and nonbinary and has personally experienced homelessness. They're also a veteran and co-chair for the U.S. Green Party.

District 3

Who's running:

  • Shobhit Agarwal
  • Ry Armstrong
  • Andrew Ashiofu
  • Alex Cooley
  • Bobby Goodwin
  • Joy Hollingsworth
  • Efrain Hudnell
  • Alex Hudson

Council Member Kshama Sawant, currently the longest-serving member of the council, is not running for re-election.

In her absence, the district has drawn one of the largest numbers of candidates. Only District 5 has more people running, with 10 candidates vying for that seat. That said, candidates will have to get out ahead of the crowd quickly.

One has already accomplished that with the help of good old-fashioned name recognition: Joy Hollingsworth, the granddaughter of local civil rights leader Dorothy Hollingsworth.

But she also stands out in her own right.

She's a member of the queer community and runs one of the only Black-owned cannabis businesses in the state.

Whatever the reason, Hollingsworth has taken an early lead in terms of funding, with almost $90,000 in the bank in these early days.

District 7

Who's running:

  • Andrew Lewis - incumbent
  • Bob Kettle
  • Aaron Marshall
  • Wade Sowders
  • Olga Sagan
  • Isabelle Kerner

Incumbent Council Member Andrew Lewis leads in the funding race, not only in his district but among all the candidates citywide. Still, he has some interesting competition for his seat.

Olga Sagan's name, in particular, may stand out.

Sagan is the owner of the popular Russian bakery Piroshky Piroshky. If you've ever been down to Pike Place Market, you've probably seen the lines that form right outside.

But the baker also has a location on one of the city's most troubled intersections: Third Avenue and Pine Street. That location landed Sagan in the news when she decided to temporarily shut it down out of fear for her employees' safety.

She raised the alarm about the crime and public drug use problem in the area, earning herself some free press and a platform built almost entirely on that experience. The Piroshky Piroshky on Third and Pine has since reopened.

Will that be enough for her to defeat an incumbent? Only time will tell.

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