Nikkita Oliver, an activist and attorney, will challenge incumbent Ed Murray in his first quest for reelection as Mayor of Seattle. She would be the first Black woman to serve as mayor in the city.
“We started to think about what that meant for those of us who aren’t wealthy or groomed for political office,” Oliver told the South Seattle Emerald in an interview published Wednesday announcing her campaign. “We needed people to begin running as public servants on this idea of a participatory governance system, doing so in a way that was really transformative.”
Oliver will run as a member of the Peoples Party, a newly formed group “led by and accountable to the people most requiring access and equity in the City of Seattle.”
In her announcement, Oliver makes it clear that her efforts in the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight against the county’s planned youth jail and justice center on 12th Ave will be reflected in her campaign to un-seat Murray. Even the most progressive programs ushered in under Murray like the $15 minimum wage and the Housing and Living Affordability Agenda appear to be likely campaign targets:
In regards to housing, we need to reconsider HALA. Why would you base affordable housing on the median income in a city that has one of the highest median incomes in the country? And the 15 Now Campaign was great, but with that median income determining housing, $15 an hour is not enough for a family of four to afford to live in the city any longer.
With around five months until the August top-two primary, Oliver represents the most serious challenge yet to Murray’s administration. Seattle’s first openly gay mayor, Murray has been a civil rights leader in the state for decades — which also makes him part of the political establishment. Oliver — “scholar, organizer, educator, lawyer, poet and boxer,” the South Seattle Emerald says — has the opportunity to challenge Murray even farther to the left on the end of the spectrum that District 3 leader Kshama Sawant has pounded out to politically harness discontent about Seattle’s social and economic environment where a booming technology job market has sent the cost of living soaring and made living in the city an increasing challenge. The very aspects of growth, jobs, and development that many incumbent mayors might be able to campaign on could represent targets in a race between Oliver and Murray. Meanwhile, Murray may find himself doing what he can to side with some of his city’s most progressive causes. In January, the mayor called on King County to take a “second look” at its plans for the controversial $210 youth justice facility.
CHS reported on another campaign with hopes of taking on Murray from yet another angle. Safe streets advocate Andres Salomon announced his candidacy in February.
In 2013, Capitol Hill resident Murray, who is about to turn 62, cruised to a clear victory over incumbent Mike McGinn bolstered by his decades in Olympia and victories like gay marriage.
Fundraising for the 2017 race is underway. To date, only Murray has contributions to report. The incumbent has so far raised more than $270,000. Seattle’s new Democracy Vouchers program won’t be eligible to fund the city’s mayoral campaigns until the 2021 race.
Oliver, 31, was admitted to the state bar in 2015 and works for Creative Justice, “an arts-based alternative to incarceration,” according to Crosscut.
You can learn more about her and the Peoples Party at seattlepeoplesparty.com.