Still undecided? Here’s a reason to vote — or not — for each District 3 candidate

Organizations have made their endorsements, big cash has been doled out to some candidates, and oodles of Democracy Vouchers have been collected, all culminating in the voters finally having their official say, and moving two candidates forward to the November General Election.

With ballots for the August 6 top-two primary election mailed out to Seattleites and drop boxes open, here’s a look at each of the District 3 candidate’s biggest strengths and weaknesses to help if you’re still undecided in the race.

Sawant

Council member Kshama Sawant

Biggest strength: Name recognition/passionate support

As voters get their ballots in D3, chances are the name that will jump out to many voters is Sawant’s given her position not only as a current councilmember, but as one of the most notable politicians in Seattle. This is partly due to the fact that she is the only socialist on the council, which, in turn, has allowed her to earn both thousands of dollars and many eager supporters. As CHS reported Wednesday, Sawant’s campaign boasts the biggest team of staffers and volunteers, which has surely helped with doorbelling across the district. And as endorsement meetings have shown in multiple legislative districts, her supporters can organize well on her behalf to block other candidates.

Biggest weakness: Incumbency

Ask most political science majors and they’ll tell you that incumbency is a major advantage in elections, but in a year when voters are increasingly frustrated with the council, her position could spell trouble. Not only that, but Sawant has been polarizing in her tenure, and voters may just look to move on from this experiment. Also, unlike other candidates, she has a history of council votes and high-profile remarks that some voters could take issue with, and the failed head tax debacle has animated much of this year’s campaign.

Bowers

Logan Bowers

Biggest strength: Clear agenda for homelessness. 

From the start of the campaign, Bowers has aimed to make his campaign about one of the biggest issues in Seattle, housing affordability and homelessness. He has been talking about adding duplexes and triplexes to every block for months now, and it has caught on, with other candidates adopting the same policy position. All the candidates have talked about the homelessness issue, but no one has made it as central to their campaign as Bowers, and it appears to have paid off. He has returned 301 more Democracy Vouchers than any other candidate, which could be big if he makes it to the general election, as nearly $45,000 will be made open to him if he can surpass this big hurdle. Bowers also deserves an honorable mention because he can apparently make a fine cookie, according to the Stranger.

Biggest weakness: He’s a white man

In a year where voters across the country have been looking to elevate the voices of women and people of color, Bowers’s identity as the only straight white man in the race could serve as a weakness. As he faces off against three women — two of whom are women of color — and two gay men in progressive Seattle, Bowers could be in trouble. However, as we’ve seen playing out at the national level with former Vice President Joe Biden, some anti-Sawant voters may see his identity as a white man and think he is their best chance to defeat the incumbent.

Zachary DeWolf

Biggest strength: Endorsements 

DeWolf has taken labor endorsements from Sawant, received support from three state lawmakers and the two sitting citywide council members, and county Democrats have rallied around him (and Ami Nguyen) even as several legislative district Democratic parties did not endorse in the primary race. DeWolf has clearly been able to leverage his position as an elected official to foster ties with groups that can deliver voters to his campaign. His labor endorsements specifically have proven him to be a viable candidate for the anti-Sawant crowd looking for a bit of change on the council.

Biggest weakness: Criticism over time as Seattle Public Schools Board member

DeWolf’s decision to run for Seattle City Council less than halfway through his term as a member of the Seattle Public Schools Board has rubbed some the wrong way and others have been frustrated by his tenure so far. A post from mid-June on the Seattle Schools Community Forum, accused him of missing board meetings as well as leaving some early, rarely meeting with his Capitol Hill and Central District constituents, and ignoring his duties. The scathing post reads “he’s a decent person but he’s also an opportunist who appears to be willing to forego responsibility that he asked for.” As CHS previously reported, the Seattle Education Association, the city’s public school teachers union, has endorsed Ami Nguyen and Sawant for the primary.

Murakami

Pat Murakami

Biggest strength: Community ties, especially in south Seattle

Ten years as president of the South Seattle Crime Prevention Council. Five years as president of the Mount Baker Community Club. Two years as president of the Cleveland High School PTSA. Vice-chair of the City Neighborhood Council. Member of the Federation of Community Councils. These are the community roles Murakami, a “neighborhood activist,” has held in her 40 years in the district, according to her website. This combined with her failed council run in 2017, in which she lost by 40 percent, could possibly give her the name recognition and community support needed to break through the pack as someone who could deliver solutions.

Biggest weakness: Past controversy

While this district has proven itself to be ultra-progressive, Murakami has gotten herself in trouble over positions she has held that haven’t gelled with voters. More than a decade ago, she opposed efforts to locate Casa Latina on Rainier Avenue, where it would serve primarily Spanish-speaking immigrant workers. Hilary Stern, then-executive director of Casa Latina, wrote in a guest editorial for The Stranger at the time of Murakami’s 2017 run, “She built her opposition on racist and classist fears about Latino immigrant day laborers.” Murakami also unsuccessfully challenged El Centro De La Raza’s proposals for providing services and affordable housing at the light rail station in Beacon Hill.

Nguyen

Ami Nguyen

Biggest strength: Personal story

In most public appearances of the campaign, Nguyen answers questions with examples from her childhood growing up in a racially segregated neighborhood or her time as a public defender. At one forum, asked about gun violence in the district, she called for social services at schools, mentioning the counselors and teachers she had that pushed her to continue her education. This approach has allowed Nguyen to highlight her unique position in a race where she is the only woman of color to rely on government assistance growing up in a low-income neighborhood, which enables her to relate to those with similar experiences.

Biggest weakness: Little name recognition

Nguyen is new to politics, an attribute for which there has been an appetite for recently, and hasn’t fostered the strong community ties that other candidates have over years serving in various organizations. This has left her reliant on a doorbelling campaign that, albeit robust, is being carried out by other candidates, some of whom have more staffers and volunteers to convince voters. That being said, it has proven dividends as she currently sits in second in the race in potential Democracy Voucher value if she makes it past the primary.

Egan Orion

Biggest strength: Business support

As CHS has previously reported, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce recently endorsed the head of the Broadway Business Improvement Area, resulting in more than $100,000 being spent on his behalf by the Chamber’s political action committee as part of a final push to get his name out there as a possible alternative to Sawant. Orion has not made as much money with Democracy Vouchers as other candidates, so this could serve as a much-needed and well-timed stimulus going into a primary that is seemingly up-for-grabs.

Biggest weakness: Business support

The other side of this infusion of cash could be a liability for the Pridefest executive director in a district that elected a member of the Socialist Alternative party by a fairly wide margin who then pushed for a tax on big business. Being friendly with corporations, while lucrative, may be seen by voters as the wrong direction for the city, especially in a district that has felt first hand the gentrification and rising housing costs that have come with the rapid growth of companies like Amazon.

Made up your mind? Take the CHS D3 Primary Poll:

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24 thoughts on “Still undecided? Here’s a reason to vote — or not — for each District 3 candidate

  1. I really appreciate The Capitol Hill Seattle Blog for its great service to the community in posting and highlighting news for the community. I’ve been aware of a slight slant of support for CM Sawant, but appreciate that you have always allowed opposing views to be posted in the comments that followed.
    I had understood that CHS would not be making an endorsement for this critical Third District City Council election, but the highlights chosen by this author for Biggest Strength and Biggest Weakness for each candidate certainly show a prejudiced view.
    That is especially true for the singular choices made for Egan Orion’s Strengths and Weaknesses. The ONLY thing mentioned for both categories was reference to one of his many endorsements. And that was it, painting him as a one note candidate. Nothing to inform potential voters of his views and background.
    Please don’t turn CHS into another The Stranger.

    • You can’t expect journalists to write without any personal view or perspective. I really appreciate CHS as a news source, and I think they’ve done a great job on the election. (Definitely not becoming the Stranger!)

    • I concur. I appreciate CHS, but I’ve noticed the slant for Sawant and against Egan. Egan is a progressive AND a small business owner. It is possible to be both. He is pragmatic, brings people together, listens to all sides, and gets things done. He just also happens to be a voice or all the local small businesses we love and patronize, not the big business advocate some are trying to paint him to be.

      • While we’re on the subject of slant by the author….
        Exactly what’s the rationale for Sawant’s write-up first, while everyone else is then alphabetical? Because she’s the incumbent? So what? The incumbent doesn’t get top placement on the ballot. It’s alphabetical. Like everyone else’s order is here. Except Sawant’s. Could it be…. bias?

      • Yeah I get that. I pointed that out. I think it’s a weak excuse. She should be alphabetical like everyone else. It’s not like Sawant’s writeup would get lost in the sauce. And she doesn’t get top billing on the ballot either.

      • @Jim98122x

        So your blind hatred of Sawant is so great, you’re STILL accusing a neighborhood blog of bias towards her, despite jseattle giving an perfectly valid reason for her write up being first. jseattle could have had her write up last and you’d accuse him of saving “his favorite” for last. Hell, had jseattle even had her write up alphabetically, you’d probably accuse him of “diluting the conversation” because her write up would get lost among the others.

        I can’t tell you how many D3 people I’ve met that aren’t very excited about Sawant, but will vote for her because “her opposition is a bunch of nutters”. She couldn’t pay people to help her as much as you and other commenters on this blog do.

  2. Note that Logan Bowers’ biggest strength is his policies — and he’s the only candidate for whom that is true.

    That’s why Bowers has my support — He has the best grasp of the issues facing Seattle, and has well thought out policies to address them.

  3. Bear in mind one recent council election where district 3 only had a 29% turnout. This hardly makes for “a wide margin” election. There are still a lot of homes (houses) in district 3 and most of Sawant’s supports don’t own them, nor are they small business owners.

  4. I hope by now voters have seen the light when it comes to Sawant . She needs to go and now. One point about De wolf is his term on the school board. Ask anybody connected with it and they will tell you what a disappointment he was. My vote will be for Orion, he has what it will take to turn the city council around and serve us citizens

  5. I understand that some people love Sawant, but I remember seeing her on the platform at the SeaTac lightrail stop just a couple weeks after the presidential elections and feeling a seething hatred for someone I’d never spoken to boiling over. I may have voted for Sawant once, but that one time was enough. She will never ever get my vote again.

    After she actively and loudly encouraged people to not vote instead of voting for Hillary (and I don’t care if you say “we live in a state that’s going to go blue anyway, so it doesn’t matter who I vote for) or to vote for Jill Stein, I was 100% done with her.

    I cannot believe that a woman of color in this day and age, with a voice that echoes quite unfortunately on a national scale and does have some impact/influence (whatever we’d like to think) could act/speak so stupidly – whatever you may think, she played a role in getting Trump elected.

    For these reasons (and many others having to do with politics on a local level) she will not be getting my vote.

    A (still very) district 3 voter

      • Yeah…I voted for Sawant previously but that Hillary incident killed any chance she had of ever earning my vote again and since then I’ve found more and more reasons as to why I do not like her to be our council member.

  6. It’s really pretty despicable that Logan Bower’s biggest weakness is that he is white. You may be right, but legitimizing that level of racism is sick. Imagine having a candidate who biggest weakness is that he is black? Oh, he’s a great guy and could be a big asset to the Council…but he’s black…

    • Relax, he’s just stating the facts. Many people have said the same thing about Mayor Peter and Joe Biden in the context of the nat’l presidential campaign. Also, you must be dealing with a ton of white privilege to think that liberal voters wanting to see more diversity among their leaders is racist. Get out of your bubble.

      • Pretty unreal, love the “get out of your bubble.” You could not be projecting any more than you are. You and many like you, including the author, are racist by the very definition of it. If you can’t see that with your obvious neoliberalist buzzwords like white privilege, then you have a serious case of cognitive dissonance.

  7. I feel like the critiques of DeWolf are pretty weak – that one opinion is often cited but I’ve also heard other folks who say he’s done well on the school board. When asked, he’ll tell you that he feels strongly about the amount of students experiencing homelessness, and how he’d be more capable of doing something about that on the council rather than the school board. Worth remembering the school board is beholden to the state legislature, too. Maybe I missed it, but is it mentioned that Sawant and Dewolf are the only two candidates who have ever held elected office?

  8. So 169 people think Orion will be #1 in this election, and he has 224 “supporters.” That’s a higher ratio than any other challenger (75%!). Which suggests to me that either:

    1) Orion supporters are irrationally optimistic, or
    2) The “Flashmob King” has *somehow* activated online support to pump his candidacy in this poll.

  9. 1) Your metric’s numerator is not a candidate’s “supporters”, it’s the number of people that think that candidate is mostly likely to advance out of the primary.

    2) Your metric puts Sawant at 238%. In other words, 430ish people think she’s the most likely candidate to advance while only 180ish support her. On the other hand, 170ish people think Orion is most likely to advance while 230ish people support him.

    3) What the hell are you even trying to illustrate with this metric?

    • Sawant is the incumbent, and pretty clearly will be #1, with the remaining 5 candidates splitting the anti-Sawant vote. I expect any person acting in good faith to predict Sawant as #1, regardless of who they support.

      Putting a challenger #1 in the predictive poll indicates vote manipulation. And more of Orion’s supporters seem to have done this than any other candidates’.

      • Yeah, you’re analysis is bunk, that definitely doesn’t indicate vote manipulation. All the results from the final question indicate are that 23% of the poll participants believe that Orion will finish first in the primary and 56% believe that he will make it to the general election.

        Incumbents finish 2nd (or worse) in primaries all the time, it’s normal and certainly doesn’t point to a vast conspiracy.

      • The consensus of this open-access-poll is that most people expect a Sawant vs. Orion general election match-up. *If* this is the ballot then IMO I’d expect the DeWolf/Nguyen voters to generally coalesce around Sawant while Orion picks up most of the Bowers/Murakami votes. Projecting those unscientific results from Q3 are definitely favoring an Orion general election. Good thing we only have to wait another week to see how accurate any of this really is.

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