There weren’t many fireworks, but the crowd sure was fired up for the first ever candidate forum for the newly created District 3 race. All five candidates seeking to represent Capitol Hill and the Central District at City Hall gathered before a standing room only crowd Tuesday night to answer questions on a wide range of topics, including crime, affordable housing, and transportation.
There was no back-and-forth or debating among the candidates — in fact, candidates clapped for each other on multiple occasions and rarely addressed one another. Occasional boos and hisses from the crowd came mostly when a candidate spoke out against rent control, a key part of City Council member Kshama Sawant’s platform.
Despite being the de-facto incumbent in the race, Sawant faced no challenges to her two year record on City Council. It would have been a tough room to do so. Sawant supporters packed the space and were told several times by moderators to hold their applause.
Organized by the 43rd District Democrats, the event was unusually energetic and well attended by both voters and media for a City Council forum. You can see a raw play-by-play by scrolling though #43SeaD3 or watch a video of the event here.
Most of the event, held at 19th and Madison’s Mt. Zion Baptist Church, featured questions from moderators Josh Feit of PubliCola and Erica Barnett of The C. is for Crank, and included questions submitted by the audience.
Two lightning rounds had candidates answer questions by holding up “yes” or “no” placards, or a box of frozen waffles, which gave them 10 seconds to explain their reason for waffling on the issue.
Sawant is leading the fundraising race, with nearly $82,000 raised as of May 11th. She also has the lowest average contribution size at $110 — a testament to the candidate’s grassroots approach. Pamela Banks has raised the second most in the race at $48,500, closely followed by Rod Hearne as Morgan Beach and Lee Carter trail far behind.
Another candidate forum is scheduled to take place June 8th, organized by residents of Madison Park and Madison Valley.
- In her opening statement, Sawant touted her role in passing a $15 an hour minimum wage in Seattle, her choice to not accept a wage above an “average worker’s wage,” and refusal to take corporate donations for her campaign.
- Hearne received no applause for touting his role in fighting for marriage equality in the state, a key accomplishment for his candidacy.
- Calling himself an “informational candidate,” Carter said he was not seeking votes., rather he wanted to promote a return to neighborhood government and senior housing.
- “Activism for women’s issues … brought me into city politics,” said Beach, who sits on the Seattle Women’s Commission and was an organizer for Planned Parenthood.
- Banks was the only candidate to use her opening to talk about creating more jobs in Seattle, particularly for young African American’s in the district. She also called SPD “far from perfect.”
- Lightning round roundup: All candidates supported building a municipally owned broadband system, a personal income tax for the city, cap and trade or a carbon tax in the state, and using the city’s bonding authority to build more affordable housing,
- Hearne, Banks, and Beach opposed rent control while Sawant and Carter supported it.
- Sawant was the only candidate to put up her “yes” placard for stopping work on the Bertha tunnel project.
- All candidates waffled on expanding trolley transportation in the city and all opposed a school board appointed by the mayor.
- When asked about the job Mayor Ed Murray is doing, Sawant said “he’s doing a good job for big developers.”
- “We need an up-zone expansion” that includes preservation, Beach said. “The Pike/Pine corridor is a good example of this.”
- “Rent control does not work,” said Banks, who cited San Francisco and New York City as places where the policy has failed. “We need people moving up and out.”
- “We absolutely need to fight for rent control,” said Sawant, calling it a “veritable lifeline” for working people in other cities.
- Nothing if not consistent, Carter said neighborhoods needed to decide how to create affordable housing. “There is no single solution to housing in the city,” he said. Carter also called for all development in the city to cease until the new council is seated.
- Sawant: “There’s this notion that you can represent big business and working people. You cannot.”
- Banks repeatedly called for the city to support more youth apprenticeship and job programs.
- Banks: “All forms of transit do not belong on all streets.”
- Sawant and Carter were the only two candidates to say they had not taken public transportation four times in the past month.
- Banks called for a return of Metro’s downtown ride-free zone.
- When discussing how to fund transportation, Hearne said it should not just rely on transit riders. “If you own a car you’re in the transportation business,” he said.
- Beach said kids should be able to ride public busses for free.
- Praising the work of Seattle Subway, Hearne said the city’s light rail system should include stops on 23rd Ave at Union and Jackson.
- Beach: “Let’s get people who live here to work on the police force.”
- On the issue of SPD reform, Sawant called for an elected community oversight board with full oversight powers. “We cannot have the police showing up as an occupying force,” she said.
- As part of the Seattle Women’s Commission, Beach pushed SPD to work through a backlog of rape kits that had never been DNA tested and praised the department for heir work.
- Carter called SPD a “mercenary force” because many officers do not live in the neighborhoods they patrol.
- Banks: “We need to make sure our captains in our precincts stay longer than a month.”
- Speaking in opposition to replacing the aging youth detention center 12th and Alder, Sawant said the city should focus on putting more money into youth job programs.
- Hearne and Banks both called for a repeal of I-200, a measure which banned public affirmative action policies in the state.
- When asked about which committee she would chair if elected, Beach said Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries and Gender Pay Equity because “it’s time to do more about it than tack it on like an after thought.”
- Banks, who called for gender neutral bathrooms in City Hall, also joked that it would cut the line for the ladies room.
Meanwhile, in a poll of CHS readers prior to Tuesday’s forum, respondents showed the most support for Banks and Sawant. We’ve listed the campaign priorities that most defined the selections below: