No incumbent and Seattle’s new Democracy Voucher program has drawn seven candidates to the race for the at-large City Council Position 8 so far.
In November, Jon Grant, former director of the Tenants Union, announced his bid for the seat left open by longtime council member Tim Burgess’s impending retirement. Since then notable others have decided to vie for the job. Among them are Mac McGregor, a gender, diversity, and sex educator, activist, speaker, and coach, Teresa Mosqueda, political director for the Washington State Labor Council, and Sheley Secrest, local NAACP vice president.
McGregor served on the Seattle LGBTQ Commission from 2011 to 2016. As The Gender Sensei, McGregor offers classes on self-defense, martial arts, and Tai-chi wellness. He is also a professional life coach, personal trainer, motivational speaker, and educates and trains groups on diversity and sensitivity, according to his website.
The Beacon Hill resident moved to Seattle from the Bible Belt in 2008.
“Even though there’re so many things we do right in Seattle, and we’re a progressive city in so many ways, we can do better,” McGregor told CHS.
McGregor has considered running for office for a while, but now with President Donald Trump in office and Republicans in control of Congress, the champion martial arts fight been motivated to step onto the mat as a candidate.
His priorities include helping small businesses, addressing the pay gap for women and minorities and lifting up marginalized communities.
McGregor, a small business owner for 23 years, wants to reduce fees for minority-run businesses and provide incentives for businesses to open in higher crime areas because more activity helps to reduce crime. He also wants to provide assistance with permitting and getting “through the red tape.”
As a transgender man, McGregor said he understands sexism in a unique way and wants to address the pay gap that exists in Seattle negatively impacting women, minorities, and gender nonconforming people.
“As progressive as we are as a city, I was shocked to find out how much of a gender pay gap there is in Seattle,” he said.
He wants to further help marginalized communities and plans to hold townhall meetings to learn what the various communities need.
As a part of the LGBTQ community, McGregor said he feels like he has “a good pulse on their needs.”
“I don’t want to pretend that I know what the Somali and Muslim communities need,” told CHS.
He plans to participate in the Democracy Voucher program, which he believes was made for grassroots candidates from marginalized communities. McGregor said he’s also encouraged by the number of candidates vying for Position 8.
“If we’re living in a time when that many people care and feel passionate to step forward, I think that’s wonderful,” he said.
At the WSLC, Mosqueda has “worked to advance immigrant and refugee rights, protect workplace safety, and chaired the state’s largest health care advocacy coalition — the Healthy Washington Coalition,” according to her campaign site. She also helped draft the successful statewide Initiative-1433, which raises the minimum wage to $13.50 over time and expands paid sick leave. Mosqueda previously worked at the state Department of Health promoting safe routes to schools, walkable neighborhoods, and access to healthy foods. The Queen Anne renter also served two terms on Washington’s Exchange Board.
“I’ve built a career and based a career on making sure no one is left behind,” Mosqueda told CHS.
Now she wants to continue that work as a city councilmember, especially with the threats Trump has made to the most vulnerable populations.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, cities are going to be both the first line of offense and the last line of defense under a Trump administration,” Mosqueda said.
Her three-pillar platform consists of making sure the rights of all Seattleites are protected, building on the promises of an affordable and accessible city, and exploring what can be done to protect and provide health care for vulnerable populations.
With her experience in public health, she looks at many of the city’s challenges through a “health lens.”
“I think we have new data that helps us show where we need to have targeted investments to really lift up communities,” Mosqueda said. “… We should be data driven. We should look at where we have some of the poorest health outcomes.”
With threats to the Affordable Care Act, the city should look for solutions to health disparities, she told CHS.
While she feels Seattle has made progress on creating a more affordable city, more needs to be done, and when communities are more affordable, they are healthier, she said.
“As I go out and have conversations with these diverse community groups, I’m very interested in the L in HALA (the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda),” she said.
Mosqueda is participating in the Democracy Voucher program, and said she has had “tremendous support so far.”
Mosqueda boasts more than 70 endorsements so far including former state representative and 7th Congressional District candidate Brady Walkinshaw, Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, and 43rd Legislative District Rep. and Speaker of the House Frank Chopp.
“I would like to see that we’re spending money on creating jobs, not hiring more cops or creating more jails,” Secrest told CHS.
She also wants to help small businesses. With businesses heading toward paying employees a $15 minimum wage, the city also has a responsibility to small businesses to help them raise profits and remove barriers, she said.
Police reform is a passion for Secrest. She served four years in the independent Office of Professional Accountability review board within the Seattle Police Department. The office is responsible for investigating complaints of police misconduct. She is also working against the new youth jail.
“I believe we have a long way to go on restoring public trust,” Secrest said.
Secrest isn’t new to running for an elected position. In 2014 she ran for the 37th Legislative District Senate seat, losing to now 7th Congressional District Rep. Pramila Jayapal. After Jayapal secured her win to Congress in November, Secrest again made a bid for the 37th seat, losing to Rebecca Saldana.
In 2015 she unsuccessfully went for an appointment to a Seattle City Council seat vacated by Sally Clark. Secrest lost to John Okamoto, after telling councilmembers her status with the bar association was inactive, when it was actually suspended for 60 days and she hasn’t applied to change it, Crosscut reported. According to the Washington State Bar Association, Secrest’s license is currently active.
Secrest has been fueled by the desire to make changes at a grassroots and local level for years as change stalls or moves backward federally and at the state level. With Trump now in office, Secrest said she’s even more driven.
She’s also participating in the Democracy Voucher program.
“What sets me apart are the ties to those who have been left out of the political process,” Secrest said. “This campaign, this movement, that I am working with brings those voices along.”
Also running is Ryan Asbert, who on a YouTube video said he will build a web application to let Seattleites control his seat. People will be able to vote on bills and measures, have discussions and draft new bills, according to Asbert. He is also launching a new party, The X Party,
“The X Party does not stand for big or small government, liberal or conservative values,” Asbert said in the video. “We as a party and as an organization stand only to make our government and its processes more accessible to the people.”
He said he will also be participating in the voucher program.
Rudy Pantoja Jr., a Ballard resident who spoke in favor of the proposed new North Precinct at an August City Council meeting is also making a bid for the seat. Pantoja rose to viral fame after activist Zarna Joshi accused him of sexual harassment when he told her his name was Hugh Mungus. A GoFundMe campaign launched in November raised more than $150,000 for Pantoja. According to the page Pantoja at the time was having health problems, possibly cancer, had a hip replaced, his truck broke down, and he was served an eviction notice.
Roger Kluck is also running and hopes to qualify for the democracy voucher program. According to his Facebook page, Kluck has 30 years of experience “working on public policy from the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority to the U.N.” He has lobbied on inmate and reentry issues at the state legislature. He also works with incarcerated veterans with PTSD and on school violence issues.