The boundaries of District 3, of course, extend well beyond Capitol Hill. And the candidates to represent the district also extend beyond the names you might think of first.
Ami Nguyen, a public defender who calls Yesler Terrace home, sees her role as running for the Seattle City Council to represent people across the entire district — the Central District and Capitol Hill, yes, but Yesler Terrace, Mt Baker, Madrona, Leschi, Madison Park, and Montlake, too.
“When I set out to do this campaign, I told myself that’s the definitely the neighborhood I want to reach out to.”
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The first time candidate is part of a race that has already divided along some of Seattle’s progressive lines with the Socialist Alternative incumbent Kshama Sawant trading early punches with urbanist Logan Bowers. With her experiences as a public defender and a belief in social democracy that in many way lies close to Sawant, where does Nguyen see herself fitting into the political landscape of District 3?
“People are going to say, well, they’re not consistent voters. And because that’s part of the voting strategy, you go through the history and you see whether or not they voted and so on. But that I see my role as a candidate is to make sure I reach out to those communities that don’t — that aren’t even registered to vote,” Nguyen said.
The first-time candidate’s quest to be part of the D3 race, then, means a door by door effort that is as much social service as political. Even Nguyen’s efforts to raise money for her campaign through the Democracy Voucher program and collect the prerequisite 150 signatures and 150 donations of $10 or more — with at least half of the signatures and donations came from District 3 –mean helping people in the city’s underrepresented communities fill out the paperwork required to become part of the electorate.
“When I’m out doing Democracy Vouchers, I actually am helping people get registered to vote, too,” she said. “That’s part of the democracy. And so, you know, that might be fruitless in terms of voter turnout, but at the same time, I think it’s worth it.”
Nguyen chose to live in new development in Yesler Terrace for the same reason many young workers are choosing the area’s new apartment buildings. Much of her work takes place at the Involuntary Treatment Act Court at nearby Harborview Medical Center. The court handles petitions for court-ordered mental health treatment and Nguyen describes it as a kind of microcosm for many of the city’s largest challenges around mental illness, addiction, and homelessness.
Nguyen says she has also worked as a renter and tenants’ rights attorney and will develop policies that empower renters “so that the system is no longer a tool only for the rich.”
“The City has the duty to enforce habitability laws and fine slumlords without displacing tenants,” Nguyen said in her campaign announcement.
She also hopes to address livability issues like the high cost of childcare that are “forcing long-term Seattle residents to move to other cities.”
Even with the support she hopes to build across all of District 3, Nguyen said she recognizes that she will also need to find a way to connect with voters in the densely populate core. She hopes her experience as a public defender and philosophy of social equity will win out.
“I think that when I approach Capitol Hill, there are strategies that can use the baseline of talking to people about my experience, “Nguyen said. “But I definitely see myself having to put more energy in to it.”
She will also face an increasingly crowded field. In addition to Sawant and Bowers, Beacon Hill business owner, neighborhood activist, and past council candidate Pat Murakami is also in the race. And Capitol Hill voters will likely soon see a familiar face join the race. Egan Orion, newly hired head of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, has told friends he is readying a run to unseat Sawant.
You can learn more about Ami Nguyen at electami.com.