The field challenging Kshama Sawant for the District 3 Seattle City Council continues to grow as newly-hired Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce head Egan Orion joined the race this week.
Orion, who is also the administrator of the Broadway Business Improvement Area, has long been a fixture in Capitol Hill before taking on a role at the chamber. He began working with Seattle PrideFest, where he is now the executive director, in 2007 and has been organizing what he says is the largest volunteer-driven event in the district with PrideFest Capitol Hill since 2017.
When a sudden accident led the city to revoke a Capitol Hill festival’s license in 2017, Orion and his team quickly stepped in with less than two weeks to set up five blocks worth of programming, a seemingly insurmountable goal.
“I also come to things with the belief that nothing is impossible,” said Orion, who hopes to use this confidence in stemming the city’s growing concerns surrounding homelessness and behavioral health. “It just is a matter of having the right vision, the right people, and a reasonable set of expectations about what’s the worst that could happen or what’s the best that could happen and be comfortable with all that.”
Orion has been a regular in the area since the 1990s and he’s lived in the Central District for 18 years.
Orion, who studied political science at Central Washington University, was originally happy to support Beto Yarce, an early entrant into the race to challenge Sawant, but when he dropped out in February, the longtime event organizer organizer felt the need to step in.
“My history is about, like, not necessarily waiting for someone else to do it,” he said. “Hey, if no one’s doing it, then, like, why not to do it. Let’s see what this is all about.”
With a packed field already running and a current seatholder in Sawant who has tremendous name identification and a passionate following, it’s expected to be hard for any challenger to break through, but Orion thinks his work behind the scenes in the district over the past couple decades could set him apart.
Orion thinks there is fatigue among residents with both Sawant and the Seattle City Council as a whole over inaction related to the homelessness crisis, a subject which is front and center for the new candidate who has been working to return homeless outreach workers to Broadway, First Hill, and the Chinatown/International District. He also believes the district deserves a more engaged representative, instead of Sawant who he thinks can be focused on other parts of the city and is ineffective.
“There’s a difference between talk and legislation and building coalitions and getting real change done,” Orion said. He added later: “She seems to be a little more focused on rallies over results.”
On the outreach worker issue, Orion says he tried to set up a meeting with Sawant but got no response.
His priorities begin with the homelessness crisis, which he sees as a three-pronged problem comprised of the lack of shelter beds, the lack of behavioral health resources, and the lack of affordable housing options. He also hopes to help small businesses, especially those led by people of color, get rooted in their local neighborhoods in the hope of building community.
Orion plans to raise money for his campaign through the Democracy Voucher program and thinks he could qualify with the prerequisite contributions and signatures — 150 total contributions of at least $10, with half coming from within the district — in the coming days.
Orion also might have another strength hidden behind the scenes. He has organized about 150 flash mobs, some of which have taken place on Capitol Hill, since 2009. He thinks if he can train 5,000 dancers, he could organize supporters for his bid for the council. “There’s a loyal following that I have that’s not really public and not really showy, but it’s there,” Orion said.
In addition to Sawant, Beacon Hill business owner, neighborhood activist, and past council candidate Pat Murakami is also in the race as well as Ami Nguyen, a public defender who announced she was joining the field in March. Meanwhile, housing-first candidate Logan Bowers, another challenger, has traded early punches over ethics with the current seat holder. Two complaints, one of which was filed by Bowers, were dismissed by the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission last week.
Bowers is the only District 3 candidate to complete the democracy voucher qualification process.
District 3 is comprised of the Central District, Capitol Hill, Yesler Terrace, where Nguyen resides, Madrona, Leschi, Madison Park, Montlake, and Mt. Baker, where Orion’s mother was raised after being — according to a story Orion likes to tell — conceived on Broadway.
Meanwhile, Orion will gather with supporters Saturday for a “special address” to launch his candidacy.
You can learn more at facebook.com/eganforseattle.
UPDATE: Here’s Orion’s campaign announcement. He is scheduled to appear Tuesday at 11 AM at Broadway and Harrison, “in the heart of his work and personal history on the Hill.”
EGAN ORION TO ANNOUNCE CAMPAIGN FOR SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL
SEATTLE – 3rd generation District 3 neighbor, LGBTQ champion, and Capitol Hill Chamber Executive Director Egan Orion will announce his campaign for Seattle City Council in the district on Tuesday, April 2nd at 11:00am.
Orion, who has lived in the Central District for 17 years and on Capitol Hill before that, will challenge Councilmember Kshama Sawant for the District 3 seat representing Capitol Hill, Leschi, Central District, Madison Park, Madison Valley and Montlake neighborhoods.
According to Orion, “For nearly two decades I’ve worked to address the real needs of the diverse communities in our part of Seattle. In the last few years, I’ve seen too many local issues—from public safety to homelessness—ignored by Sawant, forcing neighbors and non-profits to seek our own solutions. It’s time for a voice in City Hall who welcomes input, shows up and listens, and gets results for all of us.”
Orion has led local non-profits and run two small businesses from District 3. In his work with PrideFest, Orion created the largest event throughout District 3—PrideFest Capitol Hill, as well as managing the largest festival day in Seattle — PrideFest Seattle Center. As Executive Director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and with the Broadway Business Improvement Area, Orion works to build a thriving and diverse Capitol Hill including advocating for and securing homeless outreach workers to help address our crisis on the Hill.
Orion will kick off his campaign on Capitol Hill at the corner of Broadway and Harrison, in the heart of his work and personal history on the Hill.
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