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With forum and debate season underway, D3 candidates talk homelessness, small biz, and ‘a Green New Deal for ordinary working people’ with some of their youngest constituents

In a Sunday afternoon forum and an early test of their platforms as they speed toward an August primary, four candidates for the Seattle City Council’s District 3 seat — including current council member Kshama Sawant who called for a “a Green New Deal for ordinary working people” — answered questions from some of their youngest constituents on a range of issues from homelessness to small business development.

The event, led by the King County Young Democrats, hosted forums for five of this year’s Council races. The other three D3 candidates were urbanist Logan Bowers, Seattle School Board Director Zachary DeWolf, and public defender Ami Nguyen, while neighborhood activist Pat Murakami and Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce head Egan Orion were not invited to participate due to time constraints.

UPDATE 4/29/2018 9:05 AM: KCYD chair Derek Richards offered this explanation for the invitation decisions:

There are about 57 candidates whom have declared for Seattle City Council, it is literally impossible to have a forum to include all of them and not have the meeting be a 12 hour marathon. With the candidates we had it still took 3.5 hours. It sounds like you are more interested in many of the other great organizations and neighborhood councils that will be hosting district specific candidate forums in the months leading up to the primary vote where you will be able to hear all of their opinions and I would encourage you to attend those.

UPDATE x2: Richards provided some more context on the decision around D3 in a message to CHS:

Since we were fitting 5 different districts in our meeting we had decided 3 candidates per district to keep the forum around 3 hours. For district 3 we did number of individual contributors, which gave us Councilmember Sawant, Logan Bowers and Ami Nguyen. Then the day we were going to send invites Zach DeWolf announced and had 2 city council endorsements and all the school board endorsements so we made an exception for D3 to have 4 candidates. However all candidates are welcome to speak at our endorsements meeting on Sunday May 19th at the WSLC between 5 and 7.

No matter the question, Sawant, a member of the Socialist Alternative political organization, pivoted to affordable housing concerns and her push for rent control. She repeatedly decried the council for its handling of the head tax and its overall lack of political courage. Answering a question on waste management, the council member called for a large-scale climate overhaul led by Seattle.

“The bottom line that we need, in terms of a Green New Deal for ordinary working people, is a massive public works program to expand transit and affordable housing and, primarily, what we need is social housing,” Sawant said, calling for a tax on big business to fund this publicly-funded and -owned housing proposal.

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DeWolf, on the other hand, said he is interested in banning single-use plastics and having a conversation on food-waste concerns. Bowers insisted that zero carbon pollution in a decade and moving people closer to their jobs are paramount to this issue.

Nguyen, who is pregnant with a baby girl on the way, often used personal stories from her own upbringing as the daughter of refugees.

“Growing up, I translated subsidy housing forms and also food stamps for my parents along with their medical visits,” said Nguyen, noting she grew up in a segregated neighborhood in which she didn’t feel represented. “And I had to make sure that it was right because if I didn’t translate right that means us losing our housing or them not getting the services they needed.”

Important issues for her include lowering the cost of living and student loan debt, especially for women and people of color. The struggle of being a small business owner, especially increased rents, were one of the first topics to come up during the forum and Nguyen said that property ownership has been restricted due to “systematic sexism and also racism.” She wants the city to make it easier for people to own the property where their businesses lie.

Bowers, a small business owner, also pointed out a focus of his early on: staggering housing costs.

“Over my adult life, Seattle has gone from having high housing prices to having a housing crisis; we’ve gone from housing insecurity to a homelessness crisis,” he said. “This is not acceptable. It’s also not a surprise, we’ve seen this coming for over a decade and yet the council continues to reinforce 1950s-era zoning.”

Bowers called out the council and incumbent Sawant for their inaction on homelessness, saying it has been “irresponsible.”

DeWolf, who works to coordinate the region’s homelessness response as a staff member at All Home King County, made an implicit jab at Sawant, who has been criticized as being too focused on issues outside the district, as the candidates were asked about how they would ensure they would be accountable to the public. He said he would be in Olympia any chance he got to push for issues important to Seattleites, including rent control.

“Instead what we get is press conferences and soundbites every election cycle and it makes us feel like we’re finally being heard,” DeWolf said. “So here’s the thing, I’m just asking for your vote to show up and get things done.”

“I want to show you that your government can work for you. I want to show you that you deserve a council member who will listen to people and work with people no matter their differences on the issues that matter because these issues are too important, people are too important.”

That being said, DeWolf, already endorsed by two sitting council members in Teresa Mosqueda and Lorena González, noted earlier in the event that he is more focused on fighting homelessness, rising housing costs, and a regressive tax system, than running against “whoever is in office.”

He said he has heard from Black seniors that need property tax relief to stunt displacement that has run rampant in the Central District.

Talking about small businesses, Sawant pushed for commercial rent control along with residential rent control, a push she is leading on the council after a 2015 resolution urged the state legislature to lift the ban on the practice.

The King County Young Democrats will hold their endorsement meeting in May.

You can view all CHS Election 2019 coverage here.

UPDATE 4/29/2019 5:02 PM: Orion has posted this video in response to being left out of the forum. He also tells CHS he has rolled out all his initial policy priorities at

Orion’s campaign is holding a happy hour Monday night at Poco on E Pine.

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50 thoughts on “With forum and debate season underway, D3 candidates talk homelessness, small biz, and ‘a Green New Deal for ordinary working people’ with some of their youngest constituents” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. ” neighborhood activist Pat Murakami and Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce head Egan Orion were not invited to participate due to time constraints.”
    I’m not sure how to interpret this. Did these two candidates decline to appear due to their own conflicts or did KCYD do its own elimination by not inviting them. These are both viable candidates. It’s too bad they were not there.

    • We weren’t invited. Not sure what they mean by “time constraints”. Pat has been in the race for months and I announced before Zach did. I’m a lifelong Democrat whose parents met in Young Democrats and my leadership in the community and city is both deeper and broader than any one of the candidates they cherry-picked to speak. At the end of the day, it’s just one group. There are countless forums coming up in the next couple of months and I look forward to making my case everywhere else! (thanks for the comment; glad to see folks paying attention out there)

      • Thanks for the clarifying comment Egan.

        Justin, can you follow-up with KCYD and get a better explanation as to why these two were not invited?

      • I second this suggestion. It is not OK that Orion and Murakami were not invited, and we need an explanation. Is it because they are more centrist candidates compared to those who were invited?

      • Seems like the author of the article (who wasn’t Justin) should’ve asked for clarification about why this was done, if the intention is to present a “fair and balanced” (cough-cough) look at this.

      • Hi, I’m the author of the article. I was told by KCYD that the forum would’ve taken too long if they invited all the candidates, so these were the four selected. Each of the district forums were capped at four candidates.

      • Did you ever reach out to the Chair? They posted their email all over the facebook event for anyone that had questions? If not did you not see the event and if not is that because you haven’t ever really been involved in any capacity with their organization so you didn’t know where to look?

    • Here is the explanation from the event’s Facebook page: If you didn’t get invited to our candidate forum, I am sorry, but as you can see by the schedule we are already pushing 3.5 – 4 hours to fit 3 people per district and 5 out of 7 districts. You still can speak at the beginning of any other KCYD meeting and seek our endorsement and you will likely be invited to 50 different candidate forums between this one and primary night.

      • Jake, a great follow-up would be: “Quick question KCYD, can you elaborate on how your selected these four candidates out of the current District 3 field? My reader base would love to know and it will help them better understand your endorsement selection process.”

      • Also, my bad for misattributing Justin as the author… appreciate you taking time out of your Sunday to report on this.

    • What it is is pathetic. Groups interested in hearing from the candidates should listen to all candidates to hear their policy positions. Winnowing by invitation serves those who enjoy their echo chamber. It is really sad that these young democrats have closed their minds at such a tender age.

      • IMO, in the long run, it does cast doubt on their credibility. Makes more people give less weight to their endorsements when making up their minds.

      • No, but I also don’t publicize endorsements on people and expect the general public to give any serious consideration to my opinion on the subject. It’s fine for them to do this– as long as they don’t expect anyone outside their echo chamber to take them seriously.

      • What makes you think they expect right wingers, centrists, and people like you to take them seriously?

        If you are bothered by invitations, non-invitations, endorsements from a little-known group, that’s on you.

      • @Tom, how do you know if you don’t like them if you don’t listen to them? Isn’t that the purpose of candidate forums? To listen, ask questions, and here the candidates respond to your concerns. Pre-judging some candidates as unlikeable and therefore unworthy of inclusion displays the type of bias that led candidate DeWolf to state he would not particpiate in candidate forums sponsored by other organizations.
        We can all benefit from breaking bread with people we may not like. Sometimes it makes for the most interesting dinners.

      • Tom, hope you realize how petty you’re coming across as right now… you basically sound like my little niece when she says: “Members only. If you don’t like it then go build your own tree fort!”

      • There is no pre-judging. The political stance of these candidates are known already. Otherwise, you and others here wouldn’t have been dismayed to see who was included and not included.

        Brian, what’s petty, if that is even the right word for this, is the right wingers and centrists getting annoyed because their guy wasn’t invited to essentially a private event. I am unfamiliar with this group and haven’t heard of this event until now.

      • I’m just laughing my ass off here at the predictable lashing-out against anyone who doesn’t fit the mold of what many Seattleites consider “Democrat enough”. Reminds me of what someone else said lately:

        “For you guys, I’m probably a centrist cause y’all are different,“ joked Abrams, who says she has been here three times in the past two years. “I’m like hyper-progressive for the South. I’m normal progressive for the Midwest. I’m probably a Republican here.”

        Nailed it.

      • Even during the leadership of Democrats, “Republican” is also how America looks to the rest of the developed world where it is unthinkable to not have affordable health care for everyone, and under the leadership of Republicans, America is far right.

    • It’s pretty weak not to invite all the Democratic candidates to a forum of the Democratic candidates for a council seat. Murakami and Orion are a credible candidates and there was no representation there for them. I expect better from Democrats. (This is Republican bs right here).

      • This is machine politics to protect re-elections. Yes, it’s a disappointing to hear its the Democrats doing this, since it is from a Republican playbook. In another Democrat forum, they did not invite 2 centrist candidates, Ari Hoffman and Ann Davison Sattler. Apparently in the Democrat party, the incumbents can pressure the party to not invite strong candidates that would threaten her gravy train.

    • Jim, predictable lashing out? You make it sound like a bunch of people are doing it. Do you want to count the number of people here suggesting some kind of a far left conspiracy and gross injustice of not including so-and-so and compare it to the ones defending it?

      What’s predictable is the same people banging away at their keyboards whenever Sawant is mentioned in an article.

      • Tom, I’ll echo Jim: you’d be hard pressed to find anyone of us commenters voicing interest/concern to be anything but center left or left. We’re just not all the way over to the Socialist Alternative… Which IMO is the Tea Party of the left, filled with a very vocal minority who uses divisive political tactics and values ideology over pragmatic solutions.

        Anyway back to the KCYD. Yeah I agree they’re just small organization who’s endorsement will likely have no affect on the race however, my favorite neighborhood blog did write a story on their event and it piqued my interest in their selection process.

      • Brian, it is not hard-pressed to find the cockr—….I mean, right wingers. You only need to read the comments for the blog post about Stacey Abrams just below this, and the recent Seattle is dying one from Thursday.

      • Was talking to this specific thread. But yeah, pretty obvious that the posters on the Stacy Adams article are not our Cap Hill neighbors but rather just some lame trolls that just post the same garbage on every article written about her.

        Would love to see our country evolve past all this political tribalism where a subset of our populace views Republicans as cock roaches and Democrats as libtards.

      • There are more right wingers on Capitol Hill than you think.

        As for not calling them cockroaches, how are they not ones when they support a president who has cut Medicaid and separated migrant kids from their parents. Oh, he also has had white supremacists as his closest advisers.

        Yeaaaaah, both sides are bad.

      • Building up these straw men to create false dichotomies polarizes everyone and we end in the hyper partisan environment that we’re in today.

        Jim, CS, Ella, CD Neighbor, 23 years in the CD, Glenn, and other otherwise left leaning people who regularly post on here are “cockroaches” to you because they disagree with you on Judge McKenna’s courtroom antics. This kind of litmus test politicking is wrong headed and I look forward to evolving past it.

        Taking it back on topic, I’m glad to see Egan was able to post a response.

      • I didn’t say those people you mentioned are cockroaches but anyone who voted for Trump definitely is.

        You were the one who tried to say Democrats and Republicans are just as bad as the other. So I brought up Medicaid cut and separation of migrant children from their parents to show Republicans are on the next level of evilness.

      • If anyone thinks I voted for Trump, thinks I may have even momentarily considered voting for Trump they certainly have zero clue about me….. I would have chosen a trained chimpanzee before ever considering something that nauseating…

      • Tom, I detest Trump, but I am not aware that he has “cut Medicaid.” If you can tell us the specific ways he has done this, please do.

      • Thanks, Tom. But I would just point out the obvious….Trump has just proposed the changes, so they are not in effect. And it’s quite unlikely that the Democrat-controlled House would approve of this….thank goodness. Medicaid is a vital element of our health care system.

  2. King County Young Democrats might want to do better research
    in this field. In my opinion Sawant is the farthest reach for a democrat period. They didn’t want them there just say it…It’s very telling of this group. I won’t take them seriously in the future.

  3. Sawant is not a Democrat – she is a Socialist – so why was she invited over Murakami and the other guy who are registered democrats?

    • She is the incumbent. And the Democrats amended their rules so they can endorse nonparty candidates. It’s crappy though that your money and time in a party goes to non party members. Join the freckin party if you want their support! This is machine politics to protect re-elections. Yes, it’s a disappointing to hear its the Democrats doing this, since it is from a Republican playbook. In another Democrat forum, they did not invite 2 centrist candidates, Ari Hoffman and Ann Davison Sattler. Apparently in the Democrat party, the incumbents can pressure the party to not invite strong candidates that would threaten her gravy train. They refuse to come play with real threatening candidates. Hope you think of this when you vote in the primaries and all the crap you put up with because the city council will not support local businesses, schools, citizens who want action.

    • Sawat is a member of the Socialist Alternative party which has only 1,000 members nationwide and had a closed membership policy, you will only be allowed to join if you already agree lock step with them. You can not simply join SA and participate. This should not be confused with the Democratic Socialists of America, which is an open organization to which Bernie Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez belong. They are extremely different parties.

      What are the young Democrats doing giving Sawant a platform when she herself said that she would never be a friend with a Democrat. Also her SA party thinks the Democrats party is terrible. What a strange decision the the Young Democrats

      • It is a candidate forum and since she is the current city council member running for reelection in district 3, it would be really silly not to invite the current city council member.

  4. So, the KCYD could invite a non-Democrat to attend their forum (presumably because she is the incumbent and I suspect because they are more socialists than democrats at this point) but exclude at least one self-identified Democrat. Well, I think this says more about KCYD than the candidates who participated…

  5. “Then the day we were going to send invites Zach DeWolf announced and had 2 city council endorsements and all the school board endorsements so we made an exception for D3 to have 4 candidates.”

    So an exception was made for DeWolf to expand to 4, since he had endorsements (as if no other candidates did). Well, I guess we know who the Young Democrats are supporting.

      • My issue is that they made an exception for him late because he had inside connections after not inviting others due to “no time.” Mmm-hmm. Insider city move. It’s not like he’s polling well or there’s any other reason an exception was made for him.

        God I hope it doesn’t come down to him vs Kshama.

  6. Yeap. Party machinery at work. Shows how fearful they are of losing their power ba$e.

    Gotta keep the city dollars flowing their way. Follow the money.

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  8. The update statement by KCYD chair Derek Richards is deceptive. There are not 57 candidates running in D3….that is the city-wide number. There are only something like 6 candidates running in D3, and this number could be easily accommodated in the forum without affecting the time allotment. I think the KCYD decision to exclude two credible candidates (Egan Orion and Pat Murakami) was done because they are centrists and not far enough left for the group.

    Fortunately, the KCYD group is a minor player politically, and whatever they do will not have a significant effect on the election.