The 43rd District Democrats contributed to a rush of candidate forums Saturday afternoon with its event featuring six candidates for the Seattle City Council’s District 3 seat, which includes Capitol Hill and the Central District, discussing issues like homelessness, climate change, and even their favorite mayors in city history. The day also included the most direct political attack by a challenger on the incumbent yet.
While Pat Murakami’s call for a used cruise ship to house the city’s unsheltered population didn’t make a second appearance, Logan Bowers continued his push for a triplex on every block and incumbent Kshama Sawant continued her crusade for rent control and social housing.
The 43rd District Democrats will also be hosting a “Ballots & Bubbly” event Tuesday night at 7 PM at The Riveter, where many of the D3 candidates can talk to voters in smaller settings, and Seattle University will be hosting a marathon of district race town halls on Sunday.
15 things CHS heard at the 43rd District Dems D3 forum
- The forum featured one of the clearest rebukes of Sawant’s tenure yet in one of these events from Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce head Egan Orion, who accused the incumbent of being more focused on raising her national profile and money for the Socialist Alternative party: “She’s neglected the people of District 3.” He added moments later: “We need sound policy, not soundbites; we need a council member who will seek out constituents not a camera and a podium.” He said, if elected, he would have office hours in cafes in the district to talk to voters.
- Orion also marked a direct contrast with Sawant in voicing his opposition to her call for rent control. “If you look at the studies about rent control, it shows that it’s actually a disaster for the availability of homes.” The Seattle Pridefest executive director instead called for bringing vacated apartments and hotels back up to code as an immediate solution. Similarly, Zachary DeWolf and Murakami, a self-described neighborhood activist who repeatedly urged protecting legacy tenants, also floated a vacancy tax on empty units.
- Public defender Ami Nguyen thinks a way to help with the homelessness crisis is to have nonprofits in the area coordinate with one another so that the unsheltered are “taking a step forward.” Case management once they’re in homes is also necessary, she said.
- Seattle Public Schools Board member DeWolf, who said he served on the 43rd District Dems board from 2014-2016, mentioned using a shallow rent subsidy program to help people stay up on their rents and strengthening the partnership with SPS to build affordable housing around schools so that students and teachers can live close to where they work.
- On top of her oft-repeated pushes for rent control and increased social housing, Sawant also called for expanding tiny house initiatives as an immediate solution, citing the village at 18th and Yesler. “They provide really good transitions to permanent housing because it gives you stability and security to get your life together.”
- The environment was a hot topic during the forum with multiple candidates, including Orion and Sawant, calling for an all-electric public transportation fleet, and Nguyen focusing on environmental justice for low-income communities like the one she grew up in. “Environmentalism seemed like a thing for the rich, we need to stop that,” she said.
- Bowers, who has clearly been focused on affordability as the foremost issue in his campaign, said housing is “always the number one way to prevent carbon pollution.” He said, “allowing people to live in the city reduces our carbon pollution. If they get squeezed out into the suburbs, they have to drive everywhere.” He also wants a “100 percent walkable city” with major necessities close to all homes.
- Orion repeated multiple times a priority of his to fill potholes in streets before establishing bike lanes. “We have to do the basics before we can go on to create these other things which are going to be fantastic.”
- Murakami said she would like to see the creation of bike boulevards to give cyclists the right-of-way and protect them. She also mentioned a low or no-interest program to help people buy electric bikes. “I think a lot of people would bicycle if they had that opportunity.”
- Sawant said she wants to decriminalize rider non-payment on public transit and even make public transit free through progressive revenues.
- With an uptick in gun violence centered in the Central District, DeWolf said he wants to see more investments in community-based violence prevention, victim reentry programs, and more counselors and mentors in schools. And in a direct call-out of Sawant, Bowers said speed bumps aren’t a solution.
- Nguyen said in office she would push for a capital gains tax, a proposal pushed by some Democrats in the Legislature this year but one which failed amid concerns that it was an unconstitutional income tax. “We should not rely on property taxes in order to fund the programs that we need for the community.”
- DeWolf, Nguyen, Orion (“I sort of like it”), and Sawant voiced support for allowing non-citizens to vote in municipal and county elections. Bowers said “I don’t think so, but I’m undecided.” Murakami said only if they’ve lived here a certain length of time. All candidates said they supported 16- and 17-year-olds voting in city and county elections.
- On a question on who their favorite mayor in Seattle history, Norm Rice got a shoutout from Orion, DeWolf, who also applauded Tim Burgess and current mayor Jenny Durkan, and Murakami. Orion also said he really likes Durkan. Bowers shouted out Wesley Uhlman, mayor from 1969 to 1978. Sawant said she would rather build a movement than focus on individuals who, in her estimation, don’t respond to the needs of the people.
- The D3 race is down to six final candidates. Sara Brereton did not officially file for the race and Friday’s deadline has come and gone. “While I had a very positive reaction at the SOS forum I realized my message is unelectable, that it’s critical in November (Sawant) is held accountable for her failed policies by losing,” Brereton tells CHS. “District 3 residents who want results over rhetoric are going to take our seat back.”
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