Ten of the 14 remaining Seattle City Council candidates — including one District 3 candidate done up in drag for the night — faced some of their most progressive constituents in a fun but heated at times pageant Wednesday night.
District 3 incumbent Kshama Sawant, Scott’s competitor in D4 Alex Pedersen, as well as both of North Seattle’s District 5 competitors, council member Debora Juarez and Ann Davidson Slatter, did not participate.
Don’t get your hopes up that the socialist D3 incumbent was rejecting the evening’s frat talent show theatrics or stepping away from the alternative biweekly that endorsed her in the primary. Sawant’s campaign tells CHS the candidate was unable to attend due to “a personal scheduling conflict.”
On stage at Neumos, District 4’s Shaun Scott “won” the contest, narrowly eking out District 2’s Tammy Morales, who was voted the most spirited contestant, to win the pageant hosted by The Washington Bus and The Stranger at the Capitol Hill music venue.
The event, comprised of a mostly cringe-worthy talent portion, and policy questions, often turned hostile with heckling of less left-leaning candidates.
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D3’s Egan Orion, named the best dressed candidate after dressing in drag and donning the name “Shegan” for the night, was frequently interrupted with shouts related to the independent expenditures he received from the pro-business Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which spent over $156,000 supporting him in the primary.
Even Council member Lisa Herbold fanned the flames, railing on outside groups fueling some candidates.
This election “is not going to be decided by the greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce. It is not going to be decided by People for Seattle or Tim Burgess or Amazon. And it’s not going to be decided by so-called Moms for Seattle,” she said.
Morales’s competitor Mark Solomon was met by a yell of “why are you running” in his opening statement. The crowd swelled with chants of “Tammy” several times throughout the evening.
Highlights of the event included a stand-up comedy routine from Scott in which he said that Sand Point Country Club members mistake him for King County Council candidate Girmay Zahilay. Orion’s talent was a rendition of Michael Buble’s “Feeling Good” which featured a few light dance moves from the self-described “Flash Mob King.” Morales also sang.
In one of the more odd moments, District 6’s Heidi Wills, who, suffice it to say, was not a crowd favorite, had to restart her Susan B. Anthony slam poetry-like reading set to Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” due to heckling.
On more serious notes, the candidates also talked policy early in the evening. While Orion has said before the city “maybe” has enough tax revenue to address homelessness, he admitted Wednesday that Seattle needed more to deal with the ongoing crisis.
Orion also argued against sweeps of homeless encampments, but added, “If we have places for people to live other than the streets, it is better for people to have a bed, a door, running water, toilets. That is better than living on the streets, but let’s not sweep people unless we have places for them to live.”
The Broadway Business Improvement Area head tried to appeal to the primarily young voters in attendance with his opening haiku poem, a requirement for all the candidates.
“You are the future; together we’ll rock this town; let’s get shit done,” Orion said, met with cheers.
That positivity would not last, however.
Orion was met with hostility when asked what his favorite progressive tax is. He said “any progressive tax that taxes the wealthy is a good progressive tax” and that he thinks “the wealthy have it good enough in this city, the large corporations have it good enough” amid heckling.
“They’re funding you,” one man yelled out before Orion noted that his favorite is the millionaires tax.
— Margo Vansynghel (@Margo_vs) August 22, 2019
In response to other questions, he said that there should be longer sentences for people convicted of committing hate crimes and equivocated on required relocation assistance from landlords if they raise rents on tenants by 10% in a year.
“If it’s 10.1%, yes, but not 10%,” Orion said while one woman yelled “this is not a joke.” He clarified that he was against the requirement at a 10% increase. Sawant’s answers? Recorded cricket noises thanks to the slapstick Stranger moderators.
While she wasn’t there, Sawant’s ideals still had a voice, with Morales often mirroring Sawant’s talking points on big business and the direction of the city, for example.
“This election, in particular, we have a choice: We can continue to allow our local government to be dictated by undue influence of corporations in this city or we can shift power back to the people,” Morales said.
While she was unable to attend Wednesday night’s event and with the City Council on recess, Sawant has been busy this week supporting Seattle educators as contract issues are again flaring up with the district. “Teachers are more than just educators. In a perverse system that has amassed unprecedented wealth for a few at the top, while starving the majority of basic resources like food, housing, healthcare, and living-wage jobs, our educators have to be nurses and counselors,” Sawant writes. “As insult upon injury, those same non-classroom school positions like nurses, counselors, and family support workers face constant underfunding, and some schools only have nurses on staff 1-2 days a week.”
Negotiations continue for the Seattle Education Association as it negotiates a new contract with Seattle Public Schools. In its latest bargaining update, the SEA team said it is moving toward a tentative agreement focused around racial equity and fair compensation. The first day of school is scheduled to be September 4th.