A mainstay of Seattle City Council, Nick Licata, announced Wednesday he would not seek re-election in 2015. Licata, 67, cited personal reasons, as well as a desire for “one more adventure” and a forthcoming book as the reasons he will not seek re-election. The councilmember has served since 1998 as one of the most progressive voices on the council, fighting for paid-sick leave, a $15 minimum wage and working to pass Initiative 91 in 2006, which required the city to see a fair return on sports teams.
“I’m motivated by challenges here,” said Licata in Wednesday’s press briefing, “but I see even greater challenges out there.” In addition to releasing his book in next January -- titled either “How to Change the World” or “A Handbook for Activists” according to Licata and "Self-Help for Activists" according to his publisher -- Licata said he plans to work more nationally.
While he does not see himself running for national office, he said, “I want to take what I’ve learned here and multiply it. I want to push Seattle as a national model.”
Licata worked as an activist before running for office. He lived for years in a Capitol Hill commune, the People's Revolutionary Action Group, worked as a member of the International District Rotary Club and was once affiliated with the Green Party. In the mid-70s, he published the People’s Yellow Pages, which listed community and political groups in Seattle, as well as the Seattle Sun, an alternative weekly newspaper. Dennis Kucinich once recruited Licata to testify before Congress about the negative financial effects of funding a professional sports team.
His next efforts will focus on national paid sick leave and a higher minimum wage, as well as promoting more offices of labor standards across the country. When asked if he had specific organizations he would work for, he said no, but cited Democratic Municipal Officials, Local Progress and the National League of Cities as possibilities. “I also have my own network of electeds around the country,” he said.
On whether forthcoming district elections, which could pit current councilmembers against one another, influenced his decision, Licata acknowled that yes, it could be awkward. “When the music stops, there’s not enough chairs.” However, he made it clear it was not the tipping point.
“Ultimately,” he said, “I’m a competitive person. If I wanted to run, I would. Honestly, I think I’d win. We’ve all seen the same polls.”
Indeed, Licata’s retirement is not for lack of popularity. Last fall, Publicola reported on a poll from EMC that showed him with the highest approval rating of all councilmembers at 51 percent. Only 14 percent found him unfavorable. He and councilwoman Kshama Sawant were the only two city councilmembers with an approval rating above 50 percent.
Because of Seattle’s new, district based elections, Licata’s replacement would need to come from District 6, which covers Green Lake to Golden Gardens. That would also be current councilman Mike O’Brien’s district, although he is now the only remaining councilmember who has neither confirmed nor denied that he will seek re-election.
Licata spoke optimistically of Seattle’s future and positively of the council. “I think it’s moving in the right direction,” he said “I really enjoy working with the other councilmembers.” Still, he does have some regrets, including not achieving rent control. “The marketplace will not fix affordable housing.”
As for advice to future candidates, Licata said, “We have to be cognizant of our own power. If we don’t, the mayor will take it away.” Could Mr. Licata be that next Mayor? He laughed and said, “I don’t see that happening,” but added, “You never know.
This story has been updated to reflect the publisher's clarification of Licata's book title.