Tight council race exposes a divided West Seattle

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Lisa Herbold and Shannon Braddock are in the tightest race for city council.

When Lisa Herbold finds me on the corner of California and Raymond in West Seattle, she’s fuming. “Instead of another profile piece,” says the District 1 candidate for Seattle City Council, “I thought you’d be interested in this.” She gives me a blurry photo a friend took of a Rental Housing Authority (RHA) newsletter. It warns its members that Herbold’s “tenant-centric” approach would “represent a disaster for the industry.”

Herbold is incensed. And yet, as she works down her list of registered voters on a recent Monday afternoon, knocking on apartment doors in buildings that were perhaps once motels, she celebrates the slight, handing would-be voters a slip of paper detailing just how much the RHA fears her campaign. Herbold’s point, it seems, is that she’s the enemy of the enemy -- and therefore your friend.

It's an interesting contrast to the scene that awaited me the previous Thursday, when I met Herbold’s opponent, Shannon Braddock, at Freshy’s coffee shop on California Avenue. I grabbed a table that is reserved on Fridays for a psychic. When Braddock came through the front door, she apologized for being tardy, even though it was only by a couple of minutes. She knew a number of people in the small cafe, mostly from her daughter’s school. None mentioned her candidacy for City Council. After speaking for a while, we walked a nearby stretch of single-family homes as Braddock doorbelled. She had no incendiary flyers and abided by “No Soliciting” signs.

It’s hard to ignore how well the settings in which I met these opponents, who essentially tied in the primaries last August, play into their stereotypes. Braddock has been lumped into the category of “establishment” candidate – seen as representative of Seattle’s wealthy liberals and large donors. Herbold has been pushed to the populist corner, shared for better or worse with socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant. Both resist this binary – Herbold calls the categories “only marginally useful.”

And yet our meetings do little to dispel the feeling that District 1 is a race between the wealthier properties along the waterfront and the chipped paint apartment buildings southeast of 35th Avenue. Herbold's pride in being the candidate the RHA fears seems indicative that there are groups (in this case tenants) that deserve her attention more than others. Braddock, on the other hand, makes no such priority, pledging collaboration and community above all else.

While Shannon Braddock has seen the challenges of campaigning from behind the curtains, this is her first time sticking her own neck out.

Braddock grew up in Bellingham surrounded by politics. Her father, Dennis Braddock, was a lifelong politician, appointed by Gov. Gary

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About the Authors & Contributors

David Kroman

David Kroman

David Kroman is formerly a reporter at Crosscut, where he covered city politics.