In a state dominated by Democrats, being a Seattle state lawmaker can bring power and a long arc of influence in Washington politics. Former state Sen. Ed Murray later became mayor. Rep. Frank Chopp stepped down from leadership after serving as the longest House speaker in state history – and is still working as a lawmaker. Meanwhile, South Seattle’s Sen. Rebecca Saldaña is currently a deputy majority leader.
The top two vote-getters in the Aug. 2 primary will advance to the November general election, with the winners coming to Olympia in January for the next scheduled legislative session.
With sitting representatives heavily favored to win the two open Senate seats, the four open House seats have drawn a scrum of candidates for these rare vacancies.
Regardless, in deep-blue Seattle, the seats are all but certain to remain in Democratic hands.
The winners, however, will help determine the course and extent of progressive policies in Washington for years to come, said political consultant Crystal Fincher.
That’s because the progressive policy ideas that start in Seattle can eventually make their way down to the Capitol – and become state law. For Fincher, the distinction between this year’s candidates is the extent to which they seek transformational change or seek more incremental advances on issues like housing and more.
“The kind of action that we take on climate, the kind of action that we take on tax fairness, how we approach health care, those things are going to be heavily influenced by who is elected in Seattle,” said Fincher, who is doing work for one 46th District House candidate, Melissa Taylor.
“As goes the Seattle delegation,” Fincher added, “so goes the progressive vision in Washington."
Democratic Rep. Noel Frame is running for the 36th District Senate seat opened up by Carlyle’s retirement.
The district now includes Uptown/Lower Queen Anne, Interbay, Magnolia, Ballard, the Seattle Center campus, Greenwood and Phinney Ridge, according to Frame, who was appointed in January 2016 to the House seat. She won her first election later that year.
Frame, who works for a planning and design firm, is known in the Legislature for trying to make Washington’s tax policy more progressive.
In recent years, she has co-chaired the bipartisan Tax Structure Work Group, which is studying possible changes to Washington’s tax system. Frame herself has proposed a tax of 1% on state residents whose wealth exceeds $1 billion.
“‘Tax nerd moving to the Senate’ could be my campaign slogan,” said Frame, 42.
Frame has raised $75,000 for her campaign, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission. She’s earned the endorsements of most of the Democratic establishment – including U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, Gov. Jay Inslee and 18 Democrats currently in the Legislature.
She faces Kate Martin, a 64-year-old planning and design consultant who said she rejoined the Democratic Party in 2021 in order to find centrist solutions to problems. Martin has raised about $4,100 for her campaign.
Martin opposes the capital-gains tax passed by lawmakers in 2021, according to her website, and believes that repeat criminal offenders and the homeless must be removed from the streets. She would draft legislation that protects small landlords like herself.
“I am not left-wing or right-wing, I call myself bipartisan-wing,” said Martin in an interview, adding later: “I'm not woke, I'm not progressive, I'm not into identity politics.”
As Frame runs for Senate, five Democrats are vying to fill her vacant House seat.
Leading the pack in fundraising is Julia Reed, a management consultant who worked as a senior policy adviser to former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, and as the city’s regional affairs director. Reed has raised $132,000 and has the endorsements of, among others, Seattle City Council President Debora Juarez and Councilmember Dan Strauss.
Waylon Robert, a project manager at the conservation organization Forterra, has meanwhile raised $103,000. Robert has picked up endorsements across the political spectrum, ranging from former GOP Gov. Dan Evans and Secretary of State Ralph Munro, to former King County Councilmember Larry Gossett and Sen. Bob Hasegawa, a South Seattle Democrat.
Also running is Jeff Manson, an administrative law judge who has raised $83,989; Elizabeth Tyler Crone, a public health expert who has worked for the United Nations and World Health Organization, and who has raised $63,094; and Nicole Gomez, also a former chair of the 36th District Democrats and executive director at Institute for a Democratic Future, a training and fellowship program for young Democratic leaders. Gomez has raised $18,500.
Frame has not endorsed a candidate to replace her.
In Northeast Seattle’s 46th District, Rep. Javier Valdez is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Frockt.
Valdez, 52, is a longtime Seattle city government employee, currently a senior equity and inclusion adviser, and was appointed to the House in 2017 and reelected in 2018 and 2020.
A supporter of the law passed this year limiting ammunition in gun magazines – he sponsored a version in 2020 that stalled shortly before getting a House vote – Valdez said he’s focused on stricter firearms regulations.
“My highest priority is to continue my work on gun safety,” said Valdez, adding that he wants to see a ban on semiautomatic rifles. He added: “We know that our federal government is not going to take any action on this.”
Valdez also said he’ll support ideas to increase affordable housing amid Washington’s housing crisis and pointed to House Bill 1782, a bill he co-sponsored but that stalled this year before reaching a floor vote. That proposal sought to lift local zoning restrictions near public transit that prevent the construction of townhomes, duplexes and fourplexes. Valdez has raised nearly $158,000 for his campaign.
His opponent, Matthew Gross, a deputy prosecutor with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, is focused primarily on affordable housing. Gross is calling for $1 billion in new annual funding to construct affordable housing, an end to exclusionary zoning like single-family home neighborhoods, and for the state to provide rental relief to tenants who make below a certain threshold of income.
“I got into this race because as a voter I wasn't satisfied with my government's response to the housing crisis in particular,” said Gross, 30, who grew up in Northeast Seattle. He has raised about $27,000 for the race.
Also on the ballot is Alex Tsimerman, a frequent and unsuccessful candidate for local offices who describes his candidacy as pro-Donald Trump and America first. He has not reported raising any money.
Just like in the 36th District, five Democrats are running to take Valdez’s House seat, with several candidates raising big dollar amounts and collecting endorsements. Valdez has not endorsed any of the candidates to replace him.
Leading the fundraising pack is Lelach Rave, a pediatric physician who has raised $187,500 and snagged the endorsements of both Frockt and Carlyle, as well as Seattle City Councilmember Sara Nelson.
Meanwhile, Melissa Taylor is treasurer of the King County Democrats and co-founder of Health Rosetta Group, which works on improvements in health care. She has raised $186,000. Taylor has gotten the endorsements of, among others, King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay and Seattle City Councilmembers Tammy Morales and Debora Juarez.
There’s another doctor in the race: Nancy Connolly, a primary care physician who works with individuals without homes around the Seattle area. Connolly has raised $159,700.
Also running is Darya Farivar, a policy director with Disability Rights Washington, who has raised $65,600, and Nina Martinez, a software manager and board chair of the Latino Civic Alliance who served among other places on a governor-appointed task force on police use-of-force policies. Martinez has raised $18,700.
Two more open House seats
Rep. Eileen Cody, a now-retired nurse first elected in 1994 and chair of the House Health Care & Wellness Committee, is not seeking reelection.
Two Democrats and one Republican are vying to replace her seat in the 34th District, which includes Vashon Island, West Seattle and Burien.
Democrats – Emily Alvarado and Leah Griffin – have each raised nearly $100,000 for their campaigns and brought in a slew of endorsements.
Griffin is a librarian at a private school in Seattle, and on her website tells her story of advocating for stronger community response for sexual assault victims, which happened after she was raped. Among other things, she would seek to ban semiautomatic rifles and introduce public, single-payer health care.
Among others, Griffin is endorsed by The Urbanist and 34th District Sen. Joe Ngyuen, D-White Center, and half a dozen House Democrats. She has raised nearly $106,000.
Alvarado is a former director of Seattle’s Office of Housing in the Durkan administration and works as a regional vice president for Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit that works on housing issues.
Alvarado is endorsed by Chopp and Rep. Nicole Macri, and Seattle City Council members Lisa Herbold and Teresa Mosqueda, and King County Executive Dow Constantine. She has brought in $106,000.
Republican Jolie Lansdowne is co-chair of the 34th District Republicans and a small landlord who wants to find tax relief, and support small businesses and struggling families, according to her website. Lansdowne has raised $5,300.
In March, South Seattle’s 37th District Rep. Kirsten Harris-Talley announced she wouldn’t run again, saying in a statement that despite some policy victories, “it has been challenging to operate as an anti-racist within an institution like the House of Representatives.”
Four Democrats are running to replace Harris-Talley: Emijah Smith, Chipalo Street, Andrew Ashiofu and Nimco Bulale.
Street is a Microsoft employee who has drawn the endorsements of both the Seattle Times and The Stranger, as well as Valdez and former state Reps. Brady Walkinshaw and Eric Pettigrew. He has raised $77,000.
Smith is chief of staff for King County Equity Now, a pro-Black advocacy nonprofit organization. Smith has been endorsed by Saldaña, the district’s senator and Democratic deputy majority leader, among others, and has raised $63,000.
Born in Somalia and living in the Seattle area since she was 8, Bulale has among other things worked at OneAmerica and founded a consultant firm, South Sound Strategies, that works on equity issues, and is an adjunct professor at Western Washington University. She has raised $35,500.
Ashiofu is a flight attendant who holds posts in the 37th District Democrats and the King County Democrats, and has raised $19,000.