A largely new Seattle City Council to take office in January

With ballot counting nearly finished, five new councilmembers are set to join three incumbents and one appointee.

a composite image of the 14 Seattle city council candidates

Candidates for Seattle City Council. (Illustration by Valerie Niemeyer)

After a week of vote counting, Seattle has selected its next seven district City Councilmembers, with five newcomers and two incumbents. 

King County Elections estimates it has about 600 ballots remaining from across the county, meaning there likely aren’t enough Seattle votes left to change the outcome of the races.

In January, the newly-elected Councilmembers will join at-large Councilmember Sara Nelson and a yet-to-be-appointed replacement for at-large Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, who was elected to the King County Council.

The new Council will be green with five members in their first term. At-large Councilmember Nelson is halfway through her first term in office. The two reelected incumbents, Tammy Morales and Dan Strauss, will be the most senior members of the body as they each enter their second four-year term.

The race was driven by voters’ concerns over public safety, policing, homelessness and a general sense that Seattle is still off track in the wake of the pandemic.

In West Seattle’s District 1, tech lawyer Rob Saka beat tech-industry climate activist Maren Costa. He lead 54.1% to 45.5% after the Nov. 15 count. Though the gap between the candidates narrowed over the week of counting, Saka’s wide lead on election night proved insurmountable for the left-leaning Costa, who garnered significant support from labor. Saka ran on promises to hire more police officers and improve public safety in the city.

In south Seattle’s District 2, incumbent Tammy Morales squeaked to reelection 50.7% to 49.1% over Chinatown-International District activist Tanya Woo. Morales trailed on election night, but benefited from Seattle’s typical late leftward swing from younger, more progressive voters turning in their ballots at the last minute. Morales campaigned on promises to improve community development, street safety and the root causes of crime, homelessness and addiction, and is likely to be the Council’s most progressive member next year.

In District 3, which includes Capitol Hill, Madison Valley and Eastlake, business and nonprofit leader Joy Hollingsworth beat former Transportation Choices Coalition executive director Alex Hudson 53% to 47%. Hollingsworth works for Northwest Harvest, a food security nonprofit, and previously helped operate her family’s cannabis farm and business. The granddaughter of Central District civil rights leader Dorothy Hollingsworth, Joy Hollingsworth campaigned on public safety, community development and a promise to be an accessible district representative.

Northeast Seattle’s District 4 is the closest race with former Seattle Office of Arts and Culture deputy director Maritza Rivera beating tech entrepreneur Ron Davis 50.3% to 49.4%. Public safety and policing was the number one issue in Rivera’s campaign. She promised to work on police hiring and address property crime and other disorder in her district. 

Davis gained a lot of ground over the week of ballot counts, from being down 11 percentage points on election night to less than 1 point today. Though he trails by just 247 votes, there are very few ballots left to count, meaning Davis is unlikely to overcome the deficit. Despite being close, the D4 election is still outside the threshold for an automatic recount, which happens when a race is separated by fewer than 2,000 votes AND less than .5%.  

Former King County Superior Court judge Cathy Moore won 64.2% to 35.5% over equity consultant ChrisTiana ObeySumner to represent North Seattle’s District 5. Moore entered the race because of her concerns over public safety and affordability. She too wants to rebuild SPD’s ranks, but also supports initiatives to create non-police responses to some public emergencies and wants to sharpen the city’s ability to hold officers accountable for misconduct.

In District 6, incumbent Dan Strauss beat Fremont Chamber of Commerce director Pete Hanning 52.3% to 47.2%. Strauss trailed by a few hundred votes on election night, but quickly flipped to the lead in later counts. In his campaign, Strauss touted his work clearing large homelessness encampments in Ballard and Woodland Park, his support for hiring more police officers and his work aligning city code with the state’s new drug possession law.

In District 7, former Queen Anne Councilmember and retired Naval officer Bob Kettle beat incumbent Andrew Lewis 50.8% to 48.9% in the race to represent Downtown, Queen Anne and part of Magnolia. He joins Nelson in the Council’s more conservative flank. Like many of his future colleagues, Kettle ran on promises to improve public safety and hire more police officers. Though Lewis benefited from the leftward turn in later ballot counts, going from nearly seven points behind on election night to two points in the end, it wasn’t enough to overcome Kettle’s lead, making Lewis the only incumbent to lose reelection in Seattle this cycle.

Come January, Mayor Bruce Harrell will have broader allyship on the City Council than he currently does. The mayor endorsed Saka, Hollingsworth, Rivera, Moore and Strauss. All five candidates support Harrell’s plan for police hiring and are likely to support his other initiatives on public disorder, Downtown revitalization, homelessness encampment clearance and more.

Saka, Hollingsworth, Rivera, Moore and Kettle benefited from the backing of big business and real estate interests who spent more than $1.1 million through independent expenditure committees this election in support of their campaigns. All five candidates said they either opposed new wealth taxes on individuals or businesses or would consider them only as a last resort after looking for things to cut in the existing budget, which echoes the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s approach to the city budget.

Seattle voters support new taxes, however, with more than 69% passing the nearly $1 billion Seattle Housing Levy renewal this election. In August, a Crosscut/Elway poll of likely voters found that 66% support a new tax on Seattle’s largest businesses and 60% support a new tax on the wealthiest residents.

At-large Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda won a seat on the King County Council 55% to 44.7% over Burien Mayor Sofia Aragon. The Seattle City Council will have 20 days to appoint Mosqueda’s replacement after her final day in office.

Turnout in this year’s general was a relatively low 46.3%. For comparison, the 2021 general election for mayor, city attorney and at-large Councilmembers had a 54.6% turnout and the 2019 City Council election had 54.5% turnout citywide.

King County Elections will certify the results on Nov. 28.

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