Seattle City Council appoints Tanya Woo to fill District 8 seat

Woo initially ran for the District 2 seat, backed by Chinatown-International District leaders and big businesses. 

Seattle City Council chamber

The Seattle City Council chamber at City Hall in a 2023 photo. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

On Tuesday, in a single round of voting, five Seattle City Councilmembers gave Tanya Woo the votes she needed to be appointed to the citywide District 8 position left vacant by Teresa Mosqueda’s election to the King County Council.

Council President Sara Nelson and Councilmembers Bob Kettle, Cathy Moore, Maritza Rivera and Rob Saka all voted for Woo’s appointment. Councilmember Tammy Morales voted for Mari Sugiyama, Councilmember Joy Hollingsworth voted for Lihn Thai and Councilmember Dan Strauss voted for Vivian Song. 

Woo will hold the appointed position until late November. Voters will elect someone in November to finish the remainder of Mosqueda’s term through the end of 2025. Woo confirmed Tuesday that she will seek election to the position.

“I’m so grateful and honored and very humbled,” said Woo after being sworn into office by the City Clerk. “I pledge to serve everyone in the city. … My door is open. Please come and visit. Let me know how I can help.”

Tanya Woo
Tanya Woo

Woo is a Chinatown-International District activist and business owner. During the pandemic, she co-founded the CID Community Watch, which conducts safety patrols and does outreach in homelessness encampments. Her family founded the historic Louisa Hotel, which was redeveloped into low- and middle-income affordable housing after a 2013 fire.

Woo is a familiar figure to the current City Council, five of whom are newcomers elected in November. She also ran for the Council in 2023, but lost the race for southeast Seattle’s District 2 seat against incumbent Tammy Morales. Woo ran on a platform similar to her newly elected colleagues, centering public safety, police hiring and fiscal conservatism.

During the appointment process, Jan. 3 to Jan. 23, the City Council received applications from 72 candidates who met the minimum qualifications. Councilmembers whittled the list down to eight finalists who answered questions at a Jan. 18 public forum and a Jan. 22 special Council meeting.

Even before the process began, Woo was considered the likely front-runner. Chinatown-International District leaders lobbied the Council for Woo’s appointment, arguing she would provide Asian-American representation not currently found on the legislative body.

Seattle’s big-business leaders also threw their weight behind Woo’s appointment. During the 2023 election, political action committees (PACs) financed by real estate and business leaders spent nearly $170,000 campaigning for Woo and against Morales. Similar PACs, funded by largely the same groups, spent more than $1 million in 2023 in support of Woo and new Councilmembers Rob Saka, Joy Hollingsworth, Maritza Rivera, Cathy Moore and Bob Kettle.

Tim Ceis, a former Seattle deputy mayor who now works as a consultant for Mayor Bruce Harrell’s administration, sent a letter to supporters of the PAC campaign urging them to lobby the Council on Woo’s behalf. In it, Ceis wrote “I don’t believe all of you worked so hard and gave so much to let unions and the left decide who gets this seat” and “The independent campaign expenditure success earned you the right to let the Council know not to offer the left the consolation prize of this Council seat.”

In her comments before the vote, Nelson dismissed concerns about outside influence in the appointment process.

“Let’s not let the weaponization of a leaked third party email distract us from what should be a celebration of making this body whole so we can go about the important work of the city,” Nelson said. “I believe that can serve as an effort to cast doubt on the integrity of this process and the outcome of our decision today.”

In stark contrast, Morales did take issue with the process and the letter from Ceis. 

“Today we must choose to put the needs of our constituents above all else,” said Morales before the vote. “If we don’t and this whole process was a foregone conclusion months in the making we’ll be doing everyone a disservice, including this body and the city. … This is a pivotal moment to ask who we are as a city, who we are as Seattleites.”

Labor backed Seattle Public Schools board member Vivian Song, who was elected to that position in 2021. The MLK Labor Council, which represents more than 150 unions in King County, and Seattle Building Trades, an influential political force, also came out in support of Song. Mosqueda, whose seat Woo now fills, was a progressive Democrat and staunch labor ally.

Song told Crosscut that she’s been overwhelmed by the support she’s received during the appointment process, and is considering running for the position in November.

Woo joins a Council with a whole lot on its plate for 2024.

One of its biggest tasks will be addressing a projected budget shortfall beginning in 2025 that could be as large as $251 million. Woo, Saka, Hollingsworth, Rivera and Kettle all ran on promises that before considering any new or expanded taxes, they would “audit” the budget looking for inefficiencies or fat to trim.

During the Council’s Jan. 22 meeting with the appointees, Woo was the only one of eight who, in response to a question from Moore, said she would not consider implementing new progressive taxes.

In addition to the projected budget shortfall, the Council will be tasked with tackling the city’s next Comprehensive Plan, which will determine how and where Seattle will allow new housing density. Also, the city’s nearly $1 billion transportation levy is expiring at the end of 2024 and its renewal will be on the November ballot.

City Councilmembers will also likely vote on new labor contracts for the Coalition of City Unions and the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG), both of which are in bargaining right now. The SPOG contract could deeply impact Seattle’s ongoing police reform efforts. The Council’s 2017 police reform legislation was significantly weakened by the 2018 SPOG contract, which the Council in turn voted to approve.

The Council wasted no time making their appointment official. Woo was sworn into office immediately following the Council vote.

Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors