[Editor’s note: This piece has been updated to clarify that Councilmember Tammy Morales helped pass legislation enacting an eviction moratorium during the pandemic, and a tenant Bill of Rights]
At the 11th annual Asian & Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Candidate Forum held at the Wing Luke Museum on July 20, candidates seeking elected positions to represent the Chinatown International District (CID) made their case to voters. Candidates campaigning for Seattle City Council District 2 and King County Council Position 8 had only 30 seconds or one minute to answer each question.
The forum was co-organized by Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS), UTOPIA, Wing Luke Museum, ReWA, and the Chinese Information and Service Center, and co-sponsored by the International Examiner, among other organizations. The event was moderated by Dae Shik Kim Jr.
The primary election will be held August 1, and the general election November 7.
Seattle City Council District 2
Tanya Woo, Margaret Elisabeth, and incumbent Councilmember Tammy Morales are running for the seat representing District 2, which includes the CID and much of South Seattle.
Woo helped start the CID Community Watch, which patrols the neighborhood at night keeping watch on public safety and helping people living outdoors. “I know how to create better public safety,” Woo said in her opening statement, citing her work there.
Last year, Woo helped successfully organize the neighborhood in opposition to a planned King County shelter expansion at the edge of the CID. “I also have fought against continued government discrimination in one of our most endangered neighborhoods in the nation, Woo said. “I promise I will show up, work hard and do what it takes to make Seattle better together.”
Woo’s family owns the historic Louisa Hotel. After a fire gutted the building in December 2013, she oversaw its restoration into a building with below market-rate, workforce housing and retail. “I know how to create more affordable housing,” Woo said. Woo has been endorsed by Port Commissioner Toshiko Hasegawa, State Rep. Sharon Tomiko-Santos, former Washington Governor Gary Locke, and the Seattle Times.
Councilmember Morales is a progressive member of the Seattle City Council who has represented the district since 2020. While in office she has advocated for pedestrian safety in South Seattle, anti-displacement, and public safety alternatives to police. In the CID, she helped fund a Neighborhood Safety Model to increase street outreach in the CID.
In her opening statement, Morales said in a second term she would focus on anti-displacement, to “continue developing community wealth building strategies,” increase affordable housing, and public safety.
“You deserve a council member who understands how city government works, who’s got deep relationships across the city in every neighborhood, and who really understands how to get things done,” Morales said.
Morales’ endorsements include a plethora of elected officials, including U.S. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, several Seattle City Council members and state legislators, Asian Pacific Islander Americans for Civic Empowerment, and The Stranger.
Candidate Margaret Elisabeth is a longtime member of the Green Party, and chairs the state chapter of the party. Most of her endorsements are Green Party-affiliated. Elisabeth said her priorities are universal citywide single payer health care, equitable school funding, and a $25 dollars per hour minimum wage.
On supporting homeless people, Woo emphasized that the City must build trust with people living outdoors to offer them services and behavioral health treatment. To prevent homelessness, she said the City should implement more rental protections and build more affordable housing. “I think it’s an all-of-the-above approach,” she said.
Morales stressed that housing – from social housing (which she supports) to more permanent supportive housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness – is key to prevention. She also helped pass legislation enacting an eviction moratorium during the pandemic, and a tenant Bill of Rights.
Elisabeth advocates building more tiny home villages on industrial lands, rent control, and creating a civil court for renters and landlords to resolve disputes.
For some questions, candidates were only allowed to hold up a sign saying “Yes,” “No,” or “Pass.”
All three candidates indicated “Yes” to moving Seattle toward free public transit. Morales and Elisabeth said “Yes” to banning encampment sweeps during winter and extreme heat, while Woo indicated “Pass.”
When asked if candidates support moving funding from the Seattle Police Department (SPD) to social services and community programs, Morales and Elisabeth indicated “Yes” while Woo indicated “Pass.”
On police accountability, Woo said SPD should hire more diverse officers, as well as implement and fund more alternatives to policing, like social workers and local neighborhood groups like CID Community Watch.
Morales said work still needs to be done to change the culture of the department. A priority should be, in the next police contract, returning to the accountability measures in the 2017 ordinance, such as removing arbitration from disciplinary processes and implementing a civilian oversight board.
Elisabeth said qualified immunity makes basically every law enforcement officer in the U.S. unaccountable to the public. “You must get rid of qualified immunity or we will never be able to hold them accountable,” she said. “That’s it.”
On mitigating gentrification and displacement in neighborhoods of color, Morales pointed to the Equitable Development Initiative that helps communities lead the kinds of housing they want to see, which she helped create and steer dedicated funding toward. When the City begins its new Comprehensive Plan, Morales said Alternative Six should be implemented, allowing more dense housing in every neighborhood.
Elisabeth said the city should do more to stop speculative investors from buying up housing to turn them into AirBnBs, and to eliminate single family zoning in Seattle to promote higher density.
Woo said more housing is needed while being mindful of the needs of historic communities like the CID, and to help the neighborhood upgrade its buildings to be fire and earthquake safe.
When it comes to the candidates’ stance on Sound Transit’s second light rail station and its impacts on the CID, Elisabeth endorsed reutilizing Union Station as a transit hub (and presumably building the new station on 4th Avenue). Woo did not name a preferred choice, but said, “We need to choose the option that will be the least harmful to the community.”
Morales, who supports the North and South of CID option, said she will press Sound Transit on mitigation and community benefits for the CID.
King County Council Position 8
Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda and Burien mayor Sofia Aragon are seeking to succeed County Councilmember Joe McDermott, who represents the county’s District 8, including the CID, part of downtown Seattle, West Seattle, parts of South Seattle, Delridge, Burien, White Center, Tukwila, and Vashon and Maury islands.
Mosqueda represents an At-Large (the whole city) position on the City Council. She was first elected in 2017. As budget chair during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mosqueda was instrumental in passing the JumpStart payroll tax on big business, which was used to fill budget shortfalls and fund affordable housing. She helped pass a number of initiatives protecting domestic and hotel workers, and hazard pay for grocery workers during the pandemic. Her endorsements include over two dozen labor unions and local elected officials, including Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell and Governor Jay Inslee, as well as Asian Pacific Islander Americans for Civic Empowerment and The Stranger.
Mosqueda said she is hoping to serve on the County Council because of its purview over public health and behavioral health. She is also interested in building more workforce housing in the County, and creating more access to childcare in District 8.
Mosqueda’s current City Council position is not up for re-election until 2025. If she loses, she will return to it. If she wins, Mosqueda’s City Council colleagues will find someone to fill out the rest of her term.
On supporting homeless people, Mosqueda said the answer is tiny house villages as well as emergency and supportive housing so people can get services. “When people have a place to come inside, they are no longer outside in the elements, self-medicating and causing harm to themselves,” Mosqueda said. “We need to invest in the workforce, the human service providers.”
Aragon likewise emphasized the importance of emergency housing to bring people indoors. Aragon was selected by her fellow council members to serve as mayor of Burien in 2022. She has served on the Burien City Council since 2020. She is an attorney, a registered nurse, and executive director of Washington Center for Nursing, which focuses on workforce development for nurses. She is endorsed by former Governor Gary Locke and several local elected officials.
Asked to comment on the location of Sound Transit’s second light rail station in the CID, neither candidate offered a clear endorsement of any option under consideration.
The moderator, Dae Shik Kim Jr.,, asked candidates about public safety and the King County Sheriff’s Office, which he said has “a history of brutality towards communities of color” and a lack of accountability. In 2017, a King County Sheriff’s Deputy shot and killed 20-year-old Tommy Le in Burien. The Sheriff’s Office initially claimed Le was holding a knife, but it was later revealed he was holding a ballpoint pen.
Aragon said the case highlights why law enforcement needs mental health professionals to support in emergency response. “The other piece too, was that there is an element here of drug use,” she said of the Le shooting. “Right now, our policies don’t have prevention as part of our drug use issue. And that really needs to be addressed, particularly for young people.”
Mosqueda concurred that in behavioral health crises, 911 should deploy a mental health provider or case manager. It’s something that, from her experience, both law enforcement and families of those killed by police agree on. “We need to enhance services so that there is an alternative response system for behavioral health, mental health for youth services,” she said.