Councilmember Bruce Harrell and Tammy Morales are the two candidates fighting to win over voters in Seattle’s District 2. One of them will end up the first City Council member to represent the whole southeast of Seattle: the Chinatown/International District, Sodo, Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley, Columbia City, and Seward Park. This year is the first to see the majority of the City Council positions represent specific districts in the city. Previously, all nine positions represented the whole city: now, seven positions are for candidates representing seven pieces of Seattle, and only two are for at-large positions.
District 2 has a population of 92,281 and is the city’s only majority minority district. It has by far the most diverse demographics of any district, at 33 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, 20 percent African American and 9 percent Hispanic—all higher than the city-wide average. Half of all households in District 2 speak a language other than English at home, compared to 23 percent in the city as a whole.
Both candidates live in District 2; incumbent candidate Harrell was also born and raised there.
Harrell has been a city council member for eight years. He is Chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology Committees, and Vice Chair of the Transportation Committee, among others.
He wrote the “ban the box” legislation passed by the City Council in 2013, which aims to prevent discrimination by forbidding employers from screening out of the applicant pool people with a criminal history. He has been in favor of police body cameras since 2010.
In an interview with the South Seattle Emerald, before the start of his reelection campaign, Harrell talked about the need for spending to improve South Seattle, the area he now seeks to represent.
“The fact of the matter is using federal funds, state funds, and city funds, we should again double down on the South End, because of the rates of poverty, the rates of unemployment, the graduation rates that aren’t where we need them to be,” he said.
We were unable to reach Harrell for comment at the time of publication.
His challenger, Tammy Morales, is a founding member of the Acting Food Policy Council of Seattle-King County. Morales came to Seattle in 2000. Though she previously worked for the Texas Legislature, she is new to political office, and never thought she would run. Morales said that in contrast to her opponent, she is concerned with serving the community above any political aspirations.
“I think the district races were appealing to me because I do community work and I felt like my community could be served better,” she said.
Morales said her priority is to make sure working families have a voice in City Hall, and to help what she sees as a neglected district.
In an interview with the Stranger, she outlined her main priorities as economic development, building a community college in South Seattle, strengthening bike and pedestrian infrastructure and better community policing.
The latter is especially important in the ID, which she says needs to be equipped with officers who speak Asian languages and should become one police precinct instead of being split between East and West as it is now.
As of October 18, Harrell has received $215,989 in campaign contributions while Morales has received $63,205. Some media outlets seem to have decided a victory for Harrell is a shoe-in. This annoys Morales, she said, though not necessarily because of her campaign.
“The mainstream media is not paying attention to this race,” she said. “There’s an assumption that my opponent’s going to win, and that’s fine. If you think I’m a longshot and you don’t want to pay attention to the candidates, that’s one thing. But to completely disregard the issues in this district, where we have the highest unemployment, highest poverty, highest number of immigrant and refugees living in the city, and to completely ignore the issues that those people are facing is really a disservice to the city and to our district in particular.”
International District community activist Sharon Maeda, who volunteers for Morales’s campaign, agrees.
“Some of the media has just totally left out District 2 entirely. And I consider that racism, by default. Because they’re saying, ‘Oh well we’re not going to cover District 2’—we’re not going to cover people of color, basically, communities of color.”
Maeda blames the media for failing to educate people about the campaign, especially people in District 2 who may not know about the new district system for City Council, or how the election process works.
“I doorbell for Tammy and more and more people have said, ‘Oh I already voted for her,’ and they voted in the primary and don’t realize that there’s also a general election,” she said.
To vote, you must either stamp and mail your ballot postmarked November 3, 2015 or turn in your ballot at a drop box by 8:00 p.m. on November 3. To vote for a District 2 candidate, you must be registered to vote and live in District 2.