Beto Yarce announces challenge to Sawant’s Seattle City Council seat

Nov 28, 2018, 5:52 PM | Updated: Nov 29, 2018, 12:29 pm
Beto Yarce...
Beto Yarce originally announced his candidacy at El Cuento Preschool last November. (Graham Johnson, KIRO 7)
(Graham Johnson, KIRO 7)

With seven out of nine Seattle City Council seats up for reelection in 2019, Councilmember Kshama Sawant already has a challenger.

RELATED: Seattle City Council poised for major shakeup in 2019

Sawant’s challenger is Beto Yarce, who publicly announced his campaign Thursday at El Cuento Preschool. A press release from his campaign provided a brief rundown of his life and qualifications.

Yarce moved from Mexico to Seattle in 2003, starting his own business shortly thereafter. After selling that business, Yarce joined the team at Ventures, a non-profit that provides capital, coaching, and assistance to low-income entrepreneurs. Since 2014, Yarce has served as Executive Director of Ventures.

Ventures is a nonprofit that focuses on providing funding for entrepreneurs, “with a focus on women, people of color, immigrants, and individuals with low income.” Yarce was also one of the recipients of Mayor Jenny Durkan’s “Pride Awards” in June 2018.

Yarce’s decision to announce his campaign at El Cuento Preschool had intent behind it — El Cuento is the first business Yarce helped through Ventures’ Latino program, founded back in 2009, and employing 20 total people.

“I came to the country—and city—with little more than dreams and aspirations. I lived on Capitol Hill in an era when it was affordable and welcoming for a young gay man bussing tables at a neighborhood restaurant,” said Yarce during his announcement.

“My lived experience informs how I will serve the people of this community—with humility and an appreciation for the diverse needs and voices of our communities, not a rigid ideology. We need more listening and less lecturing for our city councilmember if we are to address real issues in our city,” he added.

During his announcement, Yarce addressed a number of questions from reporters, covering a variety of topics. On his opposition, Councilmember Sawant, he noted that “she needs to focus on the needs of her district.”

Speaking on some bigger issues, he intimated that he wants to find humane ways to get the city’s homeless out of encampments and into shelters. Specifically, Yarce wants the city to be more aggressive about working with nonprofit developers to build more affordable housing, and said the whole picture of homelessness needs to be addressed, with more resources for mental health and drug addiction.

One of the more prominent criticisms of Councilmember Sawant has been her contentious relationship with big business. For Yarce, he argues that City Council “need[s] to understand better what it takes to run a business,” while outlining a willingness to bring Amazon to the table to discuss ways in which the tech giant can work together with the city government, rather than against it.

Beto is a member of the Greater Seattle Business Association’s board of directors, Seattle Mayor’s Small Business Advisory Council, the City of Seattle’s 2020 Census Task Force, and Mexicans Abroad for the Secretary of Foreign Affairs.

At the end of the press conference, Burien Mayor Jimmy Matta spoke, providing his own endorsement of Yarce for Seattle’s District 3 council seat.

“It’s not an easy road, and I’m going to be right there with you [Beto], knocking on doors and talking to neighbors,” said Mayor Matta. “I’m very happy that you’ve stepped up, and that you’re ready to take this on.”

A tough time for Seattle City Council

Councilmember Sawant has been a divisive figure in Seattle politics since she took office in 2014, pushing for the controversial head tax earlier in 2018, operating as the lone vote against the Seattle Police contract, and speaking out against Paul Allen hours after his passing in October.

Meanwhile, it’s been a tough term for the Seattle City Council, overall. The city’s homeless problem has persisted in the wake of tens of millions of dollars in investments, the new union contract with the Seattle Police Department hit a standstill before its eventual passing, and the controversial head tax saga earlier in 2018 saw confidence in the city council hit a low among voters.

The Stranger reported on a secret poll conducted following the repeal of the head tax, that found favorability ratings for the council sitting around 40 percent, while job performance sat somewhere in the 20s or 30s.

The Seattle City Council now will see seven of its nine seats up for reelection in 2019, with current Councilmembers Rob Johnson and Sally Bagshaw already expressing their intent not to run.

RELATED: “Loose cannon” lawyer may run for city council

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Beto Yarce announces challenge to Sawant’s Seattle City Council seat