Previewing the race to fill Lorena Gonzalez’s open Seattle City Council seat

Jul 30, 2021, 5:28 AM
Seattle City Council Position 9 preview...
The Seattle City Council dais. (Seattle City Council, Flickr Creative Commons)
(Seattle City Council, Flickr Creative Commons)

With incumbent Position 9 Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez opting to not run for reelection in favor of a mayoral bid, Seattle will soon see a new face serving in her place after November. Ahead of August’s top-two primary, we broke down all the main candidates in the race to fill her council seat.

Previewing Seattle City Council’s Position 8 at-large primary race

Sara Nelson

Sara Nelson — who holds a doctorate in anthropology — co-founded Fremont Brewery with her husband in 2009, while also serving as a legislative advisor for former Seattle Councilmember Richard Conlin. She previously ran for Seattle’s Position 8 at-large council seat in 2017, placing third in the primary behind Teresa Mosqueda and Jon Grant.

In terms of policy positions, she supports a “housing first” approach that seeks to connect the city’s unhoused with mental health and addiction services, as well as fully staffing the Seattle Police Department. She also backs the newly-proposed “Compassion Seattle” charter amendment, which would seek to ramp up sweeps of homeless encampments while mandating the creation of new shelter spaces.

Nelson leads all candidates in the Position 9 race in total fundraising dollars, having brought in over $242,000 across 1,101 individual contributors. She’s been endorsed by the Seattle Times Editorial Board, as well the Seattle Building Trades Unions and the Seattle Fire Fighters Union.

In recent polling published by the Northwest Progressive Institute (NPI), she garnered the second most support of any candidate at 11%.

Nikkita Oliver

Nikkita Oliver has long worked as a progressive activist and organizer in Seattle, founding the Seattle Peoples Party as part of a campaign for mayor in 2017. After placing third in the mayoral primary behind Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon, Oliver went on to serve as the executive director for Creative Justice.

Oliver supports an end to homeless encampment sweeps in Seattle, labeling them “cruel and inhumane,” and instead proposes expanding investments in hotels and tiny villages for the city’s unhoused population. They also propose moving a portion of funds away from the police department and into “community-led care solutions,” ending Seattle’s contract with the King County Jail, and abolishing civil asset forfeiture.

While Oliver trails behind Nelson’s total campaign funding at roughly $197,000 as of July 28, they also have garnered the most individual donations of any candidate in the Position 9 race, totaling over 3,000 contributors. They have been endorsed by Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda and Tammy Morales, as well as the MLK Labor Council and Seattle Education Association.

Oliver leads all candidates in the NPI’s polling with 22% of support among the group of voters surveyed in mid-July.

Brianna Thomas

Brianna Thomas has worked in city hall for nearly six years, having started as a city council legislative aid, before eventually serving in her current role as Council President Lorena Gonzalez’s chief of staff. Her past legislative experience includes negotiations for bills related to police accountability, surveillance, and restaurant and retail worker protections.

She supports policies that seek to provide homeless shelter solutions catered to the specific needs of each individual, rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach. She also calls for an end to a bail system that she says “penalizes people already experiencing financial hardship,” added police accountability measures, and employing social workers and mental health professionals to respond in place of police when needed.

Thomas has raised the third most of any candidate in the Position 9 race, bringing in over $142,000 from nearly 2,000 contributors. She has been endorsed by Gonzalez, as well as Seattle Councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Dan Strauss, and Andrew Lewis, in addition to a collection of other current and former city and state lawmakers.

She received 6% of support from voters surveyed in the NPI’s polling.

Corey Eichner

Corey Eichner — who holds a doctorate in law and policy — possesses 18 years of experience as an educator, first as a teacher and then as an assistant principal. He currently serves in the latter role at Wallingford’s Lincoln High School.

He proposes an increase to rapid re-housing measures without any employment or substance-use requirements, while expanding the use of converted hotels and tiny homes. He also calls for a citywide criminal justice audit “to address our implicit bias and institutional racism that continues to exist.” To address the city’s housing crisis, he believes Seattle should target higher density in areas near mass transit hubs, but stops short of voicing support for what he calls “broad rezoning.”

Eichner has raised nearly $10,900 from 84 individual contributors. He does not list any endorsements. He received 3% of votes in the NPI’s polling.

Xtian Gunther

Xtian Gunther has worked in marketing and business development within the Seattle music and restaurant industries.

His platform includes a proposal to establish a standalone public utility to build and manage affordable green housing, as well as a push to convert the city’s police department to “a small elite armed division.” He sees larger emergency response efforts as something that can be addressed by adding more unarmed mental health community officers.

He has not received any contributions, but has put over $3,100 of his own money into his campaign. One percent of respondents voiced support for him in the NPI’s mid-July poll.

Lindsay McHaffie

Lindsay McHaffie bills herself as a small business owner and an independent contractor, as well as a veteran.

While she doesn’t have a campaign website, her priorities are laid out in the King County voter’s guide. She proposes the formation of a finance committee “to audit all the beneficiaries of city taxes,” while emphasizing how the city “needs to live within its means, and stop enabling budget abuse.”

While she states that she is purposefully running her campaign without financial contributions, she has put roughly $1,300 of her own money into her candidacy. She received no votes in the NPI’s polling.

Also registered to run is Rebecca Williamson, who has raised $0 and has not contributed to her own campaign. For more information, you can read King County’s voter guide here.

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Previewing the race to fill Lorena Gonzalez’s open Seattle City Council seat