Rantz: Many Seattle city council candidates won’t support police, drug laws

May 29, 2023, 4:59 PM | Updated: 5:06 pm

Seattle police...

Seattle police had been working without a contract for three years. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

An alarming number of Seattle City Council candidates do not support fully staffing or funding the police department. And nearly a third of the candidates want the police to ignore drug laws.

As the crime and drug crisis soar, the city of Seattle will see new leaders take control of the City Council. With seven of nine seats ending this year, including four seats without incumbents seeking reelection, the Council will look dramatically different. Out are radicals Kshama Sawant and Lisa Herbold, with socialist Tammy Morales and far-left Andrew Lewis and Dan Strauss asking the voters to give them another chance despite their subpar results on the Council. But based on the current candidates, the city could veer even farther to the Left and perhaps off a cliff.

Of the 38 non-incumbent candidates who answered a local newspaper’s questionnaire, nearly 45% would not commit to fully staffing the Seattle Police Department (SPD). Just shy of 40% of the candidates either support fully defunding the SPD or cutting the budget. When it comes to enforcing drug laws, a shocking 37% say drug use should go unpunished.

Rantz: Seattle Council permanently defunds 80 cops in already understaffed police department

Police staffing is on the ballot with Seattle City Council candidates

The SPD is in the midst of a severe staffing shortage. It’s a contributor to why the crime crisis continues to spiral.

With under 900 deployable officers, the city is not properly policed, leading to unacceptably long wait times for most 911 calls. Thanks to the police defund movement spurred by Black Lives Matter violence and activism supported by each incumbent seeking re-election, over 500 officers separated from the department since 2020. While city leaders and Command Staff previously said the city needed 1,500-1,600 officers, Mayor Bruce Harrell set a goal for 1,400. But recruitment efforts are falling flat, with SPD chief Adrian Diaz calling the problems “huge” at the KTTH Freedom Series: the Crime Crisis. The city is only expected to hire a net gain of five to 10 officers at the end of the year.

A local newspaper asked the candidates if they supported Harrell’s goal to increase police staffing to 1,400. Five candidates answered “maybe,” with 11 rejecting the plan. Socialist incumbent Morales answered “maybe,” but she’s been on record multiple times saying no. Last year, she was one of three council members to vote against a small budget to fund SPD recruitment efforts. She said public safety would be better served with sites to smoke fentanyl or permanent supportive housing. Incumbents Strauss and Lewis answers yes, but when they previously ran for election, they publicly supported funding police before voting to cut the budget and embrace the police defund movement. Voters should not be fooled by sudden changes of heart which coincide with re-election efforts.

Only one candidate for District 1 (West Seattle), Jean Iannelli Craciun, would not commit to backing the mayor’s recruitment plan. The current incumbent, Lisa Herbold, is not running for re-election. She was a leading voice to defund the department, even endorsing a plan to fire officers merely for being white. But the situation is different in District 5 (North Seattle), where only three candidates support the plan, with five candidates with a hard no, and two who won’t commit. Extremist Tye Reed, a defund activist who managed the failed campaign for abolitionist and anti-cop crusader Nicole Thomas Kennedy, is among the candidates against fully staffing the department. If elected, District 5 would have the city’s new Sawant.

KTTH Freedom Series: State policies created WA crime crisis 

Police defunding is still alive and well in Seattle

Though the defund police movement is not nearly what it used to be, it’s still alive and well.

District 3’s (Capitol Hill, Leschi) Andrew Ashiofu and District 5’s Lucca Murdoch Howard, Nilu Jenks, and Reed said they want to see the SPD budget reduced. Eleven candidates say the department should “maybe” reduce the budget. These answers come as the city is fighting rising violent crime statistics. At 28 suspected homicides as of May 29, the city is on pace to exceed last year’s 52 homicides, which was just one shy of 2020’s 26-year record high.

Ashiofu claims to be a “uniter,” yet embraces an anti-police position that has made his district dangerous to residents, and hostile to police. Howard is an 18-year-old who doesn’t even list public safety as in his top 5 most important issues. Jenks position seems to be predicated on the view that crime comes from “poverty, underemployment, unaffordable housing, inequality, and lack of access to resources, especially in areas that have faced historic marginalization due to racism.”

All of District 4’s (Wallingford, University District) and District 7’s (South Lake Union, Downtown, Pioneer Square) candidates say no to reducing the SPD budget.

Seattle city council candidates all over the place on drug laws

Fentanyl is flooding our streets and Democrat decriminalization and harm reduction efforts have been an abject failure. In 2022, Seattle and King County saw a record high 1,000 fatal overdoses. Already at 551 as of May 29, 2023 will almost certainly set a new record.

Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison and council members Sarah Nelson and Alex Pedersen have implored the city to pursue drug criminalization efforts, classifying public drug possession and drug use as gross misdemeanors. This gives Davison the ability to use the threat of jail time to convince criminal addicts to finally seek life-saving treatment. Right now, thanks to the council’s aversion to the criminal justice system (except when they’re the targets of crime, of course), addicts are left on our streets to die.

The local newspaper asked whether or not candidates support prosecuting for public drug use. The question is a weak one, with only the “no” answers offering valuable insight into the candidate. Twelve candidates said “yes,” with 13 saying “maybe.” But chances are, both answers mean the same thing. Davison, and other like-minded Seattleites, support prosecution as a means to get addicts into treatment, not jail. But for those who continually refuse services, jail is the best option to save lives and cut down on crime associated with drug addiction (particularly when the addict is homeless).

It’s the 14 candidates that said “no” that’s most alarming. This indicates candidates like District 1’s Maren Costa, District 4’s Ron Davis and District 6’s (Ballard, Green Lake) Jon Lisbin are content with the status quo leaving vulnerable people on the streets, killing themselves while ruining neighborhoods.

Incumbent Morales joined the “no” crowd, a position consistent with her support for lawlessness (she once defended and endorsed rioting and looting as legitimate activism). She previously said she was a “hard pass” on enforcing drug laws — though presumably so long as the drug crisis stays off the lawn of her pricey home.

Incumbent Lewis said “yes” and Strauss said “maybe,” but both have a long track record of doing little to support law enforcement’s role in the drug crisis. Strauss, in particular, is only taking this position because he’s running for re-election. On some issues, like homeless encampments, Lewis has at least expressed regret for previous positions and did so far away from re-election time.

Do you support increasing SPD staff to 1,400?

Yes: Preston Anderson (D1), Stephen Brown (D1), Maren Costa (D1), Rob Saka (D1), Phil Tavel (D1), Shobhit Agarwal (D3), Ry Armstrong (D3), Bobby Goodwin (D3), George Artem (D4), Maritza Rivera (D4), Ken Wilson (D4), Boegart Bibby (D5), Cathy Moore (D5), Justin Simmons (D5), Pete Hanning (D6), Dale Kutzera (D6), Jon Lisbin (D6), Dan Strauss (D6), Shea Wilson (D6), Isabelle Kerner (D7), Robert Kettle (D7), Andrew J. Lewis (D7), Olga Sagan (D7), Wade Sowders (D7).

No: Margaret Elisabeth (D2), Tanya Woo (D2), Andrew Ashiofu (D3), Alex Cooley (D3), Efrain Hudnell (D3), Ron Davis (D4), Lucca Murdoch Howard (D5), Nilu Jenks (D5), ChrisTiana ObeySumner (D5), Tye Reed (D5), Rebecca Williamson (D5).

Maybe: Jean Iannelli Craciun (D1), Tammy Morales (D2), Joy Hollingsworth (D3), Alex Hudson (D3), Shane Macomber (D5), Bobby J. Tucker (D5).

Should the police department budget be reduced?

Yes: Andrew Ashiofu (D3), Lucca Murdoch Howard (D5), Nilu Jenks (D5), Tye Reed (D5).

No: Preston Anderson (D1), Stephen Brown (D1), Rob Saka (D1), Phil Tavel (D1), Tanya Woo (D2), Bobby Goodwin (D3), Joy Hollingsworth (D3),George Artem (D4), Ron Davis (D4), Maritza Rivera (D4), Ken Wilson (D4), Boegart Bibby (D5), Cathy Moore (D5), Justin Simmons (D5), Bobby J. Tucker (D5), Pete Hanning (D6), Dale Kutzera (D6), Jon Lisbin (D6), Victoria Palmer (D6), Dan Strauss (D6), Shea Wilson (D6), Isabelle Kerner (D7), Robert Kettle (D7), Andrew J. Lewis (D7), Olga Sagan (D7), Wade Sowders (D7).

Maybe: Maren Costa (D1), Jean Iannelli Craciun (D1), Margaret Elisabeth (D2), Tammy Morales (D2), Shobhit Agarwal (D3), Ry Armstrong (D3), Alex Cooley (D3), Efrain Hudnell (D3), Alex Hudson (D3), Shane Macomber (D5), ChrisTiana ObeySumner (D5), Rebecca Williamson (D5).

Candidate Aaron Marshall did not return the survey, according to the local newspaper.

Do you support prosecuting for public drug use? 

Yes: Preston Anderson (D1), Phil Tavel (D1), George Artem (D4), Ken Wilson (D4), Boegart Bibby (D5), Pete Hanning (D6), Victoria Palmer (D6), Shea Wilson (D6), Isabelle Kerner (D7), Robert Kettle (D7), Andrew J. Lewis (D7), Olga Sagan (D7), Wade Sowders (D7).

No: Maren Costa (D1), Jean Iannelli Craciun (D1), Margaret Elisabeth (D2), Tammy Morales (D2), Andrew Ashiofu (D3), Joy Hollingsworth (D3), Efrain Hudnell (D3), Ron Davis (D4), Lucca Murdoch Howard (D5), Nilu Jenks (D5), Cathy Moore (D5), ChrisTiana ObeySumner (D5), Tye Reed (D5), Bobby J. Tucker (D5), Jon Lisbin (D6).

Maybe: Stephen Brown (D1), Rob Saka (D1), Tanya Woo (D2), Shobhit Agarwal (D3), Ry Armstrong (D3), Alex Cooley (D3), Bobby Goodwin (D3), Maritza Rivera (D4), Shane Macomber (D5), Justin Simmons (D5), Rebecca Williamson (D5), Dale Kutzera (D6), Victoria Palmer (D6), Dan Strauss (D6).

No answer listed: Alex Hudson (D3).

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast. Follow @JasonRantz on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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