A couple of weeks ago, we published an analysis comparing the endorsements made by The Seattle Times and The Stranger for this year’s local contests in the Seattle-MLKC area. That’s been so well-received and so popular that we’re following it up today with a comparison of the endorsements made by The Stranger with those of PubliCola and The Urbanist, two other online publications that evaluate and recommend candidates for public office in our area.
PubliCola dates back to 2009, while The Urbanist was founded in the 2010s. Both are online-only publications with a focus on Seattle and King County. The Urbanist specializes in offering analysis and intelligence that doesn’t appear elsewhere, with excellent coverage of Sound Transit, while PubliCola is known for its scoops and detailed coverage of Seattle City Hall and the King County Courthouse. Both are widely read by progressive activists in the greater Seattle area.
The Stranger and The Urbanist follow the practice of publishing their endorsements all at once, while PubliCola releases endorsements in installments like many newspapers do, with an editorial for each contest that it endorses in.
With PubliCola’s “Picks” now in, we can compare endorsements across all three publications. PubliCola has only weighed in on the contests with no council incumbent running (Districts #1, #3, #4, and #5) while The Stranger and The Urbanist made endorsements for all seven. Here’s a table:
The three publications were in agreement on who to support in each contest with no incumbent except for District #5. There, The Stranger went with ChrisTiana ObeySumner, while PubliCola and The Urbanist chose Nilu Jenks. Here’s a snippet of what each publication had to say about their endorsed candidates.
Maren Costa swept the endorsements in this district.
“Running with a strong focus on climate justice and workers’ rights, Maren Costa is the candidate that urbanists should support in this race. A former tech worker with solid organizing experience, Costa impressed us with her understanding of how land use, building codes, and transportation policy impact our region’s greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Compelling backstory aside, Costa is good on the issues. She supports the most progressive growth plan, she wants people to come in contact with cops as infrequently as possible, she would propose a local capital gains tax, and she plans to take money from the sweeps budget and put it toward affordable housing. Failing to put Costa in this seat means we’ll likely get none of that.”
“In this race, where every candidate faces a steep learning curve, we’d rather vote for an independent-minded candidate willing to take big policy swings than an equivocator who answers yes/no questions with ‘all of the above.’ ”
Alex Hudson swept the endorsements in this district.
“Hudson is the most qualified candidate for any of this year’s open seats, blowing the rest of the field away with her political acumen, policy chops, and deep history of activism in the district. Hudson has been on our radar for years as a Seattle activist and transportation advocate who consistently scores policy wins and funding for equitable transportation, housing, and neighborhood-level improvements.”
“Fortunately for District 3, Hudson inarguably boasts the broadest and deepest technical knowledge of the housing and transportation issues that will come before the council in the next few years, she knows how City Hall works, and she’s in the best financial position to beat the more corporate candidate who will most likely to make it through to the general election. ”
“Since taking the reins as executive director at Transportation Choices Coalition in 2018, Hudson’s track record of being involved in the most important discussions around transportation has continued. From being front-and-center in the negotiations around the last statewide transportation package, which delivered free transit for kids on every transit agency in the entire state, to the push to reform Sound Transit’s punitive fare-enforcement regime, Hudson has shown she can deliver.”
Ron Davis swept the endorsements in this district.
“Davis believes in a more walkable, bikeable, transit-rich, and just Seattle with a home for everyone. He will vote to raise progressive revenue to fund affordable housing and social infrastructure that can actually grapple with the scale of the homelessness crisis. He will vote to allow more housing across the city as evidenced by his op-ed in this very periodical arguing for a bolder Alternative 6 to the Seattle Comprehensive Plan. He will vote to dedicate more resources to sidewalks, transit, and bike facilities, and we do not expect him to hide behind process and budget austerity like so many councilmembers have in the past.”
“Davis is a tech guy whose does enterprise sales consulting for startups, but he comes from a working-class background and often talks about the personal experiences that helped shape his views. Instead of prosecuting and jailing drug users, Davis supports supervised consumption centers staffed with medical workers who can reverse or prevent overdoses and help people access treatment when they’re ready—an approach that has proven far more successful than mandatory and jail-based approaches.”
“Putting Ron Davis in this seat might represent the biggest glow-up for any other district in this election cycle. We’d be trading outgoing Council Member Alex Pedersen – the NIMBYest landlord simp known to man – for an eat-the-rich urbanist with premium policy chops and a fire in his belly to fight for dense housing, anti-rent-gouging policies, transit, progressive revenue, and pedestrian safety.”
This was the only district where there was a split. The Stranger went with ChrisTiana ObeySumner; The Urbanist and PubliCola backed Nilu Jenks.
“We think there are basically two candidates urbanists should consider voting for in this race: Nilu Jenks, who we’re endorsing, and Tye Reed,” The Urbanist wrote, offering a soft endorsement for a second candidate.
“Jenks is less well-known citywide but distinguished herself in our questionnaire by pushing hard for Alternative 6 to the comprehensive plan, identifying several specific sources of progressive revenue she’d advocate for, making clear that she’d have voted against the incarceration-focused drug criminalization bill that recently failed in council, and speaking convincingly about improving bike and pedestrian infrastructure across the city and in D5, which is missing sidewalks in many parts of its northern reaches. Jenks also stood out to us for her clear commitment — driven by a devastating personal experience — to ending gun violence in our city.”
“For District 5, PubliCola picks Nilu Jenks — a climate and pedestrian safety advocate who we believe will take a thoughtful, nuanced approach to headline-grabbing issues, like police hiring and public drug use, while fighting for safe streets, climate resiliency hubs, and expanded access to shelter.”
“One of her first priorities, Jenks said, would be establishing a climate resilience hub in North Seattle, which would serve as both a community center and a place where people could escape from increasingly severe weather caused by climate change,” PubiCola’s endorsement went on to say. “The city will open its first resilience hub in Beacon Hill, but Jenks says the north end—whose obsolete Lake City Community Center closed in April after a fire — would benefit from a new community center that doubles as a refuge from smoky summers.”
“ChrisTiana ObeySumner would bring a wealth of lived experience to the City Council as a disability justice advocate, a former sex worker, and someone who has experienced homelessness,” The Stranger wrote. “They’re also a tax wiz, a big-time density advocate, and a social equity defender who has worked with local governments. In a city that is failing to prioritize pedestrian safety and resisting efforts to build enough housing, the council needs the depth of knowledge and the power of presence that ObeySumner would bring to the council.”
The other three districts
As mentioned, the incumbents running in the three remaining districts all managed to earn the endorsements of The Stranger and The Urbanist. The Seattle Times, on the other hand, has backed a challenger to each, seeking a complete reset on the Council. The Times picked Bob Kettle over Andrew Lewis, Pete Hanning over Dan Strauss, and Tanya Woo over Tammy Morales.
County and port level contests
The Urbanist joined The Stranger and The Seattle Times in endorsing Fred Felleman for another term at the Port of Seattle. For county council, The Urbanist picked Teresa Mosqueda (as did The Stranger) for District #8 and Becka Johnson Poppe for District #4 (The Seattle Times and The Stranger picked Jorge Baron).
The matchups we might see based on media endorsements
NPI now has two years of continuous experience polling local contests in Washington State. Based on that experience, we know that many voters stay undecided in contests for the city, county, port, and school board levels until near the end of voting, especially in races with no party affiliation listed on the ballot. Accordingly, it’s tough to ascertain who’s ahead and who is facing elimination.
Decision paralysis is especially pronounced in contests with large fields of candidates. The more choices voters have to pick from, the higher the percentage tends to be who aren’t sure. We have opted not to poll the seven Seattle city council districts in this Top Two election, partly for that reason.
We also know from our polling, however, that media endorsements are influential. 50% of King County voters surveyed last July (meaning, a year ago, in 2022) by Change Research for the Northwest Progressive Institute said that at election time, they go to mass media like The Seattle Times, KING5, or KUOW (NPR) to obtain information about what is on the ballot and make a decision.
And last year’s election results turned out very well for candidates who got endorsements from both The Stranger and The Seattle Times.
So, considering who won an endorsement from these four publications, there’s a reasonable possibility that Seattle’s seven city council contests might yield the following autumn matchups:
- District #1: Rob Saka and Maren Costa
- District #2: Tammy Morales and Tanya Woo
- District #3: Joy Hollingsworth and Alex Hudson
- District #4: Ron Davis and Maritza Rivera
- District #5: Nilu Jenks *or* ChrisTiana ObeySumner and Cathy Moore
- District #6: Dan Strauss and Pete Hanning
- District #7: Andrew Lewis and Bob Kettle
It’s worth noting that four candidates who got shut out of the media endorsements have managed to raise over $50,000 each. Those are:
- Stephen Brown, District #1 (raised $77,154)
- Alexander Cooley, District #3 (raised $89,363)
- Kenneth Wilson, District #5 (raised $93,664)
- Olga Sagan, District #7 (raised $57,306)
These candidates have more resources to get their message out and connect with voters. They stand perhaps the best chance of getting through with no boost from a publication that makes endorsements in the Seattle media market.
There are forty-five candidates in total and fourteen spots. Thirty-one candidates are thus facing elimination in their Council bids next Tuesday, August 1st.
Unlike the aforementioned publications, NPI doesn’t endorse candidates or engage in electioneering for or against any candidate, but we do cover campaigns for public office as a media organization and provide opportunities for candidates to reach our readers. Check out our Elections category if you’re interested.