NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, July 25th, 2023

The Stranger versus PubliCola versus The Urbanist: Comparing their August 2023 Seattle City Council endorsements

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.

District #1

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.”

The Urban­ist

“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.”

The Stranger

“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.’ ”


The Seat­tle Times endorsed Rob Saka in this con­test.

District #3

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. ”

The Stranger

“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.”

The Urban­ist

The Seat­tle Times endorsed Joy Hollingsworth in this con­test.

District #4

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.”

The Urban­ist

“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.”

The Stranger

The Seat­tle Times endorsed Mar­itza Rivera in this con­test.

District #5

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 Seat­tle Times endorsed Cathy Moore in this con­test.

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)

See this chart for more details.

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.

Adjacent posts

  • Enjoyed what you just read? Make a donation

    Thank you for read­ing The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s jour­nal of world, nation­al, and local politics.

    Found­ed in March of 2004, The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate has been help­ing peo­ple through­out the Pacif­ic North­west and beyond make sense of cur­rent events with rig­or­ous analy­sis and thought-pro­vok­ing com­men­tary for more than fif­teen years. The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate is fund­ed by read­ers like you and trust­ed spon­sors. We don’t run ads or pub­lish con­tent in exchange for money.

    Help us keep The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate edi­to­ri­al­ly inde­pen­dent and freely avail­able to all by becom­ing a mem­ber of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute today. Or make a dona­tion to sus­tain our essen­tial research and advo­ca­cy journalism.

    Your con­tri­bu­tion will allow us to con­tin­ue bring­ing you fea­tures like Last Week In Con­gress, live cov­er­age of events like Net­roots Nation or the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion, and reviews of books and doc­u­men­tary films.

    Become an NPI mem­ber Make a one-time donation

  • NPI’s essential research and advocacy is sponsored by: