Seattle to decide on Social Housing Developer initiative on Feb. 14

On Feb. 14, Seattle voters will decide on Initiative 135, an initiative to create the Seattle Social Housing Developer, a public development authority to own, develop, and maintain what the initiative describes as social housing. According to Initiative 135, this housing would provide publicly financed apartments that are “removed from market forces and speculation” and built “with the express aim of housing people equitably and affordably … to remain affordable in perpetuity.”

Under Initiative 135, the public developer’s housing units would be available to those with a mix of income ranges from 0% to 120% of the area median income (which was $120,907 as of 2022). Rent prices would be limited to 30% of household income. Applications would not include prior rental references, co-signers, background checks, or application fees. Tenants would be selected using a lottery-based system.

As a public corporation, the Seattle Social Housing Developer would be allowed to issue bonds, receive federal funds and grants, receive private funds, and collect revenue for services.

House Our Neighbors! (HON), also known as Yes on I-135, is sponsoring the initiative. House our Neighbors needed to submit 26,520 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. The group submitted 27,220 valid signatures.

HON stated, “Social Housing is publicly owned forever, permanently affordable, and creates cross-class communities and resident leadership. In countries around the world, such as Singapore, Austria, France, Uruguay and Canada, housing is a public good. Unlike in the United States, governments, not the private sector, are directing the housing market. By creating a community-controlled Social Housing Developer to buy and build housing that will be available to those across the income spectrum, Seattle will have another critical tool to address the suffering, displacement, and inequity that defines our housing landscape. We can create a Seattle not just for those with generational wealth and high incomes, but where ALL can live and thrive.”

The measure has received endorsements from State Sens. Joe Nguyen (D) and Rebecca Saldana (D) and State Reps. Frank Chopp (D) and Nicole Macri (D). It is also endorsed by the Green Party of Seattle and the Working Families Party of Washington.

The Housing Development Consortium, a non-profit organization based in Seattle with a mission to “build, sustain, and inspire a diverse network committed to producing, preserving, and increasing equitable access to affordable homes” released a statement on Initiative 135, writing, “The primary constraint on our ability to scale proven affordable housing models is the limited public resources available to fund affordable housing. … we are concerned [the initiative] distracts funds and energy away from what our community should be focusing on – scaling up affordable housing for low-income people. We do not need another government entity to build housing when there are already insufficient resources to fund existing entities. … The proposed new public development authority (PDA) would not have the authority to impose taxes on its own, so the funds necessary to set up the additional citywide PDA would likely draw from existing affordable housing funding that could otherwise be dedicated to creating homes for our lowest-income neighbors.”

Currently, the Seattle Housing Authority, an independent public corporation, provides low-income housing and rental assistance to 17,945 households. The SHA owns and operates 8,530 apartments and single-family homes in Seattle. Eighty-five percent of SHA housing serves households with incomes at or below 30% of the area median income (about $36,270). Funding for the Seattle Housing Authority comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), rent revenue, and public and private grants. The Social Housing Developer would not replace the Seattle Housing Authority.

Mail ballots must be postmarked no later than February 14 or returned to a ballot drop box by 8 p.m. on February 14. In Washington, individuals who prefer to vote in person rather than by mail may do so at voting centers, which are open during business hours for 18 days prior to the election. Washington allows for same-day voter registration.

Seattle voters to decide on whether to adopt approval voting or ranked-choice voting for city primary elections

In November, Seattle voters will vote on Proposition 1A and 1B to decide whether to adopt an approval voting system or a ranked-choice voting system for municipal primary elections. Currently, Seattle uses a plurality voting system for primary elections for the mayor, city attorney, and city council, in which the candidate receiving the most votes advances to the general election. This system is sometimes referred to as first-past-the-post or winner-take-all and is the most common voting system used in the United States.

The group Seattle Approves collected enough valid signatures for Initiative 134, which would establish an approval voting system for Seattle primary elections. The Seattle City Council could pass the initiative as an ordinance, reject it, send it to voters, or send it to voters along with an alternative proposal.

On July 14, the Seattle City Council voted 7-2 to reject Initiative 134 and adopt a ranked-choice voting system instead. Councilmember Andrew Lewis sponsored a resolution to place the ranked-choice voting alternative proposal on the ballot along with Initiative 134’s approval voting proposal. Lewis said, “This discussion has gotten to a point where we run a risk of making a more undemocratic decision by depriving the voters of making that choice [between approval voting and ranked-choice voting]. In essence, there would be a proxy vote where voting ‘No’ on approval voting would be reflecting a ‘Yes’ vote for [ranked-choice voting] anyway.”

Voters will first decide on Question 1, asking whether either of the two proposed voting systems should be adopted. Voters would then decide on Question 2 to choose between Proposition 1A (Initiative 134) for approval voting or Proposition 1B (City Ordinance 126625) for ranked-choice voting. Voters opposed to adopting a new voting system who vote ‘no’ on Question 1 can still vote for their preferred option in Question 2. If the first question is approved by a majority of voters, the option receiving the highest number of votes would be adopted.

Voting for Proposition 1A would implement Initiative 134, which would establish approval voting for Seattle primary elections for mayor, city attorney, and city council. Under the approval voting system, voters would vote for however many candidates they choose. The primary ballot would include instructions stating, “vote for AS MANY as you approve of” for each office. The top two candidates receiving the most votes would advance to the general election.

Logan Bowers, volunteer co-chair of Seattle Approves, said, “If you’ve ever debated between voting for a candidate that you really like and another you like less but has the big money backing to win, you’ve experienced the problem with our existing elections. The money flowing into elections combined with the flaws in our current voting system means our elections aren’t a fair assessment of what voters want. Too often, voters feel compelled to vote strategically based on who they think can win.”

Voting for Proposition 1B would implement the city council’s proposed alternative measure, which would establish ranked-choice voting for Seattle primary elections for mayor, city attorney, and city council. Under the ranked-choice voting system, voters would rank candidates according to their preferences. The candidates with the fewest votes would be eliminated and the voters’ second choice would be counted for the remaining candidates until two candidates remain to advance to the general election. Voters would be able to rank up to five candidates. Ballots would include instructions stating, “Rank candidates in the order of your choice.”

Lisa Ayrault, director of FairVote Washington, said, “We think it would be an unfortunate choice for Seattle to go in that direction (of approval voting), when ranked-choice voting has such a proven track record of success. Where people tend to have strong preferences about their first choices and care a lot about the outcomes … ranked-choice voting is the best.”

Kshama Sawant defeats recall effort

District 3 City Councilmember Kshama Sawant defeated a recall effort in Seattle, Washington. The election was held Dec. 7. As of Dec. 16, there were 306 more votes opposed to the recall than supporting it. Results will be certified Dec. 17. 

The Seattle Times reported, “Any challenged ballots resolved between the time votes were counted on Thursday afternoon and the 4:30 p.m. deadline — about a two-hour window — were to be added to the count before certification, according to King County Elections Chief of Staff Kendall Hodson. That number is unlikely to change the results.”

Recall organizers alleged that Sawant misused city funds in support of a ballot initiative, disregarded regulations related to COVID-19 by admitting people into City Hall for a rally, and misused her official position by disclosing Mayor Jenny Durkan’s residents to protesters. Sawant referred to the effort as a “right-wing recall” and called the charges dishonest. See our coverage below to read the full sample ballot and court filings from both parties.

Sawant is a member of the Socialist Alternative Party. The city council office is officially nonpartisan.

Additional reading:

Initial results in recall of Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant

Seattle held an election on Dec. 7 asking voters if District 3 City Councilmember Kshama Sawant should be recalled. Initial results published on election night showed 53% supporting the recall and 47% opposing it. Washington uses mail-in voting, and ballots needed to be postmarked by election day. King County Elections will continue counting mail ballots in the coming days and will certify election results on Dec. 17. 

According to The Seattle Times, this was the first city council recall to make the ballot in Seattle’s history.

Recall organizers alleged that Sawant misused city funds in support of a ballot initiative, disregarded regulations related to COVID-19 by admitting people into City Hall for a rally, and misused her official position by disclosing Mayor Jenny Durkan’s home address to protesters. Sawant referred to the effort as a “right-wing recall” and called the charges against her dishonest. See our coverage linked below to read the full sample ballot and court filings from both parties.

Sawant was first elected in 2013. Though the office of city council is officially nonpartisan, Sawant is a member of the Socialist Alternative Party and was the first socialist elected to Seattle city government in 97 years.

Only voters within District 3 could vote in the recall election. If Sawant is recalled, council members will appoint a replacement and a special election will be held in 2022. The next regularly scheduled election for this seat is in 2023. Sawant would be eligible to run in those elections.

Additional reading:

New PAC raising money in support of Sawant recall

Seattle’s District 3 voters will decide on Dec. 7 whether to recall City Councilmember Kshama Sawant on the grounds of misusing city funds for electioneering purposes, disregarding regulations related to COVID-19, and misusing her official position. 

Sawant’s official response referred to the effort as a right-wing recall and said, “The charges against Kshama Sawant are dishonest, and the courts haven’t found her guilty of anything.”

A new political action committee supporting the recall called A Better Seattle has begun fundraising. It reported $80,000 raised as of Nov. 17. It joins Recall Sawant, which raised $746,000. The one group filed in opposition to the recall, Kshama Solidarity, has raised $844,000.

Nov. 29 is the last day for people to register to vote or update their registration information for this election.

Davison declared winner in Seattle city attorney race

Ann Davison defeated Nicole Thomas-Kennedy in the general election for city attorney of Seattle, Washington, on Nov. 2, 2021. According to King County’s unofficial election results updated on Nov. 4, Davison received 55.1% of the vote to Thomas-Kennedy’s 44.1%.

Crosscut, a nonprofit Seattle news site, said the race was “one of clear contrasts and highlights just how divided the city is over issues of crime, public safety and criminal justice.” Another Seattle-based nonprofitpublication, the South Seattle Emerald, said the race “gets to the heart of a question all the more relevant since anti-police protests broke out in 2020: In Seattle, what do we consider justice and how should it be administered?”

Davison is a Seattle attorney and arbitrator. She ran as a Republican for lieutenant governor of Washington in 2020. Davison said the city needs “balanced leadership that makes us smart on crime: proactive not reactive” and said she would “focus on improving efficiencies within division in regards to zoning” and “transform existing Mental Health Court to specialized Behavioral Health Court for cases that involve mental health, substance use disorder or dual diagnosis.” Seattle news blog My Northwest described Davison “as more of an overt conservative, as a registered Republican who’s been vocal on her ‘tough on crime’ politics” compared to Thomas-Kennedy, whose “position as an ‘abolitionist’ in favor of ending the prosecution of low-level misdemeanors would represent a sizable shift in the City Attorney’s Office.”

Thomas-Kennedy is a former public defender and criminal and eviction attorney. She said the city “chooses to prosecute petty offenses born out of poverty, addiction and disability” and these prosecutions “further destabilize people who, in the world’s richest country, cannot get their basic needs met.” Instead of prosecuting low-level offenses, Thomas-Kennedy’s campaign website said she supported increasing the scope of the city’s education, job training, and addiction treatment programs and would “stop throwing away money on what we know does not work, and use the power and resources of the office to build community-based programs and solutions that prevent harm and result in truly healthy communities.”

In Seattle, the city attorney heads the city’s Law Department and supervises all litigation in which the city is involved. The city attorney supervises a team of assistant city attorneys who provide legal advice and assistance to the City’s management and prosecute violations of City ordinances.

Additional reading:

Where things stand in Seattle’s elections

Seattle, Washington, held elections for mayor, two at-large city council seats, and city attorney on Nov. 2. Ballots needed to be postmarked by that day to be counted in the election. King County Elections will continue counting ballots until results are certified on Nov. 23.

The following are preliminary results reported on election night.


  1. Bruce Harrell: 65%
  2. Lorena González: 35%

City Council Position 8

  1. Teresa Mosqueda (incumbent): 53%
  2. Kenneth Wilson: 47%

City Council Position 9

  1. Sara Nelson: 60%
  2. Nikkita Oliver: 40%

City Attorney

  1. Ann Davison: 58.7%
  2. Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: 41.3%

According to The Seattle Times, “In Seattle races, ballots that arrive and are tallied later tend to favor left-lane candidates. In their crowded Aug. 3 primary, Harrell’s nine point lead over González on election night narrowed to less than two points by the time all of the votes were tabulated.”

Additional reading:




Seattle’s mayoral and city council races, by the numbers

Seattle holds city elections on Nov. 2 for mayor, two at-large city council seats, and other local offices. Recent polling, campaign finance data, and satellite spending provide insight into these races just over one week out.


City Council President Lorena González and former City Council President Bruce Harrell face each other in the mayoral election. A recent Change Research poll showed Harrell with 48% support to González’s 32%, and 18% of respondents were undecided. The margin of error was 4.1%.

In the Change Research poll for city council position 9—the seat González currently holds—Sara Nelson received 41% support to Nikkita Oliver’s 37%. Twenty-one percent were undecided.

The council position 8 poll showed Mosqueda with 39%, Wilson with 31%, and “Not sure” with 26%.

Campaign finance

In the mayoral race, Harrell has raised $1.2 million, and González has raised $900,000. My Northwest reported that the combined $2.1 million is the highest amount raised by two general election candidates of any mayoral contest since at least 2005. The second-highest was in 2017, when Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon raised $1.6 million combined.

For position 9 on the council, Nelson has raised $510,000 to Oliver’s $400,000. Mosqueda has raised $255,000 and Wilson, $80,000, in the position 8 race.

Satellite spending

The two highest-spending groups in the mayoral race are Bruce Harrell for Seattle’s Future, which has spent around $1 million supporting Harrell and opposing González, and Essential Workers for Lorena, which has spent around $900,000 supporting González and opposing Harrell.

The National Association of Realtors has spent around $100,000 and the Seattle Fire Fighters PAC has spent around $50,000 supporting Harrell.

Those two groups have also spent in the position 9 council race—a combined $130,000 supporting Nelson. Civic Alliance for a Prosperous Economy has spent almost $50,000 supporting Oliver. This group was active in the 2019 council elections—see our coverage, linked below, for more details on that activity.

Satellite spending in the position 8 council race has not reached $1,000.

Additional reading:

Seattle city attorney candidates’ platforms highlight divide over issues of crime, public safety

In the November 2, 2021, general election for city attorney of Seattle, Washington, Nicole Thomas-Kennedy leads Ann Davison in total fundraising and both candidates have gained endorsements since they advanced from the primary election on August 3, 2021. In that race, Thomas-Kennedy received 36.4% of the vote and Davison received 32.7%, ousting three-term incumbent Pete Holmes, who received 30.6% of the vote and conceded before results were certified.

As of the most recent filings reported by the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission on August 30, Thomas-Kennedy has raised $206,965, while Davison has raised $63,336. Seattle newspapers The Stranger and The Urbanist have endorsed Thomas-Kennedy, along with Former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn (D), Washington’s 32nd, 34th, and 46th District Democrats, and the Seattle Transit Rider’s Union. Davison received endorsements from The Seattle Times, Former King County Prosecutor Chris Bayley, Former Gov. Dan Evans (R), and the Concerned Taxpayers of Washington.

Crosscut, a nonprofit Seattle news site, said the race “will be one of clear contrasts and highlights just how divided the city is over issues of crime, public safety and criminal justice.” Davison, who ran as a Republican for lieutenant governor of Washington in 2020, said she was a moderate Democrat who ran as a Republican because “some parts of the Democratic Party in Seattle didn’t have room anymore for a pragmatist like me, with liberal values, wanting to make our city a better place.” She said Thomas-Kennedy “advocates the most extreme viewpoints: defund the police and abolish the city’s criminal justice system” and “believes such an approach would magically make crime disappear.” Davison said she would “build upon and offer alternative, non-criminal solutions, and interventions with measurable outcomes for those willing to seek help for their underlying problems,” but “there also must be accountability for actions that hurt other people.”

Thomas-Kennedy said “policing and prison do not meet their alleged goals” but instead accomplish “what they were actually designed to do: control and disappear the poor, the disabled, and BIPOC.” She said she would “address the root causes of poverty, homelessness, and despair” with a platform that includes ending prosecutions for drug crimes, defunding the Seattle Police Department, decriminalizing sex work, and ending homeless sweeps. Thomas-Kennedy said, “Every year the City Attorney chooses to prosecute petty offenses born out of poverty, addiction and disability. These prosecutions are destabilizing, ineffective, and cost the City millions each year. We must dismantle this wasteful system of criminal punishment.”

In Seattle, the city attorney heads the city’s Law Department and supervises all litigation in which the city is involved. The city attorney supervises a team of assistant city attorneys who provide legal advice and assistance to the City’s management and prosecute violations of City ordinances.

Additional reading:

Seattle local primary results certified

King County Elections in Washington certified results of the Aug. 3 primary elections Tuesday. Former City Council President Bruce Harrell and current City Council President Lorena González advanced in the mayoral primary with 34.0% and 32.1% of the vote, respectively. Fifteen candidates ran in the primary. Current Mayor Jenny Durkan didn’t seek re-election.

González had endorsements from four current council members and two former members, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and The Stranger. Harrell was endorsed by two former Seattle mayors and four former councilmembers, as well as Rep. Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.) and The Seattle Times.On Aug. 16, two current council members who did not endorse in the primary endorsed Harrell.

For the position 9 council seat, which González currently holds, Creative Justice executive director Nikkita Oliver and Fremont Brewing co-owner Sara Nelson advanced with 40.2% and 39.5% of the vote, respectively.

Two council members, one former member, and The Stranger endorsed Oliver. The Seattle Times and five former council members endorsed Nelson. Four current council members endorsed Brianna Thomas, González’s chief of staff. Thomas came in third with 13.4%.

Incumbent Teresa Mosqueda is running for re-election to the position 8 seat. She advanced from the primary with 59.4% of the vote and faces Kenneth Wilson in the general election. Wilson received 16.2% of the vote.

In the city attorney election, Nicole Thomas-Kennedy and Ann Davison advanced after incumbent Pete Holmes conceded on August 6, 2021. Thomas-Kennedy received 36.4% of the vote followed by Davison with 32.7% and Holmes with 30.6%

The general election is on Nov. 2.

Seattle holds mayoral and city attorney elections every four years. Elections for its two at-large city council seats are held in the same years as mayoral elections. The other seven city council seats are elected by district every four years, with the last elections held in 2019.

Additional reading: