Showing Up: Two Quality City Council Candidates for District Three


With Kshama Sawant leaving the Seattle City Council, the temptation is to tell city government’s resident Trotskyite not to let the door hit her on the way out. Such advice would ignore that Sawant is frequently gone anyway and overlook the current council’s penchant for remote meetings.

Two memories of Sawant. The first is the belligerent mob of camp followers on hand in council chambers when she was holding forth. They intimidated opposing voices, browbeat her council colleagues and cheered Marxist jargon. The second was seeing a poster while headed for a concert at St. John’s-Smith Square in London, touting the upcoming appearance of an American political leader who had capitalists quaking in their boots. She went global.

Both candidates running to replace Sawant in District 3, Joy Hollingsworth and Alex Hudson, pledge to show up for work at City Hall. A second improvement, they promise to work with and for District 3 constituents, where I live.  The Socialist Alternative activists in Sawant’s office didn’t much bother with neighborhood concerns. Agitation and revolution were the (party) orders of the day. 

The bottom line for the current election is that Seattle’s District 3 is getting what democracy should deliver, a choice of the greater of two goods.  Capable candidates both, we’ve broken bread with them at Madrona’s weekly neighborhood breakfast. Hollingsworth and supporters are doorbelling my neighbors. Sawant snubbed us when a popular café, St. Cloud, invited her to chat with the community over coffee and goodies.

District 3 is a varied constituency, embracing First Hill, Capitol Hill, Madison Park, Central Area neighborhoods, and Madrona. Urban problems are visible. The hazardous, infuriating Madison Street construction mess makes it difficult to get from one end of the district to the other. We’ve only recently recovered from the great 23rd Avenue construction mess and the harm it did to small, minority-owned businesses.

Posts are installed outside our neighborhood grocery to forestall another smash-and-grab burglary. Stores carry signs with the message: “No Cash Kept on Premises.” Just down the hill, the popular owner of The Postman was shot to death a year ago, and 12 bullets were put through the store windows on the anniversary of his killing. Police response time is down.

Decay is not on a level seen next door in District 2 with its open-air drug and stolen goods market at 12th & Jackson, businesses bailing from Little Saigon, plus one beloved shopping place after another shutting its doors on Rainier Avenue. I wish either Hollingsworth or Hudson could be on the ballot there to take out the council’s badly overmatched Tammy Morales, who has been Sawant’s fellow traveler on the council.

To the candidates. Joy Hollingsworth is a third-generation Seattleite, born and raised in the Central Area, living with her wife in the family home. She is product of a distinguished, civic activist African American family. Grandmother Dorothy Hollingsworth was longtime member of a better Seattle School Board than the present one. Joy played basketball at Seattle Prep, later coached at Seattle University. She has helped manage a successful family-owned cannabis business and works with the Food Access Network of Northwest Harvest.

A crowd of more than 200 showed up for her announcement on MLK Day. What I took away from hearing Hollingsworth is a commitment to restore the “Seattle way.” Everybody gets consulted on everything. Nobody is demonized. We have police accountability, but we hire more cops and work at more rapid response and co-response so police get help in non-crime calls.

I wonder how our police officers have felt at being called “murderers” by Sawant or seeing the council stumble through its defund-the-police debate in 2020. With the impression that we don’t have their backs, they’ve been decampin to other cities or retiring.  It’s a shame given progress made under the Justice Department’s consent decree.

Hollingsworth is an optimist. She strikes me as one of those people who believes that anything worth doing is worth doing with enthusiasm. She brings to the table deep understanding of the minority experience of watching a city move from discrimination to diversity. She has witnessed an evolution of inclusive politics even as economic inequality squeezes many in the city.

Alex Hudson has lived 14 years in District 3 and has given back to where she lives. As head of the First Hill Improvement Assn., she worked effectively for affordable housing. She has since become head the influential Transportation Choices Coalition, laboring to expand bus and light rail while making transit free for young people under 18.

Hudson was a negotiator of the $61 million public benefits package that accompanied expansion of the downtown convention center. Included is $29 million spending on affordable housing, $10 million apiece for Freeway Park and pedestrian and bike improvements. Local endorsements are a game in local campaigns. Worth noticing, however, is that a key partner in convention center negotiations, Matt Griffin of the Pine Street Group, is backing Hudson.

Hudson is a self-described urbanist and would be on the left if elected. Unlike that wing of the council, however, she is highly competent. She negotiates with the downtown business community rather than demonizing it as do Sawant and The Stranger. An astute listener, she avoids the condescension, cliquishness, and elitism that characterize some among our city’s urbanists.

What, then, to worry about in these two candidates? Each believes in solving problems. Sawant treated every controversy as an organizing tool, with more to gain from causing trouble than calm conciliation. She was a football spiker, claiming credit for the $15-an-hour minimum wage, yet she abstained from council passage of the final package, hammered out by a panel co-chaired by a business nabob and an astute young labor leader.

Hollingsworth is backed by Mayor Bruce Harrell, and close to hizzoner. Too close? Our city’s legislators need to keep distance. A wise council turned down an earlier mayor’s recommendation that Seattle City Light invest in two ill-fated WPPSS nuclear plants, for which we would be paying to this day. A hard push from the council, notably from Tim Burgess, was required to get Mayor Mike McGinn on board with Justice Department conditions for reforming the Seattle Police Department.

Amidst Hudson’s upbeat program, one line made me cringe: “The Central City Connector streetcar is a long overdue and necessary project that should already be in service.” She’s championing a project that’s $100 million-plus over its original budget, which would create a massive, prolonged mess and deliver permanent traffic congestion to First Avenue.

She also speaks of “increased automatic camera enforcement,” a “transformative Move Seattle levy” next year, plus more “bus priority lanes.” Best to recall the weird transforming of Fourth and Sixth Avenues and making Third Avenue bus-only that fueled urban blight.  The fear here is that Hudson will fuel wretched excesses of the Seattle Department of Transportation.

District 3 voting was simple. With Sawant, you were either for her or against her. Hudson-Hollingsworth is a choice of two quality candidates. With close friends in both camps, my pick will be kept private. I’d urge readers not to follow endorsements but read web sites for both Joy and Alex and trust your own judgment. The Seattle Times editorial page has gotten snarky this year; The Stranger preaches class warfare.

With seven of nine Council seats at stake, this “off year” election will help shape Seattle’s growth – or retrogression – for years to come.

Joel Connelly
Joel Connelly
I worked for Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1973 until it ceased print publication in 2009, and from 2009 to 6/30/2020. During that time, I wrote about 9 presidential races, 11 Canadian and British Columbia elections‎, four doomed WPPSS nuclear plants, six Washington wilderness battles, creation of two national Monuments (Hanford Reach and San Juan Islands), a 104 million acre Alaska Lands Act, plus the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.


  1. Another fine job by Joel on two good candidates. So how does one distinguish between them?

    I have found a key difference: pragmatism and idealism.

    Hudson’s platform is aspirational, focused on what should be. Hollingsworth platform is focused on what can be.

    One way to look at that is the difference in their work. Hudson has a non-profit background. Hollingsworth is in small business.

    Their differences are best illustrated in how they talk about public safety. Hudson emphasizes using social workers first to deal with rampant crime. Hudson emphasizes a larger, better trained police force to be supplemented by care teams.

    City Hall in the last 10 year or so has fallen under the sway of Seattle’s legion of non-profit organizations, only a few of which have delivered what they promise.

    Hollingsworth’s more pragmatic modus operandi offer a greater degree of success than Hudson’s in dealing with public safety and the intractable homeless problems.

    Connelly is right. These are two good “horses” in the race for District Three. My bet is that Hollingsworth will be the more successful replacement for the years of neglect that is the legacy of Kashama Sawant.

  2. I agree Alex much better than Sawant, but she’s not in the same league with Joy.

    It would be a shame if a high quality person with a tremendous family history would be rejected by Seattle voters. Vote Joy.

  3. One of the interesting aspects to the Joy Hollingsworth candidacy is that she would signal a return, a welcome return, to Black leadership in Seattle politics. Years before Black Lives Matter, leading Black families (such as the Harrells) were stabilizing, conciliating forces in Seattle politics. Among the leaders: The Rev. Sam McKinney, Sam Smith, Richard McIver, Norm Rice.
    Accordingly, the race to replace Sawant gives a choice between a Black restoration and the urbanist rising tide represented by Alex Hudson. Nice choice to have!

    • Well, from my perspective, we do have two quality candidates. But my vote will go towards the person who most represents the reality that us Seattle. We have the largest portion of our residents living in multifamily housing. Yet, we do not have a single candidate who really represents this reality. Past time for this to change.

  4. Mea Culpa, Sam Sperry

    In my comment above, I should have said that Hollingsworth not Hudson,
    emphasizes a larger, better trained police force to be supplemented by care teams.

    Sorry, Joy.

    Sam S.

  5. Please vote for Joy Hollingsworth.
    Her opposing candidate is probably a highly principled person but her proposals are neither original nor proven successes anywhere else.
    It’s not enough to be better than Kshama Sawant.

    As Fran Leibowitz said (about Donald Trump):
    “The very next person who gets on this bus would do a better job than Sawant.”

  6. I would like everyone in District 3 to read a Seattle Times article on Transportation Choices Coalition and their infiltration into local governments.

    “The fear here is that Hudson will fuel wretched excesses of the Seattle Department of Transportation.”

    You know it. That’s her job – to deliver for TCC’s transportation project industry backers. The Seattle Times article mentions her predecessor Shefali Ranganathan … subsequently to become deputy mayor in Durkan’s office. Before that, Rob Johnson, city council member. This has to stop.

  7. Donn Cave lays bare the “Trojan Horse” aspect to Hudson’s campaign. She represents an ideological bend of purpose we hope to extricate from the incumbent City Council.

  8. Oh, c’mon! Alex Hudson is a renter. She uses the bus. She works for an effective advocacy organization.
    Does this make her a bad person, a Trojan Horse. No, it makes her an effective person, with personal interests as well as a wider interest in improving a city she loves.
    While I have disagreements with her on transportation, I recognize ability. She negotiated and has delivered. She isn’t one of those rads who march down Pine Street chanting, “The people, divided, will always be defeated.”
    She’d get stuff done on the Council. So would opponent Joy Hollingsworth.
    Voters have a choice of approaches but an assurance of openness and competence. Neither is a Trojan Horse. Both are work horses.

  9. Joel,

    I’ve enjoyed your thoughtful reporting for decades. In my humble opinion, you’re among the greatest generation of NW political journalists.

    That said, I couldn’t be more disappointed you didn’t place a stake in the District 3 election. Because, “with close friends in both camps my pick will be left private”.

    But you know the score: Sawant wasn’t a district rep attentive to constituents. She never shows up or speaks out unless it gets ink. Case in point, recent shooting at 23rd & Jackson day care center…her public comments doubled down on alternative policing, not a word to the terrified parents and families nearby.

    So here comes Hudson. Another aspirational ideologue. A professional political organizer and lobbyist who’s pandering to single issue advocates — and Sawant’s political base.

    Contrast that with Hollingsworth’s resume and outlook. Small business operator. Deep D3 community roots. Smart. Deliberative. Not beholden.

    You’re a civilian now Joel. This is an editorial page. Your loyal enthusiasts await your unfiltered opinion.

  10. It isn’t about Hudson’s lifestyle, or ideology. In a word, it’s about money.

    It’s that she’s executive director of a industry lobbyist organization that will have a good deal of business with the city. Don’t be surprised that she’s hot for the streetcar connector, and every other substantial expenditure on transit infrastructure whether well advised or not.

  11. I read Stranger endorsements for a laugh. And “Seattle’s only newspaper” fervently endorses Hudson, calling her the only worthy successor to Savant. The Stranger also heapspraise on Ron Davis for District Four and hurls abuse at Maritza Rivera, whom I’m voting for, and who is heavily favored to win: “His competition, Maritza Rivera, loves cops with a fervor that we must assume comes from a clinical overconsumption of true crime podcasts and paranoid dribble on NextDoor.” I admit to being a fan of bad writing like that.

  12. I have great respect and admiration for my former colleague Joel Connelly. So, if an astute, sophisticated political observer as he sees both candidates as workhorses, I respect that. But, as both are seen as horses, I caution Joel to more carefully assess the gifts that each may bear.

  13. I’m just glad that Joel brought District 2 into this article. As he notes, District 2 Council Representative Tammy Morales has been a lock-step partner with Kshama Sawant. She’s really just Sawant sans-bullhorn and with a filter. D2 has suffered two mass shootings and more than two dozen deaths from gun violence. At least 17 reported home invasion robbiers targeting older Asian families. Hundreds and hundreds of armed assaults and burglaries. And Morales has been completely absent. Not only does she not respond to constituents’ phone calls or emails, she doesn’t show up for Council meetings. I’m not talking about not showing up at the dias, she has one of the worst attendance records even by Zoom. Going further, she has canceled more than half of all the meetings of the Committee she Chairs – which happens to be the one Committee that could help her district: the Neighborhoods Committee. She has got to be replaced by Tanya Woo, whose family has lived in the area represented by D2 since the 1880s. A business owner who converted a historic hotel to low-income housing, someone who runs a volunteer neighborhood association providing mutual aid to people in need, she is the kind of person who would, like Joy Hollingsworth, add generations of family experience to a City that has not been friendly recently to either Blacks or Asians.

  14. I’ve read Joel for over 50 years as one of — if not THE — best analysts in Seattle.

    So glad to see him still knocking it out of the park!

  15. What about our district, D3, becoming the new replacement for the West Seattle car enthusiasts, motorheads, loud pipes, racers, and gangster slow rollers?
    I personally love cars but most of these yahoos are aholes. Sawant was useless. SPD is AWOL. The community is impotent.
    The Madrona/Leschi/Mt Baker area has become the new gathering place for drivers who like to see how loud and how fast they can go in a 25 MPH zone.
    Where are our speed cameras and patrols? I hope there is some attention given to this as i have lost my first quick step and can barely avoid being road kill.


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