Some Bold Takes: Presidents and City Councils


My crystal ball is clearing, so here are some predictions. First, neither Biden nor Trump will be the nominees in 2024. Second, the new leader of Seattle politics is Sara Nelson, the odd-moderate-out member of the current Seattle City Council who will now be leader of the new moderate super-majority.

I’m intrigued by a prediction from a conservative friend in D.C., who suspects a plot by Democrats to hold onto the White House. His three-cushion shot goes this way: Biden delays until late spring his decision and then suddenly declines to accept a nomination. (A doctor conveniently finds that unnamed health reasons preclude a new four-year term.) The delayed Biden exit gives Biden time to reset, avoids a divisive, expensive battle for the nomination, and allows a back-room deal to select an “emergency” nominee before other candidates can get traction. 

My friend suspects the winner of the hurry-up Democratic nomination will be Gavin Newsom, the progressive governor of California, who is acceptable to all the power blocs of the Dems and has experience cred. The other advantage in selecting Newsom is that it rids the party of the Kamala Harris problem, since by the 12th Amendment the presidential and vice presidential nominees cannot be from the same state. Dropping Harris also means the Democrats can select a balancing moderate as Veep.

My source also predicts Trump won’t get the Republican nomination, owing to his growing legal problems, his emerging unhingedness, and unexpectedly poor performances in some early states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Again, a late exit by Trump avoids all the bloodshed of a political assassination, and means the replacement nominee has not served as executioner. Accordingly, both Biden and Trump need to be late dropouts, possibly by secretive pre-arrangement with the donor class. 

One tricky dimension to this scenario is whether a miffed Trump then decides to run as a vengeful independent candidate, wrecking the Republican Party much as Teddy Roosevelt did in 1912. It’s possible that we will have a six-corner race for the presidency in 2024: an establishment, pro-choice Democrat; a Trumpified Republican such as Nikki Haley; something resembling a Romney-Manchin centrist party; the Green/Left/Anti-Israel party; an independent Trump; and whatever Robert F. Kennedy can cobble together among fringe and anti-Vax groups. 

The winner sneaks into the White House with 38 percent of the vote. Or (ominous music) the failure of anyone to win the electoral college majority throws the election into the House, by which a Republican wins in the one-state/one-vote format with the Republicans currently holding 26 of 50 House delegations. 

In Seattle, the new president of the city council is fairly certain to be Sara Nelson, and the new budget chair is likely Dan Strauss, among the few experienced members of the council. The other re-elected member is Tammy Morales, but her progressive allies are not enough to vote her into a key position. Morales thus becomes the odd-person-out member of the council, a significant shift from the days where Morales was part of a progressive majority of Teresa Mosqueda, Lisa Herbold, Kshama Sawant, all of whom found an off-ramp. 

With Teresa Mosqueda graduating to the King County Council, her at-large vacant seat will be filled by the city council, where a seven-moderate majority will thereby gain an 8-1 moderate majority for Mayor Harrell to work with. This dramatic shift represents a swing of the pendulum to the old, pragmatic, center-left council.  Both Nelson and the newly elected Cathy Moore are former staffers for Richard Conlin, and Strauss used to be a staffer for Sally Bagshaw. Another center-left anchor on the pre-Sawant city council, Tim Burgess, is now deputy mayor. The planets are lined up.

So the city council has found a new/old balance. Still, my hopes are tempered for this new era, as the council (full of rookie lawmakers) will soon become quite unpopular for being forced to cut programs and raise taxes, or (more likely) find a please-nobody balance of cuts and new taxes. More surprises and twists of irony await.

David Brewster
David Brewster
David Brewster, a founding member of Post Alley, has a long career in publishing, having founded Seattle Weekly, Sasquatch Books, and His civic ventures have been Town Hall Seattle and FolioSeattle.


  1. The amazing part of this likely takeover by the so-called moderate wing is the narrow margin of victory. Looks like 3 mainstream democrats will win by less than 500 votes.

    Interesting to see what city looks like in four years. And the mayor’s race in two years. Will Harrell run again? Sawant?

  2. Chronicle of an Election Foretold.
    I appreciate your prognosticative clarity and intrigued by the scenarios described and though i am heartened by them, i am a bit dismayed by the suggestion of the control of a national donor class. You could say I’m naive but i just feel stupid.

  3. Another interesting column from David Brewster. Certainly worth some several conversations.

    One exception I take is his prediction (pray it does not happen) that Dan Strauss is appointed Chair of the Finance Committee.

    I believe Sara Nelson, if elected Council President, has the good sense not to place him in such a key role for our city’s fiscal policies.

    It is bad enough that he barely squeaked out re-election. Recognized in his first term as easily intimidated by Councilmember Kashama Savant, Strauss bungled the effort to get a new tree protection ordinance. Oddly, the Council adopted the measure this fall as people openly admitted it was flawed and would need to be strengthened.

    There is little to worry about with so many new members joining the Council. For one thing, they are disposed to work together and Nelson as President will prove to be an able coxswain for this new crew.

    Second, working with the Mayor and his staff, now with two years experience under their collective belts, the reconstituted Council can find consensus to steer the municipal ship through what appears to be some roungh waters. Re-elected Tammy Morales with her defund-the-police posture will be a lonely soul on matters of public safety.

    Finally, without the burden of ideological persuasions to pollute a “new moderation” in Council decisions, it can be expected that the new crop of Councilmembers will focus on basic services including rebuilding public safety and a much stronger oversight of the millions of Seattle dollars flowing to the Regional Housing Authority, the so far ineffective body charged with get homeless people into decent housing.

    The outgoing Council members, with Morales and Strauss in cahoots, did little if anything to hold the Authority to account.

    Yes, a learning curve awaits these new Council members. That will occur, I submit, with an emphasis on pragmatic considerations, a welcome, even refreshing M.O. at City Hall

    • Thanks for the link. I feel less stupid but not more relaxed.
      I always wondered if my early vote for Klobucher counted towards Biden.

  4. Sam. It’s the Regional Homelessness Authority. Housing Authorities have enough problems without being associated with the RHA. Al

  5. Andy Beshear or Gretchen Wilmer

    Smart Midwestern/Mason Dixy Governors to lead our party and nation with competence, youthful energy and centrist sensibilities.

    Sam Sperry

  6. RE the “inexperience” of the new City Council majority: you can add Maritza Rivera as another winner (D4) who was a Council staffer to moderate Tom Rasmussen. That’s actually a lot of Council experience.

    It will certainly be interesting to see if the new Councilmembers will support the appointment of Tanya Woo to fill Mosqueda’s city-wide Position 8. There is a petition [], and a growing groundswell of lobbying (see Assunta Ng’s Post Alley News column, “The Case for Tanya Woo”.

  7. The funniest thing in your article? That a conservative “suspects a plot by Democrats to hold onto the White House.”

    Please reassure your friend that he needs not merely suspect but that is exactly the Dem intention.

  8. It might be a good thing for the country if presidential races always ran like that. Does it serve the country’s interest for the campaign to be going on practically for the entire term? Let the public understand that the eventual candidates will emerge from under wraps only in the last 6 months of the term, and then the parties can go to town with their usual tactics.

    Only for the president’s office. It’s my impression that the average American is not guaranteed to even know who’s their governor, representative in the House or whatever. And of course it’s only a fantasy – the parties desperately want to engage in this perpetual campaigning. In the present case, whether the Democratic party will eventually nominate Biden or someone else, the campaigning will continue to take its toll, with Biden in the role of presumptive candidate.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments Policy

Please be respectful. No personal attacks. Your comment should add something to the topic discussion or it will not be published. All comments are reviewed before being published. Comments are the opinions of their contributors and not those of Post alley or its editors.