No Surprise: Community Activist Woo Fills a City Council Vacancy


Skeptics charged that “the fix” was in. They asserted it was a foregone conclusion that Chinatown International District activist Tanya Woo would be chosen to fill the Seattle Council Position 8 seat. The at-large position was left vacant when Teresa Mosqueda resigned to fill the seat she’d won on the King County Council.

It turns out that the naysayers were right about the identity of the successful nominee, business owner Woo, who won the five votes needed for a first-ballot victory. The only councilmembers voting for other candidates were Dan Strauss, who backed School District Director Vivian Song, Joy Hollingsworth who favored Linh Thai, and Tammy Morales who voted for Mari Sugiyama.

Councilmember Morales expressed disappointment in the appointment process. She alleged undue pressure from “big business,” targeting a memo sent by business consultant and former deputy mayor Tim Ceis urging the business community to back Woo. Morales expressed displeasure that two of her former general election opponents were included as finalists in deliberations. (Crime prevention coordinator Mark Solomon opposed Morales in 2019 and Woo lost to her by some 400 votes in November.)

Council President Sara Nelson responded by condemning “weaponization” of the Ceis memo. Nelson observed that it was “a tall order for brand new councilmembers” to have to quickly pick a replacement. However, those councilmembers (Bob Kettle, Rob Saka, Maritza Rivera, Cathy Moore and president Nelson) who voted for Woo said that the choice had been their own. Councilmember Moore insisted, “My vote was not bought.”

Woo will be serving alongside her opponent Morales after waging an acrimonious campaign. But while Woo’s selection may not work toward solidarity, it is not unusual for councilmembers to differ even in solidly Democratic Seattle. Having myself been seated beside councilmembers who backed my opponents, I can say that occasional disagreements may actually serve the city in the long run. Politics isn’t just about “playing nice in the sandbox,” although that was the way one contender sold himself during candidate forums.

Woo, promptly sworn in following Tuesday’s vote, insisted that, even though she had been picked not from a district but for a city-wide seat, her neighborhood-honed priorities were unchanged. She affirmed continued support for public safety, homelessness, housing, and for neighborhoods like the Chinatown International District that, in her estimation, “have been forgotten.” She insisted that the CID issues “are not unique to one district.”

Councilmember Rob Saka pointed out that the newly-picked councilmember is now faced with getting up to speed quickly, learning the ropes, helping to solve a serious budget shortfall — plus running for election in the fall. Woo earlier stated that she is running in 2024 in what is likely a hotly contested citywide race.

In the aftermath of Woo’s appointment, there were loud calls for a reexamination of how the council fills vacancies. Some of those involved hinted darkly at corruption and spoke of requiring any expenditures be made transparent. But it is puzzling how that would function. Would there have to be reporting of lobbying? Of possible “pay-offs,” and to what oversight body?

One thing became clear after watching the eight finalists during candidate forums: there are well-qualified contenders who may run for future competitions. The sitting councilmembers who made the final selection were generous in recognizing the abilities of those eight finalists. One knowledgeable observer surveying the group predicted: “This is the face of councils to come.”

Jean Godden
Jean Godden
Jean Godden wrote columns first for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and late for the Seattle Times. In 2002, she quit to run for City Council where she served for 12 years. Since then she published a book of city stories titled “Citizen Jean.” She is now co-host of The Bridge aired on community station KMGP at 101.1 FM. You can email tips and comments to Jean at


  1. There are a whole lot of sour grapes among so-called “Progressives”, who are overwhelmingly white and utterly disconnected from Chinatown-International District, the Central District, Rainier Beach, and other neighborhoods with huge majorities of BIPOC. That the worst, and loudest, of these “Progressives” also happen to write for Far-Left publications including The Stranger, Publicola, The Urbanist, and others, which spent much of last year demonizing Tanya Woo and the newly elected moderates, just further demonstrates that their sour grapes have turned to whine.

    Because there was little actual reporting on the backgrounds of the 8 Council finalists, other than one line attributing their current professional title, and absolutely no digging into their backgrounds, interested parties were left with only the scandals (Vivian Song gaining her School Board seat by fraud; Tim Ceis’ email to funders of the Independent Expenditure campaigns that had supported the moderate candidates). Most interested parties may have been unaware that more than 1,300 supporters of Tanya Woo had signed a petition supporting her appointment circulating just days after it was clear she was not going to win the hotly contested District 2 seat. Those in support of Tanya Woo began directly contacting the new Councilmembers and two of the three holdovers at the same time, a full 7 weeks before the nomination process even opened up, and 9 weeks before Ceis’ email.

    To retain this seat, Tanya Woo will need to run in a Primary and a General Election this year, and, if she wins, run again in 2025. We can all expect the Far-Left to ramp up their smears on Tanya, as well as the other 5 newly elected moderate Councilmembers. We should all hope that there will be deeper reporting in these coming 19 1/2 months.

    • Please consider stopping the use of these phrases, which add nothing to the conversation because they mean little in this city: ‘progressive’ and ‘far left.’ Frankly, I’m surprised moderators let them pass. The progressives and leftists I know and the publications I read that you’d likely dislike, display thinking and analysis, not name-calling.

      I look forward, truly, to seeing what the newly-elected members of the Seattle City Council do and whether they work with each other.

    • Amen 🙏🏿

      Signed and passed along that same Petition – Thank you Assunta Ng for getting the word out.

      It is clear that Tanya has earned the respect of her peers and elders in the Chinatown ID….who now finally have at the table. Going forward I am confident she will earn that same respect city wide.

      Sour Grapes and white whine indeed by the Stranger and others – No longer read the Stranger let alone rely on their voting “cheat sheet”

  2. In short, the Council punted the decision for a real replacement to the voters this fall, when Woo will face many aspirants, some of whom will be better positioned to run citywide (as this council seat is). Failing that, the Woo seat will also be up in Fall 2025, with much the same scenario.

    • How is the appointment, which follows the Charter and city code, a “punt”? Did you expect the Council to violate the Charter and code and leave the seat vacant? Did you expect them to appoint a seat warmer for a whopping 10 months, when there are seriously hard decisions to make, when a seat warmer can’t be held accountable for any actions they take? Or did you just want someone else?

  3. The issue that comes to mind, where downtown business (is that who Ceis works for?) is sailing against the council wind is the proposed connector streetcar. Can’t find any indication where Woo is on that one, it will be interesting to see.

    But … doesn’t The Stranger favor the connector project, like the DBA? The labels always look so weird on some people.

  4. I voted for both Morales and Woo (not in the same election). So I see this as a win for District 2.
    And as others have noted, a one-issue candidate is less likely to win a citywide election. Many of the current, and former Council members were community organizers, and nobody batted an eyelash. Tanya Woo is no different.

  5. I am also one of the 1300 people who signed the petition to have Tanya Woo appointed to the city council. I also emailed all the City Council members supporting Woo’s appointment. I have no ties to business or any business group, and expect that most of the other 1300 people signing the petition didn’t have any such ties either. I am tired of the name-calling by The Stranger and others who consider themselves progressives, in which any serious contender in regional politics that is to their right politically is labeled as a business stooge. I believe Woo had broad support from people who live outside District 2, and therefore hope she will be reelected this year.

    • Exactly !

      I don’t know what the heck is going on over at the Stranger and todays piece by Charles Mudede but their campaign against Woo is getting old


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