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.”