Seattle and Yakima could see more diverse city councils after Tuesday’s primary

The wall of old signs inside of Thompson Signs' warehouse serves as a visual reminder of the mostly white, male political candidates in the northwest. (Photo by Lucas Anderson / UW Election Eye)
(Photo by Lucas Anderson / UW Election Eye)

Seattle could see more ethnic diversity on the city council after Tuesday’s primary, the city’s first after switching to districts based on geographic location.

The Seattle Times noted that four of the top-vote getters in the nine races were people of color, one more than the three people of color currently on the council (and one of the current council members, John Okamoto, was appointed to his seat and opted not to run for election). The Times also noted that the Tuesday’s top vote-getters skewed younger and more female than the current council.

In the city’s most ethnically diverse district, District 2, which covers the Rainier Valley and parts of the International District, both candidates moving forward, Councilmember Bruce Harrell and challenger Tammy Morales, are people of color.

In District 3, which covers Capitol Hill and the Central District, the top two vote-getters are also people of color, Councilmember Kshama Sawant and challenger Seattle Urban League president Pamela Banks. Political observers say District 3 could  be hotly contested going into the general election.

All of the Seattle city council seats were up for grabs this year, and Tuesday’s primary was the first in the city after Seattle voters decided in 2013 to move to elections where most of the seats were based on geographic districts instead of city-wide races, in order to highlight neighborhood concerns.

Some critics at the time were concerned that the effect of the new districts would be to marginalize poor and minority communities, segregating those communities into their own districts.

But across the state, Yakima also voted in its first geographic district primaries — which were court ordered to address concerns that the Latino community, which makes up 41 percent of the city’s population, was being marginalized. As opposed to the new voter-approved system in Seattle, the district system in Yakima was imposed after a federal judge ruled that elections in Yakima appeared to violate the Voting Rights Act because Latino candidates appeared to have difficulty reaching elected office.

Two of Yakima’s six new districts are at least 40 percent Latino, with one being “majority-minority.” Yakima appears to be poised to elect a Latino candidate for the first time, but the current city council appealed the ruling earlier this year. The Yakima Herald-Republic has more details on the candidates moving forward to the general election.

City of Seattle

District 1

Lisa Herbold 28.6%
Shannon Braddock 28.2%

District 2

Bruce Harrell 61.9%
Tammy Morales 24.6%

District 3

Kshama Sawant 50.47%
Pamela Banks 34.96%

District 4

Rob Johnson 33.7%
Michael Maddux 23.1%

District 5

Debora Juarez 38.9%
Sandy Brown 20.4%

District 6

Mike O’Brien 58.5%
Catherine Weatbrook 22.3%

District 7

Sally Bagshaw 76.6%
Deborah Zech-Artis 13.4%

Position 8

Tim Burgess 47.6%
Jon Grant 29.1%

Position 9

Lorena Gonzalez 64.2%
Bill Bradburd 15.1%

*This story has been updated with Aug. 5’s updated vote counts.