City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda Will Run for King County Council

By Erica C. Barnett

Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, who’s in the middle of her second four-year term, will run for the King County Council seat longtime County Councilmember Joe McDermott is leaving at the end of the year. (PubliCola first reported that Mosqueda might run for this position on Monday). In an interview, Mosqueda said she was “pulled” by the appeal of serving on the county council rather than “pushed” out of her current job by the factors—public hostility, divisiveness, and personal attacks—that have contributed to several colleagues’ decisions not to run for reelection.

“Throughout my career, but especially on council, it is evident that I can rise above the fray, that I can pull people together who have diverse perspectives, and we can pull solutions together and pass them with near unanimous or near-unanimous support,” Mosqueda, a former labor lobbyist in Olympia, said.

As an example, she pointed to the JumpStart payroll tax, which succeeded where previous “Tax Amazon” efforts by her council colleague Kshama Sawant had failed, thanks in large part to Mosqueda’s efforts to win at least tacit consensus from groups that opposed previous efforts to raise taxes on large businesses.

“I think there really needs be a shift from thinking about ‘peak hours” to thinking about what workers need and what accessibility truly means to families,” Mosqueda said. “Also, making sure that our light rail is going to communities and not through communities.”

Similarly, Mosqueda said, she would have handled the siting of a controversial homeless shelter expansion in SoDo—which King County abandoned under pressure from advocates in the Chinatown-International District who said the county never consulted them—differently.

“Folks who were concerned about the siting [of the shelter] there are also interested in solutions— they’re concerned about people not having a place to use the bathroom or sleeping outside business establishments,” Mosqueda said. “We have shared interests… but we have to start with talking to the community first—especially in the CID and the [Asian and Pacific Islander] population who have also been on the receiving end of other services over the years.”

If voters pass a ballot measure to build six behavioral health crisis centers around the county in April, the council will play a role in deciding where those are located, a decision Mosqueda said “has to start with community conversations” about “where those six sites are going to be.”

In addition, Mosqueda said, she wants to support efforts to build “workforce housing” in places like Vashon Island (one of several parts of the district outside Seattle), improving participation in apprenticeship programs and broadening their scope, and bolstering the infrastructure that supports high-paying jobs—everything from funding to “create a career pathway for child care workers” to restructuring King County Metro’s bus system to better serve people who work outside standard office hours.

“I think there really needs be a shift from thinking about ‘peak hours” to thinking about what workers need and what accessibility truly means to families,” Mosqueda said. “Also, making sure that our light rail is going to communities and not through communities.”

If Mosqueda wins, she will be the first Latinx person to ever serve on the King County Council, and one of only four council members of color in county history—one of whom, Girmay Zahilay, represents what has historically been the council’s only majority-minority district.

Mosqueda wouldn’t take the bait on a question about whether she, like the four council members who have announced they’re leaving this year, is actually fleeing the council, rather than being “pulled” toward the county. After all, I noted, if the county council was more compelling than the city council, she could have run for that position in the first place.

Instead, she chalked up the city council exodus to the fact that seven of the nine council seats are all on the ballot at once—a recipe, she said, for instability. If elections were split more evenly—with half the district seats and one citywide seat on the ballot every two years—”then you wouldn’t see that kind of instability,” Mosqueda said. That’s something she said she plans to work on this year, whether she wins or not.

Since the Durkan administration, Mosqueda has over multiple city budget cycles to prevent the mayor from raiding proceeds from the JumpStart tax to fill a general budget hole. Without her vigilance, will JumpStart—which is supposed to fund housing, small businesses, and equitable development—become a slush fund for other priorities or a permanent emergency reserve to fill funding gaps?

Mosqueda said she was confident that it wouldn’t, citing “structural requirements” the council has codified as well as future revenues, to be identified by a new progressive revenue tax force, that will address long-term budget gaps. Even so, Mosqueda had to negotiate a deal this year that allowed some JumpStart revenues to help backfill a massive general-fund shortfall—and even with new progressive revenue on the table, there’s no guarantee that the mayor, or a future mayor, won’t try to use JumpStart taxes for purposes outside the scope of its adopted spending plan.

Mosqueda has already rounded up more than c80 endorsements, including that of current Mayor Bruce Harrell, and her decision to run seems to have neutralized some potential opponents, including West Seattle attorney Rob Saka, who was reportedly considering a run for the county council seat but now appears likely to run for the West Seattle seat being vacated by Lisa Herbold.

7 thoughts on “City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda Will Run for King County Council”

  1. I mean what we got was a lot of rowdy politics in Seattle that a whole lot of Councilmembers are leaving, and a very low approval rating. Sure more taxes are collected but is the average resident in Seattle better off for it? How would we even know?

    1. Right. You lost. Sawant won. Her first corporate tax attempt succeeded in the way for a successful tax on corporate wealth. She deserves credit for a long list of accomplishments. Her strategy of thinking big has proven itself. Who cares if it’s rowdy? It works and everyone should be taking notes. Whatever your goals are, you’re not going to get anywhere doing the opposition’s job for them. Saying Sawant’s Amazon Tax failed is missing the point,

  2. I always find it odd to hear anyone in Seattle mention Cabrini Green, all the way out in Chicago, as an example of notoriously bad public housing without brining up the success of Yesler Terrace, right here in Seattle, both dating to the same period. It’s right there, if you want an example of why one approach to public housing didn’t work while a different way did work.

    And that doesn’t even touch on the un-nuanced myth of Cabrini Green in the public imagination, which succeeded for many years before it “failed”, and that letting it fail was a choice, not an inevitability.

    1. Yesler Terrace was a success before its recent gentrification, where low AMI units were removed.

  3. I wouldn’t Sawant’s Tax Amazon opener as failure. If Sawant had started with a compromise proposal, the end result would have been something less than that. That’s how negotiation works, and the reason Sawant has made things happen is that she starts by asking for more, often what centrists are aghast at because it’s “too much, too far”. But as we have seen time and again, the centrists come back with a counteroffer that’s meaningful.

    Establishment Democrats have negotiated against themselves as long as we can remember, and everyone knows it. Sawant didn’t “fail”, she showed Democrats the right way to get things done. Dream big. Ask for the moon. Let them come to you and meet you halfway. Don’t talk yourself down, let them talk you down. Basic stuff.

    1. Brig – Wait, you think a tax that was swiftly repealed under real threat of a recall was successful? Seems like it actually did go too far, to survive the political process.

      1. And yet a more moderate tax with the same purpose was subsequently passed. What a mysterious chronology. Sawant’s “extremism” gives political cover, making Mosqueda’s version seem acceptable. If Sawant hadn’t opened the door, do you really think we’d have gotten anything?

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