At-large City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda won a second term on Seattle City Council in 2021, with a resounding 59% of the vote. (Courtesy of Team Teresa)

Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda says she hears the “pull” of King County Council and is running for the District 8 seat that Joe McDermott will be vacating with his retirement. The County Council could be an ideal spot to focus on solutions to the behavioral health crisis, to the housing crisis, and for a struggling transit network, she said as made the media rounds today.

“Working families need round-the-clock transit – we need to reimagine that,” Mosqueda told West Seattle Blog. Her announcement press release cited the need for accessible transit, affordable childcare, and workforce housing to stem displacement.

The newly redrawn District 8 stretches from downtown Seattle to Burien and Tukwila, including communities like West Seattle, White Center, and Vashon and Maury Islands along the way. If elected, Mosqueda would become the first Latina (or Latino) to serve on King County Council and just the fourth person of color.

Mosqueda lives in North Delridge and occupies a citywide city council seat that she won decisively 2021, earning her second term. That seat isn’t up for reelection until 2025, and Mosqueda said that if she doesn’t win her County Council bid, she will stay on City Council. If she wins, she’d be leaving city council and guaranteeing a majority of new faces next year on the nine-member body. Four of her district-based colleagues (who are all up for election this year) have said they are leaving and not seeking another term. Thus, Mosqueda’s bid could add to the turnover at Seattle City Council.

Relatedly, Mosqueda has pledged to work on Council’s turnover problem by proposing legislation to redistribute the nine seats to be more evenly split between election cycles. The current setup, in place since 2015, has seven district councilmembers up for election in one cycle and the mayor and two citywide council seats up in the next.

Unless the Washington State Legislature steps up and passes even-year election reform, Seattle wouldn’t have the option to switch to higher-turnout even-year elections, as King County recently passed for future elections (meaning Mosqueda’s would be a three-year term if elected.) Doing so would increase participation and provide a more representative electorate, which why it’s an Urbanist-endorsed policy.

Judging by endorsements, Mosqueda’s bid looks formidable, with more than 80 endorsements already listed on her campaign page. Several unions are onboard as is King County Executive Dow Constantine and King County Councilmembers Claudia Balducci, Girmay Zahilay, Rod Dembowski, and Sarah Perry. Also among the endorsers are 11 sitting state legislators and four of her colleagues on Council — Andrew Lewis, Dan Strauss, Tammy Morales, and Lisa Herbold — plus former colleague Lorena González and Mayor Bruce Harrell.

A cynic might say Harrell’s endorsement could have a bit to do with removing from city council someone who is often a political opponent and an impediment as budget chair so that he will have freer rein in city hall. However, the two both stressed how well they got along during the last budget cycle and seemed to genuinely have a solid working relationship; so, it may not just be political machinations at play here.

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda takes a selfie with Mayor Bruce Harrell and some members of his cabinet in September 2022. (Seattle City Council staff)

On the other hand, Mosqueda and the Harrell administration did disagree about how to use JumpStart tax revenue, which Mosqueda fought to secure for intended purposes she passed in her landmark legislation with spending guardrails in 2021, after then-Mayor Jenny Durkan repeatedly sought to raid the funds for her own programs. Unlike under Durkan, they ultimately came to a seemingly amicable compromise, with Mosqueda refusing to remove guardrails permanently, but allowing some JumpStart revenue to be used to backfill budget holes in the short-term.

One of the biggest question marks if Mosqueda were to leave Council is if those JumpStart spending guardrails would continue to hold. But her allies on council may pick up the mantle for her in her absence. In 2021, JumpStart raised a whopping $291 million via the 700 largest employers in Seattle and it pulled in a similar amount in 2022, covering for sagging revenues elsewhere.

As for whether she would seek to implement a progressive payroll tax like JumpStart at the county level, Mosqueda demurred when asked by West Seattle Blog; no such plans so far. Still, her stated goals of fighting economic inequality and inequities in health, housing, and transportation might end up driving her toward similar initiatives.

“With your support, I will be that champion for District 8 in King County to create a more equitable and healthy economy and community for all by providing the infrastructure that allows every person to achieve economic security and improve population health,” Mosqueda said in a statement.

In contrast to the all-out policy brawls happening at Seattle City Council, the King County Council has developed a sleepy and staid reputation, but with the addition of Zahilay in 2019 and potentially Mosqueda in 2023, perhaps it won’t stay that way.

Visit Mosqueda’s campaign website for more information.

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Doug Trumm is publisher of The Urbanist. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington in 2019. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.