Drag legend Miss Texas 1988 crowned District 3 city council candidate Andrew Ashiofu the winner of Candidate Survivor 2023 after earning the loudest applause from the good people at Neumos Tuesday night. Candidate Survivor, hosted by the Washington Bus and The Stranger, is a long-standing tradition where local politics nerds get to haze vulnerable, sometimes straight-edge City Council candidates who will literally do anything to win over young, hip voters. 

The event stays pretty light-hearted, so it says a lot when a candidate doesn’t want to come. Candidates Rob Saka, Preston Anderson, Tanya Woo, Ken Wilson, Maritza Rivera, George Artem, Cathy Moore, Shea Wilson, Pete Hanning, Victoria Palmer, Olga Sagan, Wade Sowders, and Bob Kettle declined invitations to our super-fun night.

Some of those candidates may have had legit schedule conflicts, though they should be willing to miss the birth of their own child for an event like Candidate Survivor. But some of those candidates could just be cowards and bad sports who don’t care about voters under the age 50 because they serve the interest of business and the landed people in Seattle. 

Anyway! Back to the cool candidates who played along Tuesday night. 

Miss Texas 1988 and her technicolor fan. Christian Parroco

For the first leg of the show, candidates performed a hidden talent for the crowd. Well, “hidden” in some cases—District 5 city council candidate ChrisTiana ObeySumner is already recognized for their burlesque skills. And “talent” might be a strong word for some of the acts—Council Member Andrew Lewis presented a slideshow and got cut off before the big punch line he says he was building to. 

After the talent show, candidates competed against others in their district in a lip-sync battle. The audience then clapped for their favorite, and whoever got the loudest applause moved on to the final round, which was based on the hit interview show Hot Ones, where they ate spicy vegan chik’n nuggets and answered some spicy questions. Then the crowd picked a winner! 

Swimsuit Round (JK lol)

District 1 candidate and Amazon’s greatest fear, Maren Costa, left the crowd pleasantly confused by her teleportation talent. She ran off the stage and magically appeared seconds later on the other side with slightly longer hair. The twist–Costa has a twin! That’s slightly less impressive than teleporting, but they made up for it by juggling until Miss Texas 1988, our gracious host for the evening, shooed them off stage. 

District 1 candidate and bagel baron Stephen Brown rattled off the names of US presidents in chronological order. He reached the 38th president, Gerald Ford, before he got cut off. 

In the second round, Costa and Brown lip-synced for their lives to Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5.” The audience decided that Costa would advance to the vegan Hot Ones round.

Brown and Costa got down, quite frankly. Christian Parroco

District 2 candidate and incumbent Tammy Morales busted out her guitar and sang a district-specific version of the 4 Non Blondes classic, “What’s Up?” Her opponent, Margaret Elisabeth, followed Morales with a little ditty on the harmonica. They both lip-synced to “Run the World” by Beyonce before the crowd decided to bring Morales to the final round. 

In one of the most useful talents of the night, District 3 candidate and fallen blogger Alex Hudson asked the audience to tell her where they wanted to go, and she named the bus routes that would take them there. She guided the crowd to Mayor Durkan’s house (or at least to Sand Point, she’s not trying to get in trouble), Bruce Harrell’s house (the 550 to Bellevue, she said), and Golden Gardens. She really is the “Human OneBusAway,” as she claimed. 

District 3 candidate and weed connoisseur Joy Hollingsworth wowed the crowd with her vocal and piano performance of “Hotline Bling” by Drake. She switched up some lyrics to relate to Seattle–she’s a third-generation Seattleite, if you haven’t heard. An esteemed panel of judges awarded her “Best Talent” for the night because god fucking dammit is she cool. She asked the audience for an edible to calm her nerves. The coolness was palpable. 

Ashiofu silenced the crowd with a slam poem about discrimination and overcoming adversity. Snaps all around. His lip-sync performance in round two set quite a different tone. He came out in a leather harness, whipping around batons and shamelessly upstaging his opponents. At one point, Hollingsworth literally stopped trying and just cheered Ashiofu on. Needless to say, he advanced to the final round and won the award for “Best Spirit.”

You absolutely do have to hand it to him. Christian Parroco

District 4 city council candidate Ron Davis, who asked that I refer to him as an “urbanist father” rather than demean him by calling him an “urbanist bro,” sang a spoof of “New York State of Mind,” replacing “New York” with “D4.” The Urbanist Father™ can sing.

Davis also impressed the crowd by flipping pages while singing and playing. Christian Parroco

For the District 5 crew, Nilu Jenks sang and Shane Macomber did a lil spoken word thing with bongos. The real star of D5, ObeySumner, brought down the house with their rendition of Journey’s “Separate Ways.” 

ObeySumner strutted on stage in one of the outfits that earned them the distinction of best dressed: Studded leather jacket, matching leather shorts, and Demonia (or Demonia-adjacent) platform boots. “Step on me,” one might say. 

During their powerhouse vocal performance, ObeySumner pulled off their gloves, lost the jacket, and made eyes at an unnamed reporter at The Stranger. The stage at Neumos has seen a lot of things, but the way that policy wonk wanked off the mic stand might be a first. 

ObeySumner’s mother described their stage presence the best: “They are an entire constellation.” 

After a costume change, ObeySumner gave another stellar performance in the lip-sync competition against Jenks and Macomber. They did a fucking death drop. There was no way the audience could have picked anyone else to advance to the final round. 

At one point, ObeySumner turned into a butterfly. Christian Parroco

For District 6 city council candidate and incumbent Dan Strauss’s performance, he invited an audience member on stage and challenged her to a lutefisk eating contest. Lutefisk is a Norwegian dried whitefish dish that some people eat at Christmas, but the contestants did not seem to have any holiday cheer while shoveling fish out of Tupperware and into their mouths. At one point a stagehand brought out a trash can just in case the worst should happen. The audience member came out on top, eating more lutefisk than the council member before the buzzer. I guess Strauss’s “talent” is losing!

Only one District 7 council candidate could be bothered to show up to Candidate Survivor, Lewis, who presented the slideshow. In Sagan’s defense, she did not think she could handle the spicy food in the Hot Ones-inspired challenge. 

Davis, Strauss, and Lewis competed against each other in the lip-sync competition since their Seattle Times-endorsed opponents were mysteriously absent. They sang and danced to Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts,” and not very well! Lewis did some cutesy pantomime, but the crowd ultimately sent Davis to the final round to eat some vegan nuggies and answer questions

I Guess We Should Talk About Policy?

Us too, Ron. Christian Parroco

The final round ended up being relatively tame, both in terms of wing heat and candidate answers. Only Davis appeared bothered by the spice level, wiping sweat from his bald head after the spiciest nugget. 

It turns out the candidates who had the most fun on stage just so happen to be very progressive. I would have loved to see Strauss, Lewis, or Hollingsworth–who was the only Seattle Times-endorsed candidate who could hang with the kids–in the hot seat. 

The panel of esteemed judges hardly ever held up their 💩 signs. The panel really only held up their 😍 signs, except for when Costa said she wants anti-racist and anti-sexist cops to a crowd of people who probably yelled “ACAB” at cops for an entire summer. 

The remaining candidates–Costa, Morales, Ashiofu, Davis, and ObeySumner–all agreed that Seattle should pay reparations to Black and brown people impacted by red-lining and racial covenants. They all agreed that big business needs to shell out more tax dollars. They promised they wouldn’t whine about protesters coming to their house with chalk and chants. ObeySumner took the interview as an opportunity to deny rumors that they threw a brick through Council Member Debora Juarez’s window in 2020. 

After much silly-goofiness, Miss Texas 1988 gave Ashiofu a well-deserved crown, and then everyone went their separate ways to get wasted. 

Should you vote based on who made you laugh the most on stage? Maybe! But you can also check out the Stranger Election Control Board’s Endorsements tomorrow if you want a little more insight about their policy positions. Those endorsements are funny in a different, much more mean-spirited way!