In an interview with The Stranger, Position 8 city council candidate Saunatina Sanchez made no secret about where she stood on the issues. Coming straight from aiding her unhoused neighbors, Sanchez rolled up with a Real Rent Duwamish beanie pulled over her forehead, a Stop The Sweeps pin stuck on it, a keffiyeh wrapped around her neck, and an old-school Stranger t-shirt under her cardigan.

(Almost) lifelong Seattleite Sanchez, who officially launched her citywide campaign Tuesday morning, said she would bring a different, more on-the-ground perspective to the council as a community organizer.

“Right now, it really does feel like the council makeup is full of people who don't have to worry about the day-to-day struggles of survival,” Sanchez said. “...I'm not saying that people on council don't have life stress… but it does seem to me like most people on council right now have access to a great number of resources that many, many people in our society do not have.”

What If the City Treated Poor People Like People? 

Sanchez was born in Seattle in the 1980s and grew up in a tight-knit, multicultural community in New Holly. When her family moved to Fresno, California while she was in high school, she refused to apply to colleges outside of Seattle, determined to land back in the Emerald City.

Now living back on Capitol Hill, Sanchez thinks Seattle is the greatest City in the world and has no intention of leaving—unless she gets pushed out.

As a renter in a low-income building, she feels the housing crisis deeply. She told The Stranger that the rising cost of living in Seattle rendered her unable to feed herself at the end of last year. Sanchez argued the current council and the executive do not understand the struggle of the many, many Seattleites just trying to scrape by and avoid eviction. Perhaps, she argued, that’s why Mayor Bruce Harrell’s Comprehensive Plan took such an unserious approach to increasing housing stock. 

Sanchez said that the City needs a growth plan that allows for much more housing in every corner of the city, no exceptions. She said that the best strategy to mitigate displacement is to upzone broadly so that no single place shoulders all the impacts of new construction and speculation. 

As for homelessness, she said the City’s treatment of unhoused people lacks “compassion.” She does not support the Harrell administration’s current approach to encampment sweeps. Sanchez would shift the funding for those removals to pay for people’s basic needs, such as food, transportation, and housing. 

We Keep Us Safe

Her vision for public safety does not solely rely on cops. The current council would probably put a baby in a cop uniform if it helped them reach their lofty goal of a 1,400-officer police force, but Sanchez doesn’t want more cops, she wants fewer. She said many of the jobs cops currently take on would be better performed by other departments. However, shifting responsibilities away from the police department has proven to be a politically fraught task because City Hall fears getting hit with labor violations for not negotiating changes to cops’ job descriptions. Sanchez said that the City shouldn't let the Seattle Police Officer Guild bully them away from progress. No other department in the City gets more say than the years-long, popular demand of the public over the nature of their jobs. Sanchez said cops are supposed to be public servants, so they should start acting like it and let the City respond to changing public need. 

Also unlike her potential colleagues, she doesn’t want to fund ShotSpotter or to criminalize drug use. For her, public safety is all about fostering welcoming communities. 

Sanchez said that she feels safe in her low-income apartment building because she’s developed relationships with her neighbors. She even feels comfortable leaving her door open to retrieve her mail. 

But “fostering welcoming communities” is an abstract thing to legislate. To flesh out the thought, Sanchez said she would focus on the built environment, reclaiming much of the land wasted on car infrastructure for people to gather, socialize, and create a stronger sense of community, which she believes ultimately keeps residents safer. 

If elected, she would earn a reputation on the council for being a big transit nerd. Part of her vision for a less car-centric Seattle includes establishing more bus lanes, paying for increased service, building more protected bike lanes, and expanding the streetcar network. 

Progressive Revenue or Progressive Prioritization

Sanchez seemed somewhat compatible with her potential colleagues in that she’s not too keen on raising taxes without serious changes to the budget. Inspired by the work of the Solidarity Budget, a grassroots group that lobbies the City during its annual budgeting process, she wants to rethink the City’s exorbitant spending on policing. 

Specifically, she emphasized shifting funds devoted to duties that cops do not want to perform out of the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and into other programs. While that move may achieve a policy goal to reduce the footprint of SPD, it may not free up a quarter billion dollars to address the looming budget shortfall. In that case, Sanchez, a big proponent of car tabs and taxes on driving, said she would support a congestion tax to help fill the gap. 

The Lonely Lefty

Even with some hesitation for new taxation, Sanchez would be an obvious minority on the City Council. In November, big business paid for shiny new conservatives to take over the City Hall after a nominally more progressive council hurt their feelings the last four years. Now, conservative outcast-turned-council president Sara Nelson leads a majority of anti-tax, bootlicking homeowners who seem bent on repealing progressive wins.

Sanchez is running to replace Tanya Woo, who ran for District 2 in 2023, lost, but fit in so well with the newbies and their corporate donors that the council appointed her to fill the vacant seat left by former Council Member Teresa Mosqueda. In 2023, Woo presented one of the most fiercely anti-density and anti-tax platforms in the whole city. 

Despite Sanchez’s differences, she wants to take the current council at its word that they want to improve Seattle. 

“I don't think of myself as an enemy to the people on council,” Sanchez said. “I've had meetings with Dan Strauss, and I’ve drank Fremont Brewing before. I don't have any animosity towards anybody. I have legitimate professional critiques.”

As a minority voice on council, she would use her organizing experience to find common ground and work toward shared goals. 

It looks like progressives have more than one option for the minority role Sanchez describes. Homelessness policy wonk Alexis Mercedes Rinck also announced her bid for the seat last week, promoting a similar platform, except Rinck really, REALLY wants progressive revenue. 

To Sanchez, the difference between her and Rinck lies in style. Where Rinck has experience planning the homelessness response at the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, Sanchez said she has more of an intimate, mutual aid background with unhoused neighbors. 

Extrapolating on that example, she said Rinck is a little more “institutional,” while Sanchez thinks she would be more connected to the average person. 

There’s still time for more candidates to jump in the race. Voters will see the lanes shape up more as the August primary approaches.