In a special meeting Monday morning, the City Council questioned the eight nominees for the vacant citywide seat ahead of their final vote Tuesday. Seeing that the new council’s bestie, failed candidate Tanya Woo, clearly leads the pack, it seemed as if everyone else tried their best to pledge allegiance to Council President Sara Nelson’s conservative majority and to the business-backed Mayor Bruce Harrell.

The culture of obedience in the meeting hinted that “One Seattle” is not a place for dissent or criticism or even dialogue, and with a council full of centrists and conservatives, that means “One Seattle” is not a place for the left, or even just your standard-issue incrementalist. 

In a meeting earlier this month, Council Member Rob Saka said he wanted to appoint someone who does not see him as “the enemy.” During Monday’s meeting, the nominees seemed to take his words very seriously. Linh Thai, a former staffer for Rep. Adam Smith, pledged never to talk bad about any member of the council in the media. In another example of pick-me behavior, Woo kept saying she supported things at “100” on a scale of one to 10 after Council Member Joy Hollingsworth joked about candidates breaking the scale with their answers but not up to 100. Woo also snuck in a “One Seattle” nod at the end of her introduction. The nominees may as well have compared hand sizes with Council Member Dan Strauss and told him how tiny he makes them feel. 

More substantively, in a lightning round of questions, the nominees fell in line with the Mayor. All eight nominees said they support Harrell’s plan to beef up the Seattle Police Department’s roster to 1,400 cops. To achieve that staffing level, the department would need to net 450 new officers amid a national shortage. It is an incredibly unrealistic goal to say the least, one that ensures we will continue to make no progress in standing up robust alternatives, a practical and popular solution that other cities and states initiated years ago. 

The nominees also said they support the Mayor’s approach to encampment sweeps. Harrell ramped up sweeps when he took office, conducting a whopping 943 sweeps in his first year. That’s more than 2.5 sweeps every day, as Real Change reported.

Unhoused people and their allies argue that sweeps do little more than push people from corner to corner because outreach workers rarely offer long-term housing during routine removals. These disruptions destabilize already vulnerable people and may contribute to the deaths of homeless people in King County, 415 of whom died last year. 

While Woo called sweeps “distressing,” she also said they were "necessary." Wouldn’t wanna stand up to good ole Bruce!

Later in the meeting, Nelson asked if the nominees would have voted yes on her 2023 ordinance to create a new law against public drug use and give Seattle’s Republican City Attorney the authority to prosecute it. The controversial bill failed in June after former Council Member Andrew Lewis cast the decisive vote against it. Lewis lost favor with the conservative business types in Seattle after that vote despite later passing a very similar ordinance after a short stakeholdering process. He now cites that vote as the reason he lost his election last November.  

In asking about an already closed deal, Nelson was essentially asking the nominees to signal loyalty, and they obeyed. Every nominee said they would have voted to support the drug ordinance, an ordinance that progressives called a reboot of the “War on Drugs,” an ordinance that the council member who the nominees seek to replace voted against even in its more palatable, second iteration. 

These answers felt especially shocking coming from the two favorites among progressives: School Board Director Vivian Song and the Seattle Human Service Department’s Mari Sugiyama. Like, seriously. Council Member Tammy Morales, the progressive minority, nominated someone who wants to hire 1,400 cops?

Nevertheless, Song and Sugiyama still seem like harm-reduction compared to frontrunner Woo, since they at least stand against the budget-cut-happy mindset of the new council. 

During the meeting, Woo stood out for her opposition to progressive revenue. When asked if an audit found that the City needed more money to fill the massive $250 million shortfall in 2025, Woo was the only candidate who said she wouldn’t support taxing the rich or wealthy corporations to cover the cost. 

Woo’s ardent commitment to austerity may actually put her at the furthest right end of the council. But her extremism doesn’t seem to threaten the culture of obedience in City Hall ,given that at least four council members initially said they wanted to nominate her. 

Insiders say that the newbies on the Seattle Times’s slate-–Council Members Maritza Rivera, Bob Kettle, Saka, Hollingsworth, Moore and failed candidate Woo—grew close on the campaign trail. The power of friendship would be hard for any of the other nominees to overcome—and the power of big business donors even more so. 

In an email he sent early last week, conservative PAC-wrangler Tim Ceis called on the business community to support Woo, arguing they earned the right to pick the appointee since they paid for the other members’ seats. Morales, the only reliable progressive on council, said the candidates deserve an apology for his meddling. In response, Nelson called on her colleagues and the nominees to “rise above” the “noise” of the media accurately reporting the political dynamics at play. Basically, she’s telling her One Seattle pals to ignore criticism when the council inevitably picks Woo like big business told them to.