New candidate emerges for Kshama Sawant’s Seattle City Council seat

SEATTLE – Controversial Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant has a challenger vying for her seat.

Beto Yarce, a native of Mexico who serves as executive director for a Seattle nonprofit, officially launched his campaign Thursday in a press conference at El Cuento Preschool.

Yarce will challenge Sawant for the seat representing District 3, which includes Capitol Hill, the Central District, and Madrona. The seat, along with six others on the council, are up for grabs in 2019.

“I’ve spent my career fighting to expand economic opportunity for marginalized communities,” said Yarce. “The diverse and thriving neighborhoods of this district need new leadership that can work effectively with others to create opportunity and address challenges of affordability, transportation, and public safety.”

Yarce said he moved to Seattle in 2003, bussing and waiting tables at a Capitol Hill restaurant to make ends meet. He also started selling jewelry at the Fremont Sunday Market to supplement his income, and when that grew, he moved to Pike Place Market and stayed for 13 years.

“I came to the country—and city—with little more than dreams and aspirations. I lived on Capitol Hill in an era when it was affordable and welcoming for a young gay man bussing tables at a neighborhood restaurant,” said Yarce. “My lived experience informs how I will serve the people of this community—with humility and an appreciation for the diverse needs and voices of our communities, not a rigid ideology. We need more listening and less lecturing for our city council member if we are to address real issues in our city.”

While she has not officially stated she plans to seek reelection, Sawant has not indicated otherwise.

A socialist, Sawant has been a lightning rod for controversy during her time on the council. From insulting Paul Allen hours after his death, to calling Amazon’s Jeff Besos the "enemy" during a heated debate over a tax on jobs, Sawant often finds herself as the lone "no" vote on a council of nine.

While some have found her voice refreshing at a time of widening wealth inequality, her approach has alienated some of her fellow council members and contributed to a circus-like atmosphere during public meetings.

So far, two other councilmembers – Rob Johnson and Sally Bagshaw – have announced publicly that they will not run again.

Seats held by Councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Bruce Harrell, Mike O’Brien, and Debora Juarez will also be on the ballot.

Asked Wednesday whether it would be good to get new faces on the council, Mayor Jenny Durkan told “Q13 News This Morning” she’s “looking forward to it,” saying “it’s good to get new faces in government.”