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Historic turnover possible in this year's Seattle City Council elections

Seattle City Hall
Ted S. Warren
The Associated Press

There are more than 50 candidates running for a seat on the Seattle City Council. The filing deadline for the primary is May 17.

Crosscut city reporter David Kroman has been covering the races and tells Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick that the high turnout is driven by two factors: opportunity and unhappiness with the council's current performance.

"There are seven seats up for election. That is a new thing because of the switch to district elections," Kroman said. "It used to be the most that would be up for re-election was five. Also, in four of those races, the incumbents are not running again... it's seen as less intimidating and more positive for an outlier to not need to challenge an incumbent."

And, he explains, those new challengers may feel like the current city council hasn't addressed some of the big issues facing Seattle, including homelessness.

"Polling after polling shows that the city council is fairly unpopular as a whole," he said. "There's not a lot of individual looks, but as a body they're getting pretty bad marks and so they're perceived as vulnerable."

Kroman says a lot of attention is on District 3, which covers Capitol Hill and the Central District, where incumbent Kshama Sawant is hoping to retain her seat, but there's plenty of competition.

"For my money that's going to be the most interesting to watch because for years council member Sawant has embodied the further most left wing of Seattle," he said. "And how she does in this election will sort of tell you whether voters are still willing to go with what was, in some ways, kind of an experiment in Kshama Sawant, or whether they're over that and want to try a more traditional candidate."

Kroman says the council will definitely look different after Election Day because, at the very least, there will be four new City Council members. And he expects homelessness to be a top issue for the new cohort.

Listen to the full conversation above.