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Many local politicians aren't seeking reelection in 2023

Stairs run next to a sign that says 'Seattle City Hall.'
Daniel X. O'Neil
CC BY 2.0 via Flickr
Seattle City Hall

Local government has never been an easy job, but there’s been a rash of politicians retiring in the last year, especially in King County.

More city councilmembers have decided not to run, than run again – a repeat of 2019, the last time the majority of council seats were up for reelection.

Another city councilmember who isn't even up for reelection, Teresa Mosqueda, announcedThursday she's making an effort to jump ship and get elected to Metropolitan King County Council. If elected, she would represent fewer constituents but likely be involved in far fewer publicized fights, as county council tends to not be in the media spotlight nearly as often.

Seattle's city council has shifted left in the last decade on issues like policing and taxing big businesses, and it's seen more infighting as well. There are some indications that the elections later this year could elect more centrists, like the citywide elections in 2021, especially if turnout is down among young people as is typical in off-year municipal elections.

But it's not just Seattle City Council: On the King County Council, at least two senior councilmembers won't seek reelection. Even the state legislature this year has the largest freshman class in recent memory because so many lawmakers decided not to run again last year. There were almost 20 new members, according to the House clerk and secretary of the Senate.

Councilmember Tammy Morales, who represents Seattle’s south end, announced Wednesday she’d be one of the few running for reelection. Morales said the last few years have taken a toll on everyone’s mental health, but they also presented local leaders with these huge nationwide or worldwide problems such as COVID and the housing crisis.

"We are also expected to have an answer for how we're going to address all of this," Morales said. "I don't blame any of my colleagues for for choosing to step away right now. But I think it's important, particularly for me in the district that I represent, which has historically been underinvested in, that I stay the course and keep doing the work that we've been doing for the people of the South End."

All of these nationwide problems have effects at the local level. Because of redistricting, Morales now represents all of the Chinatown International District, which protested last year when the county planned a homeless shelter expansion across the street.

Morales was also surprised, she said, when she learned of the shelter expansion and said the county should have done more outreach. But she also said more shelters are needed.

"That's where the tension comes in. Then the community says, well, yeah, we want all these problems solved, but we don't want it solved here," Morales said. "And there are a few places that that that can absorb the kind of facilities and space requirements for this kind of work."

Seven positions out of nine on Seattle City Council are up for reelection. So far, four incumbents aren't running again, two are, and one — Councilmember Dan Strauss — hasn't yet announced either way, and didn't respond to a request for comment.

Scott Greenstone reports on under-covered communities, and spotlights the powerful people making decisions that affect all of us throughout Western Washington. Email him with story ideas at