Warning that Seattle’s story is becoming an unequal “tale of two cities,” Planned Parenthood’s lead political organizer in the city declared her intention Wednesday to run for the City Council’s newly-drawn 5th District seat.
Halei Watkins, 26, is the first candidate to announce a campaign in the 5th District as the council moves to representation based on geographic districts for its 2015 elections.
The 5th District takes in most of north Seattle, including the neighborhoods of Maple Leaf, Lake City, Bitter Lake and Broadview.
Watkins, who was a regional field director on the marriage equality campaign that pushed the state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2012, lives in Northgate with her husband, a grocery worker and member of the labor union UFCW 21.
None of the council’s nine current members live in the 5th District, but Watkins says she expects a crowded primary nonetheless.
The Spokane native, who moved to Seattle in 2006 to attend the University of Washington, is significantly younger than each of the council’s current members.
The main thrust of her campaign will be “affordability,” Watkins told The Seattle Times in an interview.
“I don’t think affordability is limited just to affordable housing,” Watkins said. “There are a lot of puzzle pieces that go into creating an affordable city, including transportation and child-care costs.”
“What’s unique about my generation, the millennial generation, is how we see things as interconnected,” she added. “I view everything through a social justice and affordability lens.”
In a press release announcing her candidacy Wednesday, Watkins invoked the same “tale of two cities” imagery that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio used to highlight inequality during his successful campaign last year.
“I’m running because I believe that Seattle is quickly becoming the tale of two cities: one city for the wealthy and one for the rest of us,” Watkins said in her press release. “Like many Seattleites, my husband and I wonder if we will be able to afford to continue to live here, to raise a family here, to grow here.”
North Seattle is growing and becoming more diverse, Watkins says.
“I think north Seattle is one of the last more-affordable districts we see in the city,” she said.
“People are often pushed out out neighborhoods like Capitol Hill and Downtown and they end up in the far north and the far southeast. North Seattle is perceived as being a very homogeneous district of single-family homes and middle-class (residents), which is true in many areas. But it’s getting younger and more diverse.”
Watkins serves on the King County Human Rights Commission and the executive board of the 46th District Democrats, and plans to embark on a listening tour later this month.