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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

September 25, 2014 at 2:46 PM

Former pastor will compete for City Council seat in North Seattle

Sanford “Sandy” Brown needs a new pair of hiking boots.

The former Methodist pastor, who announced his candidacy Thursday for the Seattle City Council, has walked more than 2,200 miles in Europe since 2008, and he now says he’s going to walk every street in the newly drawn 5th District.

Brown, 56, trekked across Italy and Spain while writing a walking guidebook called “The Way of St. Francis: From Florence to Assisi to Rome.” He did that while leading Seattle’s First United Methodist Church, a post he left this spring.

“Something that I love about European cities is that when you get to the heart of them, they’re very walkable,” he said. “I’m working on the idea of walking (the 5th District) over the next months — every street.”

Brown joins Planned Parenthood political organizer Halei Watkins, 26, in the race for the 5th District seat as the council moves to representation based on geographic districts for its 2015 elections.

He hasn’t lived very long in the district, which includes the neighborhoods of Maple Leaf, Lake City, Bitter Lake and Broadview.

Brown moved to the Licton Springs neighborhood in March from Capitol Hill. Licton Springs sits surrounded by Aurora Avenue North, Interstate 5, North 85th Street and Northgate Way.

None of the council’s nine current members live in the 5th District, making it a particularly attractive seat for new candidates. Brown and Watkins are expecting additional people to run.

Brown grew up in White Center and says his parents were blue-collar workers. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington, a master’s degree from Garrett Theological Seminary and a doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary, according to a campaign news release.

The father of two raised his sons in Seattle, Fall City, Kirkland and Wenatchee as he moved from one church to another.

Been back in Seattle since 2001, Brown has served as executive director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, helped found the Committee to End Homelessness in King County and helped run a homeless shelter at his church, he says.

Two issues he wants to tackle at City Hall are homelessness and sidewalks.

North Seattle has two-thirds of the city’s streets without sidewalks, and that needs to change, Brown says.

He says City Hall shouldn’t keep trying to solve Seattle’s homelessness problem by building supportive housing. The focus should be on expanding the city’s shelter system, Brown says.

During the 2012 push for marriage equality in Washington, Brown “publicly criticized his denomination for its failure to affirm marriage equality and took the step of performing same-sex wedding ceremonies at his church, in protest of rules against same-sex marriage,” his news release says.

He chairs the board of the Center for Gun Responsibility, a nonprofit created in May to advocate for expanded background checks and other gun control measures. Brown says he’ll now campaign full-time.

“I don’t know my opponent,” he said about Watkins. “I haven’t met her before … What I’m going to be doing is not contrasting myself with other candidates but sharing with people what my background is. I’d be surprised and delighted if someone else came forward with the amount of experience I have.”

Comments | More in Gun initiative, Local government, Politics Northwest, Same-sex marriage, Seattle City Council | Topics: 2015 Seattle City Council elections, 5th district, Halei Watkins

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