Mercedes Elizalde thinks the race to represent the Seattle City Council’s 5th District will be won or lost on neighborhood doorsteps.
Elizalde is the most recent candidate to launch a campaign in the North Seattle district as the council moves to geographic representation this year for seven of its nine seats.
The 28-year-old, who rents an apartment in Jackson Park and works in community engagement at the Low Income Housing Institute, announced last month.
“These races in these districts are going to be all about relationships,” Elizalde said in an interview Thursday. “How much time are you willing to spend at doors meeting people. I’m going to spend a lot of time at those doors.”
“I’ve been working for nonprofits for a long time and I know how to raise money,” she said.
“But these districts are supposed to make it possible for someone like me, someone who doesn’t make a lot of money and who really cares about the issues, to run.”
The 5th District, in addition to Jackson Park, includes neighborhoods such as Broadview, Bitter Lake, Northgate and Lake City.
Elizade has lived in her current apartment for only eight months, and two years is the longest she’s lived in a single home since moving to Seattle about five years ago.
“That’s part of why I’m running. I’ve had to chase affordable rents,” she said.
“With rents going up 5 to 10 percent and incomes for most people going up 2 percent, if at all, it’s really hard for people to put down roots,” the candidate added.
Elizalde said she decided to seek office because she wants to “be part of the larger conversation.”
“There’s that moment you always come to when you’re standing in front of somebody trying to explain why what you do is important,” she said. “I’m at the point where I’m tired of talking about why. I want to start talking about how.”
Elizalde, who co-chairs the Seattle Women’s Commission, says officials should be looking at boomtown neighborhoods such as Ballard as they prepare for growth elsewhere.
Light-rail is coming to the 5th District, and the city should complement it with sufficient affordable housing, sidewalks, street lights and police resources, she said.
“Ballard is a great example of somewhere that has had a lot of housing built but not as much planning around what happens with transportation and public safety,” she said.
“Development is coming to the North End. It’s not a question of if. It’s a question of how,” Elizalde went on, suggesting that the focus be on holistic, “community-centered” growth.