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Richard Arlin Walker
Special to Indian Country Today

Colleen Echohawk, Pawnee, has acknowledged her failed but historic bid for mayor of Seattle but wrote on social media that she is confident that her campaign “elevated and amplified the voices of the homeless in our community.”

Echohawk’s concession came Aug. 5, as late results from the Aug. 3 primary showed her updated vote counts failing to close in on the two top finishers, who will advance to the Nov. 2 general election.

Several other Indigenous candidates will be on the ballot for the Nov. 2 election, however, in Olympia, Omak, Port Angeles and other cities across the region.

In the Seattle mayor’s race, former City Council President Bruce Harrell and current President Lorena Gonzalez’s leads continued to grow as the King County Auditor Elections Office counted ballots that were mailed on Election Day. The top two vote-getters will face off on the November ballot.

An Indigenous person could be next mayor of Seattle
Echohawk, Sixkiller lag in bid to be Seattle's next mayor

As of Aug. 6, Harrell led the field of 15 candidates with 60,474 votes (34.98 percent). Gonzalez was second with 54,310 votes ( 31.42 percent). Echohawk had 17,199 votes (9.95 percent).

Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller, Cherokee, the second Indigenous candidate on the primary ballot, was sixth with 5,820 votes (3.37 percent).

There are 493,453 registered voters in Seattle. As of Aug. 6, 175,203 ballots had been counted, a turnout of about 35 percent, according to the county elections office.

The election was historic in that it featured two Indigenous candidates. Seattle, with a population of 769,000, is the largest city in Washington state and the 18th largest in the U.S. Some 1.2 percent of the population is Indigenous, though that percentage would be as high as 4.2 percent if counting the Hispanics or Latinos who also identify as Indigenous. In addition, 5.1 percent of the population identifies as being of two or more races, which could include Indigenous heritage. Several tribal nations have ties to Seattle.

Some political observers felt that Echohawk and Sixkiller – both first-time candidates for public office – were the best hope for real change in a city grappling with homelessness, rising housing costs, an increase in gun violence, and diminished trust in law enforcement. Echohawk is executive director of the Chief Seattle Club, which connects homeless Native people with housing, employment assistance and other services. Sixkiller is the former chief operating officer of King County, which includes Seattle; he was appointed to the deputy mayor position by Mayor Jenny Durkan, who is not seeking re-election.

“This campaign had a mission,” Echohawk posted on her campaign’s Facebook page. “We became the voice for too many people that haven’t been heard. Too many people that have been marginalized. Too many people that didn’t have someone influencing the powerful in city hall. Yes, too many people without a home.

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“Tonight in King County, over 12,000 people will not have a home – 12,000. Six years ago, city hall declared homelessness an emergency. Six years later, this humanitarian crisis has only become worse. We said ‘enough.’ We laid out a plan. A 22-point plan on homelessness that gets people off the streets [and] into shelter.”

Echohawk urged voters to look at Harrell and Gonzalez’s plans to resolve Seattle’s homelessness crisis.

“I will continue to push our candidates and our city to lay out specific plans and proposals to get our 12,000 homeless off the streets and into shelter,” she wrote.

Here are other Indigenous candidates from cities throughout the region who will make the Nov. 2 ballot:

  • Omak: C. Ann Kariores, Colville, is one of two candidates in November for city council in Omak, an Eastern Washington city of 4,845 residents. Kariores is a legal services advocate for the Colville Confederated Tribes, and has served as a Democratic Party precinct committee officer and state committeewoman. She is challenging the incumbent, Michael E. Foth.
  • Olympia: Robbi Kesler, Skokomish, advanced to the general election in her bid for city council in the state’s capital city of 46,000 residents. She is general counsel for the Chehalis Tribe and formerly worked as counsel for state legislative committees. As of Aug. 6, incumbent Yen Huynh was leading with 7,276 votes (53.5 percent) and Kesler was second with 5,231 votes (38.46 percent). Bruce D. Wilkinson Jr., a public school bus driver, had 1,030 votes (7.57 percent). Bob Iyall, Nisqually, is on the general election ballot for Olympia Port Commission. Because there were only two candidates, there was no primary. Iyall is chief executive officer of Medicine Creek Enterprise Corporation where, in cooperation with the corporation’s board of directors, he oversees the day-to-day management of all enterprises owned by the Nisqually Indian Tribe. The other candidate is Jessie Simmons, a professional campaign worker.
  • Port Angeles: LaTrisha Suggs, Jamestown S’Klallam, advanced to the general election in her bid for a full term on the city council in Port Angeles, an Olympic Peninsula city of 20,000 residents. She was appointed in 2019 to fill a vacancy created by the incumbent’s death. Suggs is a planner for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. As of Aug. 6, Suggs was leading with 2,392 votes (47.14 percent). Adam Garcia, an in-home care coordinator for the Veterans Administration, was second with 2,086 votes (41.11 percent). John DeBoer, a member of local homeless and mental health task forces, had 591 votes (11.65 percent).
  • Shoreline: Chris Roberts, Choctaw, is unopposed in November for re-election to the City Council in Shoreline, a Seattle suburb of 53,000 residents. He is an educator and a former state legislative assistant. He was Shoreline’s mayor in 2016-17 – the mayor is selected by the City Council – and he serves on state and national committees related to energy, environment, and natural resources, and racial and gender equality.

In the Seattle suburb of Federal Way, however, Katherine Festa, Haida, was trailing in her bid for a place on the general election ballot for city council. Federal Way has a population of about 89,000 residents, with about 53,449 registered voters. As of Aug. 6, 12,862 ballots had been counted.

Daniel Miller, a business manager, was leading with 4,772 votes (38.79 percent). Hoang Tran, who is seeking re-election to the council, was second with 4,308 votes (35.02 percent). Festa, housing coordinator for King County’s Department of Community and Human Services, was third with 3,172 votes (25.79 percent).

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