Government and politics of Seattle

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Seattle City Hall

Seattle, Washington, is a charter city, with a mayor–council form of government, unlike many of its neighbors that use the council–manager form. The Mayor of Seattle is head of the executive branch of city government, and the Seattle City Council, lead by a Council President, is the legislative branch.

The mayor of Seattle and two of the nine members of the Seattle City Council are elected at large, rather than by geographic subdivisions. The remaining seven council positions are elected based on the city's seven council districts. The only other elected offices are the city attorney and Municipal Court judges. All offices are non-partisan. Seattle is a predominantly liberal city and tends to elect left-leaning politicians to office. Jenny Durkan was elected as Mayor of Seattle in a municipal election on November 7, 2017, becoming the second woman to hold the office.[1]


The city government provides more utilities than many cities; either running the whole operation, such as the water and electricity services, or handling the, but contracting out the rest of the operations, like trash and recycling collections.

Funding of drug paraphernalia[edit]

A downtown Seattle based homeless shelter DESC has been using city funds to purchase heroin pipes, and other drug paraphernalia such as "booty bump kit", a kit designed for rectal administration of illegal drugs.[2] DESC's navigation center posted flyers advertising these goods. According to KTTH, City of Seattle officials deflected and refused to answer the station's questions concerning the use of city funds on these paraphernalia or whether the city encouraged DESC's flyers.[2]


Presidential Elections Results[3]
Year Republican Democratic Third Parties
2020 9.11% 39,834 88.45% 386,570 2.43% 10,625
2016 8.44% 32,362 84.22% 323,126 7.34% 28,162
2012 13.74% 48,164 83.01% 290,963 3.25% 11,385
2008 13.81% 45,761 84.32% 279,441 1.87% 6,207
2004 17.87% 57,034 80.50% 256,974 1.63% 5,195

Seattle's politics lean famously to the left compared to the U.S. as a whole. In this regard, it sits with a small set of similar U.S. cities (such as Madison, Wisconsin, Berkeley, California, and Cambridge and Boston in Massachusetts) where the dominant politics tend to range from center-left to social democratic. Seattle politics are generally dominated by the liberal wing (in the U.S. sense of the word "liberal") of the Democratic Party; in some local elections, Greens (and even, on at least one occasion, a member of the Freedom Socialist Party) have fared better than Republicans. There exist pockets of conservatism, especially in the north and in affluent neighborhoods such as Broadmoor, as well as scattered libertarians, but for the most part Seattle is primarily a Democratic city. While local elections are officially nonpartisan, most of the city's elected officials are known to be Democrats.

Democratic dominance is no less pronounced at the state and federal level. The Democrats hold majorities in both houses of the Washington State Legislature covering a significant portion of the city. At the federal level, for years Seattle was entirely within Washington's 7th congressional district, the most Democratic white-majority district in the nation. Jim McDermott, who held the district from 1989 to 2017, consistently won reelection with margins of well over 70 percent of the vote. He was succeeded by another progressive Democrat, Pramila Jayapal. After the 2010 census, part of southeast Seattle was drawn into the 9th District, represented by Democrat Adam Smith.

Crime and criminal justice[edit]

Line graph of reported crime in Seattle from 1985 through 2016. Population shown in green, total reported crimes in blue, and rate of reported crimes per 1,000 people in orange.[4][5]

As with most U.S. cities, the county judicial system handles felony crimes — the Seattle Municipal Court deals with parking tickets, traffic infractions, and misdemeanors. Seattle does not have its own jail, contracting out inmates it convicts to either the King County Jail (which is located downtown), the Yakima County Jail, or (for short-term holdings) the Renton City Jail.[6] After reaching its highest murder rate in 1994 with 69 homicides, Seattle's murder rate declined to a 40-year low with 24 homicides in 2004.[7] By 2006, Seattle's murder rate had increased, with thirty murders that year.[8] Auto theft is another matter: Seattle has until recently ranked in the top ten "hot spots" for auto theft; the Seattle Police Department has responded by nearly doubling the number of auto theft detail detectives, and started a "bait car" program in 2004.[9]

Seattle has suffered two mass-murders in recent history: the 1983 Wah Mee massacre (13 people killed in the Wah Mee gambling club)[10] and the March 25, 2006 Capitol Hill massacre when 28-year-old Kyle Aaron Huff killed six at a rave afterparty.[11] Later in 2006, an attempted spree killing by Naveed Afzal Haq left one dead at the Jewish Federation building.[12]

Official nickname, flower, slogan, and song[edit]

In 1981, Seattle held a contest to come up with a new official nickname to replace "the Queen City." "Queen City" had been devised by real estate promoters and used since 1869,[13] but was also the nickname of: Cincinnati;[14] Denver;[15] Regina, Saskatchewan;[16] Buffalo;[17] Bangor, Maine;[18] Helena, Montana;[19] Burlington, Vermont,[20] Charlotte,[21] and several other cities. The winner of this contest, selected in 1982, was "the Emerald City". Submitted by Californian Sarah Sterling-Franklin, it referred to the lush, thickly forested surroundings of Seattle that were the result of frequent rain.[22] Seattle has also been known in the past as "the Jet City"—though this nickname, related to Boeing, was entirely unofficial.[22] It has also been known as the "Portal to the Pacific", a phrase inscribed on the arches of the tunnel leading westward into the city from the Interstate 90 floating bridge over Lake Washington.

Seattle's official flower has been the dahlia since 1913. Its official song has been "Seattle the Peerless City" since 1909. In 1942, its official slogan was "The City of Flowers"; 48 years later, in 1990, it was "The City of Goodwill", for the Goodwill Games held that year in Seattle.[23] On October 20, 2006, the Space Needle was adorned with the new slogan "Metronatural." The slogan is a result of a 16-month, $200,000 effort by the Seattle Convention and Visitor's Bureau.[24] The official bird of Seattle is the great blue heron, named by the City Council in 2003.[25]

Seattle mayors of note[edit]

Sister cities[edit]

Seattle, Washington, has 21 sister cities through Sister Cities International.[30]

City Region Country Year
 Kobe  Hyōgo Prefecture  Japan 1957[31]
 Bergen Vestland  Norway 1967[32]
Tashkent Tashkent Region  Uzbekistan 1973[33][34]
Beersheba Southern District  Israel 1977[35]
Mazatlán  Sinaloa  Mexico 1979[36]
 Nantes  Pays de la Loire  France 1980[37]
Christchurch Canterbury  New Zealand 1981[38]
Mombasa Coast Province  Kenya 1981[39]
Chongqing none; directly administered  People's Republic of China 1983[40]
Limbe Southwest Region  Cameroon 1984[41]
Galway County Galway  Ireland 1986[42]
Reykjavík N/A[43]  Iceland 1986[44]
Daejeon none; directly administered  South Korea 1989[45]
Cebu City Cebu  Philippines 1991[46]
 Kaohsiung none; directly administered Taiwan 1991[47]
 Pécs  Baranya  Hungary 1991[48]
Perugia  Umbria  Italy 1991[49]
Surabaya  East Java  Indonesia 1992[50]
 Gdynia  Pomeranian Voivodeship  Poland 1993[51]
Sihanoukville Sihanoukville Province  Cambodia 1993[52]
Haiphong none; directly administered  Vietnam 1996[53]

Sister ports[edit]

Port Region Country Year
Port of Kobe  Hyōgo Prefecture  Japan 1957
Port of Kesennuma  Miyagi Prefecture  Japan 1990
Port of Rotterdam  South Holland  Netherlands 1959

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Beekman, Daniel (November 28, 2017). "Jenny Durkan sworn in as Seattle's 1st female mayor since 1920s". The Seattle Times. Retrieved December 16, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Rantz, Jason (2021-02-22). "Rantz: Seattle homeless shelter buys heroin pipes with city funds, teaches rectal injection method". Retrieved 2021-04-05.
  3. ^
  4. ^ 1985-2007: 2008-2016:
    • Crime Dashboard, Seattle Police Department, February 2017, retrieved February 23, 2017
  5. ^ Seattle Police Department (SPD). 2012. Major Crimes a 25 Year Review.
  6. ^ Municipal Court of Seattle. "Jail Locations and Visitations". City of Seattle. Retrieved 2007-10-04.
  7. ^ Walter F. Roche Jr (2006-09-11). "Homicides, gun violence up nationwide last year". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on 2007-11-04. Retrieved 2007-09-28.
  8. ^ Office of the Mayor (2007-02-07). "Major crimes down in Seattle in 2006". City of Seattle. Retrieved 2007-10-01.
  9. ^ Jessica Blanchard (2004-11-24). "Area car-theft ranking falls". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-09-28.
  10. ^ Tracy Johnson (2002-04-30). "Mak spared death for Wah Mee killings". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2007-10-04.
  11. ^ "Capitol Hill rampage worst since Wah Mee Massacre". The Seattle Times. 2006-03-26. Retrieved 2007-10-01.
  12. ^ "One dead in hate-crime shooting at Jewish center". CNN. 2006-07-29. Retrieved 2007-10-01.
  13. ^ Greg Lange (1998-11-04). "Seattle receives epithet Queen City in 1869". HistoryLink. Retrieved 2007-10-26.
  14. ^ "How did Cincinnati come to be known as the Queen City?". Cincinnati Frequently Asked Questions. Cincinnati Historical Society Library. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
  15. ^ Lyle W. Dorsett; Michael McCarthy (1986). The Queen City: A History of Denver. Pruett. ISBN 0-87108-704-9.
  16. ^ "The town is named". Let's Learn About Regina. City of Regina. Archived from the original on 2007-10-13. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
  17. ^ "Healthy Infrastructure for Queen City Livability". City of Buffalo. Archived from the original on 2007-08-13. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
  18. ^ "Business Development: Major Development Initiatives: Waterfront Redevelopment". City of Bangor. Archived from the original on 2008-02-22. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
  19. ^ "Home Page". Queen City News. Retrieved 2007-10-27. Queen City News is a Helena, Montana newspaper.
  20. ^ "Welcome to Burlington, Vermont". City of Burlington Police. Archived from the original on 2007-11-11. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
  21. ^ "Welcome to Charlotte, North Carolina". City of Charlotte, North Carolina. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
  22. ^ a b "We're not in Washington Anymore". Seattlest. 2005-10-27. Archived from the original on 2012-10-16. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  23. ^ "Seattle City Symbols". City of Seattle. Retrieved 2007-09-29.
  24. ^ Gene Johnson (2006-10-21). "Seattle Unveils Slogan: 'Metronatural'". Comcast News. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  25. ^ Seattle City Council (2003-03-17). "Seattle Names Great Blue Heron "Official Bird"". City of Seattle. Archived from the original on 2007-11-03. Retrieved 2007-09-29.
  26. ^ Mildred Andrews (2003-03-02). "Landes, Bertha Knight (1868-1943)". HistoryLink. Retrieved 2007-10-03.
  27. ^ Lee Micklin (1998-10-30). "Jewish mayor of Seattle Bailey Gatzert is elected on August 2, 1875". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-09-28.
  28. ^ Kit Oldham (2004-01-11). "Langlie, Arthur B. (1900-1966)". HistoryLink. Retrieved 2007-10-04.
  29. ^ Cassandra Tate (2004-09-23). "Voters re-elect businessman Robert Moran as mayor of the City of Seattle on July 8, 1889". HistoryLink. Retrieved 2007-10-03.
  30. ^ "Interactive City Directory: Seattle, WA". Sister Cities International. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
  31. ^ "Seattle International Sister City: Kobe, Japan". City of Seattle. Archived from the original on September 23, 2006. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  32. ^ "Seattle International Sister City: Bergen, Norway". City of Seattle. Archived from the original on September 23, 2006. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  33. ^ "Seattle International Sister City: Tashkent, Uzbekistan". City of Seattle. Archived from the original on September 23, 2006. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  34. ^ Kesting, Piney (January–February 2016). "The Unlikely Sisterhood of Seattle and Tashkent". Aramco World. Aramco Services Company. 67 (1): 10–23. OCLC 895830331.
  35. ^ "Seattle International Sister City: Beer Sheva, Israel". City of Seattle. Archived from the original on May 29, 2007. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  36. ^ "Seattle International Sister City: Mazatlán, Méjico". City of Seattle. Archived from the original on September 23, 2006. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  37. ^ "Seattle International Sister City: Nantes, France". City of Seattle. Archived from the original on September 23, 2006. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  38. ^ "Seattle-Christchurch Sister City Association". Seattle-Christchurch Sister City Association. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  39. ^ "Seattle International Sister City: Mombasa, Kenya". City of Seattle. Archived from the original on September 23, 2006. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  40. ^ "Seattle-Chongqing Sister City Association". Seattle-Chongqing Sister City Association. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  41. ^ "Seattle International Sister City: Limbe, Cameroon". City of Seattle. Archived from the original on September 23, 2006. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  42. ^ "Seattle Galway Sister City Association". Irish Heritage Club of Seattle. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  43. ^ The regions of Iceland do not serve an administrative function.
  44. ^ "Seattle International Sister City: Reykjavík, Iceland". City of Seattle. Archived from the original on September 23, 2006. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  45. ^ "Seattle International Sister City: Taejon, Korea". City of Seattle. Archived from the original on September 23, 2006. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  46. ^ "Seattle International Sister City: Cebu, Philippines". City of Seattle. Archived from the original on September 23, 2006. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  47. ^ "Seattle International Sister City: Kaohsiung, Taiwan". City of Seattle. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
  48. ^ "Seattle International Sister City: Pécs, Hungary". City of Seattle. Archived from the original on September 23, 2006. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  49. ^ "Seattle International Sister City: Perugia, Italy". City of Seattle. Archived from the original on September 23, 2006. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  50. ^ "Seattle International Sister City: Surabaya, Indonesia". City of Seattle. Archived from the original on September 23, 2006. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  51. ^ "Seattle International Sister City: Gdynia, Poland". City of Seattle. Archived from the original on September 26, 2007. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  52. ^ "About Us". The Seattle-Sihanoukville Sister City Association. Archived from the original on October 10, 2008. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  53. ^ "Seattle International Sister City: Haiphong, Vietnam". City of Seattle. Archived from the original on September 23, 2006. Retrieved November 26, 2007.

External links[edit]