With the force of labor behind her, Teresa Mosqueda said she's running for council member Tim Burgess's open at-large seat because she wants public health justice.
"I see everything that the city council does through the lens of how it can improve or potentially hurt folks' health," Mosqueda told PubliCola. "I know that if I look across the city by race and ethnicity and by zip code, we have communities that have poorer health outcomes and they're dying at earlier rates."
The Olympia native said her passion for social justice was born out of her parents, an Evergreen State College professor and Head Start teacher who would travel to observe elections in Central America and come back to show her slideshows of the wars at their house gatherings. She recalled sitting at her front door collecting donations in coffee cans for causes, and would attend protests with them as a kid. She said she's attended countless demonstrations since then—Seattle's WTO protests and, in college, a protest supporting the Zapatista movement as part of the University of Washington's MEChA (Chicago Student Movement of Aztlan).
"They have instilled in me this not just economic justice perspective but this desire to constantly fight back," Mosqueda told PubliCola.
Mosqueda went to the University of Washington for college and mostly stayed in Seattle since, where she worked on public health policies before she became a political campaign director for the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. She received her master's in public administration at The Evergreen State College and worked at Sea Mar, which assists Latino seniors navigate their medical insurance, and the Children's Alliance. She said she wants the city to be prepared for federal health care cuts by looking at the infrastructure already in place and potentially applying a basic universal health care plan—one using the city's community health clinics and modeled after San Francisco's program.
"It's not going to happen overnight, but I think we need to start preparing for that now," Mosqueda told PubliCola.
Mosqueda said she's been asked to run for office before, but the November election was the final push for her to join the city council race. Labor groups endorsed her early, shortly after her announcement in January, and their political committees have so far put $117,000 in independent expenditures toward her campaign, according to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission. That's on top of the $192,000 she's raised. And when council member Kshama Sawant instead endorsed Jon Grant, Martin Luther King County Labor Council leader Nicole Grant called it a "tragedy" and blasted the council member for what she said was turning her back on labor.
"The working class in our country, because of Trump and in our city, because of affordability, is very threatened and needs a leader that understands class, that really understands what it's like to be a wage earner," Grant told PubliCola. "We need somebody who is one of us, and that's Mosqueda. I think the reason that I had so much passion around that issue was that the stakes are so high. And she's the one that working people trust and chose, and are advancing."
Mosqueda is also the only high-profile candidate, both in the mayoral and city council races, who said she supported the city's soda tax, a tax that ultimately passed with little controversy in the council (a 7-1 vote) but that labor staunchly opposed. She's been endorsed by several state and federally elected officials like congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, as well as five of her would-be colleagues on the council (Sally Bagshaw, Lorena Gonzalez, Debora Juarez, Rob Johnson, and Mike O'Brien).
"I understand that it's not just about pounding your fists on the table and saying 'no' or 'yes,'" Mosqueda said. "It's about finding that common ground and finding a pathway forward."
Mosqueda and Grant, her biggest challenger for far-left progressive votes, have differed on two major points throughout the campaign: affordable housing and police accountability. Mosqueda takes a softer approach to police legislation; she said she wants a Community Police Commission member to be at the table on collective bargaining agreements, but hasn't called for a public negotiation like Grant.
Mosqueda is calling for all publicly available lands to be immediately converted into affordable housing options including community land trusts, co-ops, co-housing models, or limited equity options, though didn't specify where the money would come from. Mosqueda, who lives in Queen Anne, would be the only renter on the city council if elected, and said she wants more rent stabilization and protection for tenants' rights. She said she supports pushing forward with HALA and Mandatory Housing Affordability requirements. She said requiring 25 percent of new developments to go to affordable housing is unrealistic and would slow down construction.
"I don't think it makes sense to call for a number citywide," Mosqueda said. "We do not have time to waste in the city of Seattle."
Updated July 27, 2017, at 1:42am: This post corrects that slideshows weren't shown at dinner but at community gatherings at their house.