South Seattle Mom Puts Professional Politician on Notice

South Seattle Mom Puts Professional Politician on Notice

By Amber Campbell

When Texas native and Seward Park resident Tammy Morales announced her bid for Seattle City Council against stalwart incumbent Bruce Harrell, few took her seriously.

Sure, her fearless challenge of a well-known, well-funded, lifelong Seattleite running for his third term was impressive (Councilman Harrell had already raised more money than any other incumbent or candidate), and many District 2 voters appreciated her bold approach to what some perceived as a sense of political entitlement on the part of her opponent (She once told The Stranger, “This is a democracy, [not] the house of lords. He doesn’t just get the seat. He has to fight for it like the rest of us.”), but Morales herself admitted, “No one expected this campaign to get traction.”

Indeed, she received only 25% of the votes in the August Primary to Harrell’s more than 60% lead, and trailed his fundraising efforts by two-thirds, raising only $70,741 to his $227,689.

Thus the collective shock when she came within just a few hundred votes of unseating the popular politician who had been called a “shoo-in” and “thoroughly entrenched in his South Seattle District.”

The Seattle Weekly called her “the biggest upset since Kshama Sawant,” and “the woman who put Harrell on serious notice.”

Even Harrell supporter and former Chair of the 37th District Democrats Michael Wolfe admitted, “We’re going to see a change in the way Bruce Harrell approaches being available to his community.”

In her concession speech, Morales herself asked, “Can you believe, from where we started how far we have come?”

Undeterred, she remains committed to serving her chosen community. Currently on the board of Rainier Beach Action Coalition and the Rainier Valley Community Clinic, she says she learned through her candidacy “That people appreciate the chance to share their stories and have someone listen – and that many in the south end feel like that doesn’t happen enough.”

Growing up watching her mom struggle to put food on the table, Morales is passionate about equity.

“I think I’m just naturally drawn to work that supports families like mine and that gives people power to participate in local decision-making,” she said. “There is so much potential for people to create the life they want IF there are systems in place that support it. We have work to do to change the structures that keep people down.”

This week, Morales was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions for our People in Your Neighborhood column — a series of interviews with some of South Seattle’s most interesting and engaging people.

Name:
Tammy Morales

Age:
47

Neighborhood:
Seward Park

How long in South Seattle?
I’ve lived in South Seattle for 4 years. I’ve been working in South Seattle since moving here in 2000.

Where from originally?  
I grew up in San Antonio. It’s a beautiful city that was really shaped by the Mexican culture. In fact, the Missions there were just designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. You should go visit!

Tell us about your day job:  
I’m trained as a planner, but my work is focused on managing community economic development projects. That means I support residents and organizations that want to be involved in making decisions about investment in their neighborhoods. I think it’s important that residents have a voice when local government is making plans for economic activity.

What do you like most about your day job?  
I love that I get to help build healthy communities and help people understand how to engage their leaders.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Coffee.

Tell us about your work in the community.
My work is about creating opportunity for people. I’m on the board of Rainier Beach Action Coalition. Right now we’re focused on developing a Food Innovation District that could support small-scale food manufacturing and help start job-training opportunities and new businesses in the south end. I’m also on the board of the Rainier Valley Community Clinic, which is providing culturally-appropriate midwifery care for women in the Valley. We have the most incredible midwives and healthcare providers working to create a nurturing environment. It’s inspiring to be part of it.

What motivates you to do this work?
I grew up watching my mom struggle to put food on the table. I think I’m just naturally drawn to work that supports families like mine and that gives people power to participate in local decision-making.

What did you learn from your candidacy?
That people appreciate the chance to share their stories and have someone listen – and that many in the south end feel like that doesn’t happen enough.

Will you run again?
Four years is a long way off. I’m focused on serving the community right now.

What are you passionate about?
Equity! There is so much potential for people to create the life they want IF there are systems in place that support it. We have work to do to change the structures that keep people down.

What are your hobbies?  
I love to dance. Salsa, cumbia, swing, it all makes me happy. I also spend a lot of time in my vegetable garden. My kids like to experiment so we grow different kinds of beans or tomatoes to see what happens.

Tell us about your family:
My family is a big crazy bunch. Both my parents were one of 7, so I have lots of memories of running around my grandmother’s house in the summer with cousins everywhere. I have an extended, blended family with 2 brothers and 3 sisters. I love that my kids get to experience summer at grandma’s with all their cousins.

What’s your most favorite thing about South Seattle?
I love the entrepreneurial spirit in South Seattle. Neighbors work hard to make this a beautiful, safe space for families.

What’s your least favorite thing about South Seattle?
That the perception is there are no assets here. It’s changing slowly, but the south end has been an afterthought too often when City decisions are made.

Where is your favorite place to go in South Seattle?
Just one place? Let’s see, if I’m with my kids, we love to go to Jefferson Park or the pool at Rainier Beach Community Center or Full Tilt. My husband and I try to sneak out once it a while for a date night – Ark Lodge, Jude’s, Kezira. We have a LOT of options!

If you could live anywhere besides South Seattle, where would it be?
Why would I Iive anywhere else?

If there was one thing you could change about South Seattle, what would it be?
That everyone had the opportunities they need to provide well for themselves and their families.

Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by the people I see in the community every day. We have activists, parents, community leaders who are committed to making South Seattle a more just place to be. They fight the fight to make things better for all of us because they just can’t help it.

What was the last thing you read?  
“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Everyone should read it.

Tell us something about you that not many people know:
I lived in New York for a year and stopped a pickpocket on the subway. Also, I’ve been declared Guacamole Queen in three states. My friends declared it, but still. I make a mean guacamole.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
An uninterrupted Sunday morning with coffee and the paper. My youngest is five years old, so I may be waiting a while.

What is your greatest fear?  
I both love and fear being in the ocean.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
We all have shortcomings. I try to cut myself and others some slack.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Again, I think it’s important to practice tolerance.

What is your greatest regret?  
I wish I had traveled after college. I wanted to spend six months seeing the world. Instead I felt obligated to get a job quickly so I could pay my student loan bills. I’m STILL paying them.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My children and my husband, Harry. He puts up with me like no one else will.  I love that he challenges me to be thoughtful and stridently disagrees with me on some things.

What is your current state of mind?
Cautiously optimistic. I’m anticipating the Democratic caucus this weekend!

What do you consider your greatest achievement?  
Raising kids who are compassionate and self-sufficient.

What is your most treasured possession?  
My family photos.

What do you most value in your friends?
A sense of adventure.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
We’re deep in Harry Potter land at my house right now, so I’ll say Hermione Granger. She’s smart and thinks on her feet.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Women like my mom.

What is it that you most dislike?
Intolerance and entitlement.

What else should we know about you?
I’m desperate to learn how to play the guitar.

Photos/Tammy Morales

 

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