By Erika Sommer
The fight for gender equality could take center stage as a third candidate has joined the race for the Seattle City Council’s District 3.
Morgan Beach, a 28-year-old women’s rights activist and a recent transplant from Colorado Springs, Colorado, announced her candidacy on January 15.
The Seattle City Council is made up of nine city council members, and seven will be elected through the district that they represent. Beach represents District 3 which includes Capitol Hill and the Central District.
Beach has lived in Seattle for about two-and-a-half years, and immediately wanted to get engaged with the community. Though she is relatively new to Seattle, she says she knows the city and its issues. One of her central goals is to bring women’s issues to the forefront.
“There are other cities that are doing great work around the country that people talk about that we should model after…but I think we should be the ones that people model after…I want to be that city for women’s issues,” Beach said.
Many issues that disproportionately affect women are broader city issues that when addressed or eliminated bring the entire society up. She said if the city can make women’s wages equal to men’s, for example, women can spend more money, take better care of their kids and chose better schools. According to the United States Census Bureau, Seattle’s median earnings for men increased by 12 percent from 2012 to 2013, while women’s only increased less than one percent.
Beach also said that if you increase the number of buses, women can get home faster and avoid paying extra fees because they are late picking up their children from daycare. That money can instead go toward groceries or rent that month. Even transportation is a women’s issue, she says.
A longtime friend and Capitol Hill small-business owner Danielle Hulton has known Beach since childhood and they both coincidentally ended up in Seattle.
“She got really interested in community involvement and women’s rights from early on and has been super involved in every community that she has lived in… and legitimately has the passion for this one,” Hulton said.
Beach graduated from the University of Denver with a double major in political science and international relations, and got a master’s degree in public policy from Pepperdine University. She worked at Human Rights Watch while in graduate school, and was a member and president of a student group called Women in Public Policy.
“We really advocated a lot for more involvement of women in the public sector,” Beach said.
That was when she moved from just being interested in state and local politics, to making women’s issues a larger part in her work and future.
“People use women’s issues as a talking point, and I don’t ever see a lot of action on it,” Beach said.
Before she found a job in Seattle, Beach started volunteering at Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest on the legislative side, which helped her gain connections with other politically active people in the community. From there she applied and was appointed to a position on the Seattle Women’s Commission.
“[That is when] I started to see how our City Council wasn’t living up to our progressive values,” Beach said. “From the outside we looked so much more progressive than we actually are when it comes to some of the city policies.”
For example, paycheck fairness acts and women in the workplace are issues with a lot of discussion but little action.
After talking to friends and locals involved in city politics, Beach decided to step out from the background and run for office against current socialist council member Kshama Sawant. The other candidate is Rod Hearne, who co-founded the Washington United for Marriage coalition, and is a board member of Equal Rights Washington.
Beach, who is younger than the other two candidates, believes that people of the millennial generation have very little representation in local, county and state government.
She thinks a younger demographic needs to be represented in local and state politics, and that sets her apart from the other two candidates because she brings a different sensibility to her work ethic.
“I like collaboration but I also like innovation and bold movement. I like seeing a creative idea and taking action on it fast,” Beach said.
Beach believes in simple government, because there are a lot of complexities behind the way the city of Seattle gets things done.
“The simpler and more straightforward you can make it to people about why you are doing what you are doing, and how it will affect them and the community, is better,” Beach said.
Megan Pahl, a fellow volunteer at Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, is on Beach’s campaign steering committee.
“Morgan is running against two influential and well-known candidates, but she really has the initiative that is necessary for the City Council role and I think Seattle will see that as she moves forward with the campaign,” Pahl said.
Beach has been influenced by social innovators who blend social justice and community involvement into business models to build private, public and non-profit partnerships that better the whole community. She feels that bringing that experience and motivation into the city will build more creative partnerships.
“For the Puget Sound Area, there are one million people that live in cities around here, and only 640,000 live in the city of Seattle. We need to work with Shoreline, and Issaquah, and King County. We need to broaden our reach,” Beach said.
Beach likes working with others and building partnerships, saying it’s one of her strong points.
Rachel Ramey, a media liaison for Beach’s steering committee, believes everyone theoretically has a chance in a democratic system.
“A lot of people are very well acquainted with Sawant and Hearne, but two years ago no one knew the name Sawant, and two years from now people might be saying the same thing about Morgan,” Ramey said.
Beach’s campaign trail can be followed at morganbeach.org.