Courtesy Debora Juarez Flickr
Weekly Seattle newspaper on Juarez: “We endorse anyone who flashes Rihanna vibes.”

Rihanna Does Seattle? Blackfeet City Council Candidate Compared to Singer

Richard Walker

Debora Juarez, Blackfeet, was born on the Puyallup Reservation, earned degrees at Western Washington University and Seattle University School of Law, and worked as a public defender, judge, and executive director of the Governor's Office of Indian Affairs.

Along the way, she beat cancer twice and was trial attorney for the Elwha Klallam Tribe’s case against the State of Washington after a state transportation project desecrated the Tse-whit-zen village site.

“This lady's 56 and gives us 2015 Rihanna ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ vibes,” the Stranger, a Seattle alt weekly newspaper, wrote in its endorsement of Juarez for Seattle City Council, District 5. “We endorse anyone who flashes Rihanna vibes.”

If elected on November 3, Juarez would be the first citizen of a Native Nation elected to the Seattle City Council (Bruce Harrell, who identifies as being of African, Japanese and Choctaw ancestry, is seeking a third term from District 2; he was a proponent of the successful effort to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in Seattle).

Juarez's campaign platform: Adding a second light-rail station and constructing a bike-pedestrian bridge over Interstate 5 in North Seattle; promoting the construction of mixed-income housing and allowing increased housing density near transit centers and other services, and relaxing rules limiting the construction of “mother-in-law” apartments; and promoting the use of drug courts and diversion programs to break the cycle of addiction that often leads to crime.

Juarez also won the endorsement of The Seattle Times, King County Democrats, National Women's Political Caucus, 32nd Legislative District Democrats, the International Association of Machinists 751, Equal Rights Washington, and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

The Times wrote of Juarez, “She would bring intellectual rigor and ideological independence to the council.”

Seattle attorney Gabriel S. Galanda, Round Valley Indian Tribes, is part of Juarez campaign ’s inner circle.

"Voters seem to be relating to Debora as a single working mom, as a person of mixed Native and Latina ancestry, and as somebody who has never been fed by a silver spoon," Galanda said.

She’s also shown she can make a mistake and own up to it.

Two days after the primary election, The Seattle Times reported Juarez was arrested for DUI after her car crashed into a guardrail at about 3:08 a.m. on August 5, 2012. According to the Times story, she admitted she had been drinking at a friend’s birthday party, and later pleaded guilty.

“I take total responsibility for my poor decision,” she wrote in a statement to the Times. “I pleaded guilty to the DUI charge and completed community-service work at a local youth homeless shelter. I learned a lot from this incident, and I carry this wisdom with me every day. I am sincerely sorry for having made this mistake.”

Social activist v. social activist

Both candidates have a long history of social activism.

Juarez was 10 when she and her family participated in the occupation of Fort Lawton in Seattle, now the home of the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation and Daybreak Star Cultural Center. In her teens, she participated in the Fish Wars on the Puyallup River and in the eviction of the state from the former Cushman Indian Hospital. In ensuing years, Juarez earned a law degree and represented indigenous nations in such areas as treaty rights, economic development, legal and social policy, natural resources, and public safety.

While a Methodist minister in Wenatchee in 1999, Brown and another pastor successfully challenged the election of Gary Schoessler as mayor, contending Schoessler was not a resident of the city for the required one year prior to his election. Brown led the religious community in support of Referendum 74, which legalized same-sex marriage in Washington; and helped organize the successful campaign for Initiative 594, which requires background checks for firearm sales and transfers in Washington.

On the Seattle Channel, Brown criticized campaign contributions Juarez has received from area Native Nations as being from outside interests. Juarez noted that Native Nations like Muckleshoot and Snoqualmie have historical ties to the City of Seattle and continue to invest in the community.

Juarez said Native Nations contribute 2 percent of their gross gaming revenues to the community in charitable giving; Muckleshoot has helped fund construction of low-income housing on 11 properties owned by the Low-Income Housing Institute.

“Tribal interests, as we all know, go beyond the four corners of the reservation – whether civil rights or economic development,” Juarez said. “The tribes want to work with and have worked with the city of Seattle. They were here before the city of Seattle. They are the original people.”

Tribes are inclusive, employing a workforce that is 95 percent non-Native, she said. “Tribes make up less than 3 percent of population but are the fourth-largest employer [in Washington]. We hire everybody. We want to build for the community.”

Juarez believes Seattle voters are inclusive too. “I won 39 percent of the vote [in the primary],” she said, “That many Indian people don’t live here. The people spoke.”

ONLINE: Debora Juarez and Sandy Brown talk about the issues on the Seattle Channel.

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