West Seattle politics: Councilmember Tom Rasmussen not running, elaborates on ‘very difficult’ decision

10:18 AM: West Seattle-residing City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen has just announced he’s changed his mind about running to stay on the council. Here’s his statement. The field of candidates for West Seattle’s City Council District 1 seat is now down to three, with the first forum less than 2 weeks away. More to come.

10:29 AM: Rasmussen has been on the council since 2004 (here’s his bio), and currently chairs the Transportation Committee. His statement (linked above) says in part, “This wasn’t an easy decision but, it is the right one. It is now time to direct my efforts toward the same causes I have always been most passionate about — in exciting new ways.” He is the second councilmember to announce this week that he’s not running to stay on the council, which has all nine seats going to voters this fall, seven for the new districts, two at large. Nick Licata made his not-running announcement on Wednesday.

11:04 AM: Mayor Murray‘s statement:

Councilmember Rasmussen has been deeply engaged in public life as long as I can remember. As an advocate for seniors, human services, parks and innovative transportation solutions, Tom demonstrates active and effective leadership for our City. He was instrumental in our successful campaign last year to expand bus transit – for which I’m very grateful. I am especially thankful for his partnership in our effort to secure civil rights and marriage equality for the LGBT community. Seattle is losing a major champion on the council, but we know his community activism will find new outlets as he writes his next chapter.

11:14 AM: We contacted Councilmember Rasmussen to ask about his decision. In a phone interview a short time ago, he told us it was “very difficult – I love my job, I love working with the community and in the community, but I was torn” between spending the next year doing that job AND campaigning, or focusing on the work. He points out he still has almost a full year left in office, and he vows that he won’t be “slacking off” – most days, he says, he’s “out of the house by 5, back after 6” (back on Wednesday night, he was at the Delridge District Council meeting, which ran until 9) and after his final year, he looks forward to a “more balanced” life.

He says he felt the need to announce this early because he was receiving donations and offers of volunteering, endorsements, and other campaign help already, and because “other folks who might be interested can step up.” No, he’s not endorsing a candidate yet, but says he’ll be looking for one who also will be out in the community – “you can’t just sit in your office, you have to be a problem-solver.” As quoted above, he said he hopes to focus more on the causes for which he has long worked; we asked which might be his major focus in post-council life, and he said that “working on issues relating to seniors and people with disabilities is really fundamental.”

31 Replies to "West Seattle politics: Councilmember Tom Rasmussen not running, elaborates on 'very difficult' decision"

  • westseattledood January 23, 2015 (11:11 am)

    Thank you for your service Mr. Rasmussen. I know many folks will be disappointed.

    I am hopeful new candidates will emerge to expand the choices District 1 voters will have.

    Best of luck to you, sir.

  • vincent January 23, 2015 (12:00 pm)

    Abandoning the sinking ship of the tunnel. Tom knows his past boasting and bravado will soon be indefensible, as events unfold.

  • John January 23, 2015 (12:24 pm)

    Thanks to Mr. Rasmussen.
    I too, hope that his departure will encourage more candidates.
    The remaining candidates are mostly single-issue neighborhood activists that have done little to embrace our whole community.
    I hope this campaign becomes more interesting.

  • AmandaKH January 23, 2015 (12:27 pm)

    I want to extend my best wishes to Tom Rasmussen. Tom has been a great supporter of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition over the past year of its inception, and champion of West Seattle transportation solutions. Thank you Tom for your service and dedication to Seattle and its Citizens. I look forward to our continued work together this year for West Seattle and South Park.

  • WS gal January 23, 2015 (1:01 pm)


    Thank you very much for the many years of service and all you have done for Seattle. You will be sincerely missed by many of us.

  • McBride January 23, 2015 (1:06 pm)

    As the Chair of the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council, past member of the City Neighborhood Council, and longtime volunteer with the Seattle Parks dept, I have to refute your statement regarding “the remaining candidates”, at least as far as Amanda and Chas are concerned.
    I’ve served on several city and whole-community councils with both of them over the years. They are smart, engaging, passionate, and committed to West and Greater Seattle. Would more candidates on the slate be a good thing? You bet. As it is, I have no worries that we will be well served.

  • False and Incorrect January 23, 2015 (1:33 pm)

    John said: “The remaining candidates are mostly single-issue neighborhood activists that have done little to embrace our whole community.”
    That is totally false and borderline defamatory in political terms.
    One candidate has been involved in all levels of city, district, and neighborhood issues and governance focusing on land use to transportation.
    Another candidate has been involved as well in all levels of city, district, and neighborhood issues focusing on transportation, Metro and parks.
    Another one is involved in the business community.
    All of them are apparently outsiders from the dominant Murray-Burgess machine that has had an unhealthy political stranglehold on our city to it’s failing active harm for years.
    Bring on the outsiders and throw the Cabal into the sea until they stop climbing out.

  • David Boneham January 23, 2015 (1:56 pm)

    Thank you Tom for your work on behalf of the citizens of Seattle. I am especially appreciative of your role in bicycle infrastructure and making Seattle safer for all modes of transportation.

  • Diane January 23, 2015 (2:28 pm)

    re: “his major focus in post-council life, and he said that “working on issues relating to seniors and people with disabilities is really fundamental.”
    well this announcement came as a total shock to me; though the very last part of this story (in quotes above my comment) is EXCELLENT news; with Tom’s experience at the city working with seniors, I do believe his post-council work will be a HUGE asset; I watch city council meetings daily, and CM Rasmussen is often the only CM to advocate for seniors; most discussions in council chambers, it’s as if seniors don’t even exist; thank you for your service Tom and I look forward to hopefully working with you going forward on really raising the bar, opening conversations, and creating better policies/services for seniors and people with disabilities
    fyi, for anyone considering running for City Council, and/or for citizens in considering who to vote for in these new District elections, I would suggest watching at least a week of CC meetings to see the extreme depth and breadth of what CM’s have to cover; it is insane; you can go to CC chambers any day/time they are in session to watch in person; you can watch on cable seattlechannel # 21 (that’s how I watch while working at my desk); you can watch online at seattlechannel.org 24/7; CM’s have to somehow become educated on every single topic that comes before them, which is extremely challenging; there are a gazillion issues they have to learn about, discuss, ask questions, and vote; this doesn’t leave much time for special interest topics, like advocating for seniors, so I totally get this decision, and thrilled to hear Tom will be focusing his energies on behalf of our fastest growing population that is usually ignored, people over 60, and people with disabilities (who are every age)
    I applaud anyone/everyone willing to run for CC; it is a very difficult job; and a very important job that shapes the future of our city, affects the lives of citizens; there is not enough money in the entire world that could ever entice me to take that on; thank you to all who have served, and to those jumping into the game now; looking forward to the debates and all that will develop with our new district elections

  • Chas redmond January 23, 2015 (2:35 pm)

    I am extremely grateful for Councilmember Tom Rasmussen’s long and dedicated service to Seattle and the Seattle community. I have worked with Tom nearly his entire Council tenure and have always appreciated his service and perspective. I completely support everything Tom has said he is pressing for this year and I’m very grateful for the work Tom has done and will be doing for those with disabilities. Thank you again Tom.

  • Peter January 23, 2015 (2:45 pm)

    The remaining candidates aren’t necessarily unqualified, it’s just that they’re unknowns. I’ve read their websites (the two that have them anyway) and I think they’re skimpy on policies or ideas on which to judge them. There are a lot of the usual political buzzwords (accountability, empowerment, reform, etc.) that every politician everywhere running for every office always use, but not much information what specific policies or legislation they would pursue. My fear is that the race will be too local; I want to know what qualifies them to make decisions that affect the whole city, not just West Seattle. (Yes, I did vote against district elections.) It is up to them to prove to us that they are equal to the challenge, and it’s too soon to say. With Rasmussen out, my vote is now available to the candidate who demonstrates that they best represent my views. I’m looking forward to the forum on the 5th.

  • Ted January 23, 2015 (3:13 pm)

    I’m disappointed that Councilman Rasmussen has chosen not to seek reelection. However, I totally understand and respect his decision. Long before the passing of distrct representation he demonstrated a great interest in the well being of West Seattle. Additionally, his work on parks and transportation has left Seattle a better city than he found.

  • sc January 23, 2015 (3:22 pm)

    For all who run for political office
    remember this quote –

    “A politician thinks of the next election;
    a statesman thinks of the next generation.”

    James Clarke
    US politician (1854 – 1916)

  • Diane January 23, 2015 (3:36 pm)

    just read official announcement on city website (thanks for link TR) with teensy bio summary at end; I knew about his past work for seniors, and long career with the city; I did not know Tom Rasmussen was an attorney

  • Concerned January 23, 2015 (3:42 pm)

    Seattle is of the fastest growing cities in the country. No candidates across the districts have the strategic experience and perspective to tackle current and upcoming challenges. Quality of life and cost of living here are heading downhill with the tunnel fiasco, fallout from minimum wage stupidity, inviting the nation’s homeless, and the inevitable tax hikes to offset multifamily tax exemptions. I don’t even know what to say about road diets. I really wish we had stronger leadership choices. Heck, I’d be happy if half of them even had four year degrees.

  • Marge Evans January 23, 2015 (4:04 pm)

    Have to agree with Vincent on this one. The tunnel is an absolute fiasco and Tom was one of its biggest cheerleaders.

  • dis January 23, 2015 (4:12 pm)

    John said: “The remaining candidates are mostly single-issue neighborhood activists that have done little to embrace our whole community.”

    False said “That is totally false and borderline defamatory in political terms.”

    saying someone is a single-issue candidate is not defamatory in any way. Neither is the notion that they have done little to embrace the whole community.

    This is actually a very mild comment. IN our democracy, members of the public are encouraged to state their views about any candidate. IF they feel they have not been embraced, it’s their right to state it.

    Candidates need to be able to accept criticism once they become public figures. It goes with the job. IF they can’t, they shouldn’t be running.

    About Tom, thanks very much for your many years of service. You have been a great city council member.

  • dsa January 23, 2015 (5:19 pm)

    What has he done for the handicap?
    I certainly was not impressed with the lame idea of storing trucks at pier 5 when they would then have to turn around and plug the eastbound direction to get to Harbor Island.

  • Eric1 January 23, 2015 (5:38 pm)

    I like neighborhood activists. It is high time the focus of Seattle is on the neighborhoods. I expect a steep learning curve early on but they will work together eventually. I’d rather have quid-pro-quo between Ballard and West Seattle than between businesses and the campaign fund of a council member.
    Downtown Seattle is the #1 local contributor to City Council campaigns. Not surprisingly, mostly to the incumbents.


  • Mary Fleck January 23, 2015 (7:07 pm)

    Tom has been a great champion for our neighborhoods. He has worked with Seattle Green Spaces Coalition to spearhead efforts to re-purpose our surplus City properties to benefit neighborhoods. We appreciate what he has done! Mary Fleck, co-chair, Seattle Green Spaces Coalition

  • abovealki January 24, 2015 (7:54 am)

    Tom may have been fine for WS in general, but he has LOTS of critics in the transportation arena that he’s had responsibility for. Regarding the tunnel, and much more.
    For some outside-WS perspective, you might want to read The Stranger’s take on him:

  • AIDM January 24, 2015 (8:06 am)

    I feel like West Seattle has been underrepresented in the city government’s transportation planning regarding both roads and mass transit. I would like to see our representative viably address downtown access during the 99 closure/tunnel construction and in the post tunnel era. The current chokepoints on the bridge at 1st, 4th, and I-5 will become unbearable when 99 closes and when the tunnel eliminates downtown access. Additionally, we need to get a light rail plan on the books: a West Seattle to Ballard line (via downtown) would address an underserved region of the city and would link nicely with existing downtown transit.

  • East Coast Cynic January 24, 2015 (9:44 am)

    @abovealki, thank you for putting that stranger story link up about Rasmussen’s actions re transit. It disturbs me greatly that he opposed McGinn’s Transit Master plan which would have studied light rail from West Seattle to Ballard. Considering that his views on transit are pretty much status quo re West Seattle, e.g., just buses, I am all the more glad Rasmussen is not running for re-election and hopefully we can elect a very pro-transit pro light rail city council person for our district.

  • John January 24, 2015 (11:20 am)

    False & Incorrect & McBride,

    After a re-reading of these candidates bios and position statements, I can safely reiterate my statement.

    The remaining candidates are indeed mostly single issue neighborhood activists that have done little to embrace our whole community.

    I am concerned that their hyperlocal focus will add to the ‘balkanization’ of Seattle’s neighborhoods.

    None of them offer any real or viable solutions to the big three whines of West Seattle; traffic, parking, development.

    Political ambition is illustrated by the fact that none of these candidates are willing to address the fact that West Seattle has, is and will continue to grow and all solutions will require changes that West Seattlites don’t like. This has already happened.

    I would enjoy someone brave enough to tell the truth to run. They might likely lose big, but would certainly lively-up the debate.

    Politics is rough and tumble.
    I respect and thank those who decide to run, exposing themselves to criticisms such as mine.

  • Leslie January 24, 2015 (12:55 pm)

    Respectfully disagree w/ a great many of these comments that Tom’s not running because of: tunnel, district elections, etc. the man wants a more balanced life – and who can blame him? I’ve spoken to him about it, and about many other things over the years and have found him to be responsive and most accessible. Call him. Thank him.


  • Patti Mullen January 24, 2015 (2:19 pm)

    Tom has done a wonderful job helping steer the City of Seattle through some very challenging times and has been a tremendous advocate for West Seattle. His careful and very thoughtful leadership on a wide range of issues is to be commended. Best wishes and thanks for all your hard work, Tom!

  • WS gal January 24, 2015 (2:44 pm)

    Abovealki … The stranger says so…. Lol, lol…. Hahaha good one

  • abovealki January 24, 2015 (5:42 pm)

    WS gal — It’s NOT the Stranger saying so; it’s the Stranger quoting a variety of local people deeply involved in transportation issues, who should know. Just saying.

  • ChefJoe January 24, 2015 (7:48 pm)

    abovealki, thestranger led the article with Valdez, a paid lobbyist for microhousing/apodments, who has little history with transportation beyond “if we build close to it, we can claim nobody will have a car and save my bosses money”.


  • John January 24, 2015 (10:04 pm)

    Despite the messenger, the criticism (“He is bad on development, bad on parking, bad on transportation.” Roger Valdez) merits discussion.

    Mr. Rasmussen for all his service to West Seattle, can also be criticized for refusing to address the tough truths about West Seattle and the unpopular change required in peoples’ mindsets.

  • GSDH January 27, 2015 (11:44 am)

    Thank you for your service, Tom.

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