Entrepreneur Beto Yarce announced his campaign for the District 3 seat on the Seattle City Council on Thursday. Before he can file, he will have to move back into the district.
Yarce moved to Mill Creek four years ago, to be closer to where his partner, Phil Smith, works. The District 3 candidate said he was proud to call Capitol Hill home for the past 12 years during his Nov. 29 campaign announcement. When asked about his residency, Yarce said he and Smith were working on moving somewhere in Capitol Hill soon.
“I’ve been working in the district, because this is where Venture is located,” he said.
A news release following his campaign announcement again identified him as a Capitol Hill resident.
Yarce grew up in Mexico, and moved to Seattle in 2003. He has a master in international business and marketing, but started out as a busser at a Broadway restaurant. He said he worked his way up to waiter, and then manager.
According to a Crosscut feature published in August, Yarce came to Seattle on a six-month tourist vista, and then returned to Mexico. He later came back to Seattle, where he lived as an undocumented immigrant for several years before acquiring his green card. That article highlighted why Yarce was the recipient of Crosscut's 2018 award for Courage in Business, which the District 3 candidate mentions in his campaign release.
During his time in Seattle, Yarce began selling jewelry at the Fremont Sunday Market, and later opened Cintli, an upscale Mexican art and retail store, in the Pike Place Market; it was there for 13 years.
Yarce joined nonprofit Venture, which supports entrepreneurs with limited resources with business training, capital and coaching, in March 2008. He started out leading the Latino Business Program, and has been executive director at Venture since June 2014. He chose El Cueno Preschool for his Nov. 29 campaign announcement, as it was the first business he helped while at Venture.
“I am not afraid to stand on principle,” Yarce said. “I am not afraid to speak up for what is right.”
District 3 Councilmember Kshama Sawant has yet to announce her campaign to serve a third term on the city council, but is still considered the candidate Yarce will face in the 2019 election. District 4 Councilmember Rob Johnson won’t campaign for a second term, and District 7 Councilmember Sally Bagshaw also won’t run for re-election.
Yarce said Sawant has been a divisive voice on the city council, and that he’s focused on unity, rather than “pointing fingers and making people feel guilty about what they do.”
Sawant and Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda were the only two councilmembers who didn’t change their minds about the need for an employee-hours (head) tax, which the council unanimously approved in May and then repealed less than a month later. Sawant continues to push for new head tax legislation.
Yarce said he also support a head tax that would generate around $200 million to support affordable housing, but particulars about that plan are still being worked out. He said the last attempt at a head tax lacked good planning.
Increasing economic opportunity and housing affordability are key focuses on his campaign. The lack of affordable housing in Capitol Hill is an issue the District 3 candidate is familiar with, as he looks to establish residency there.
“That’s one of the challenges we have, to be honest,” Yarce said. “It is very expensive.” He added there are also not many people there who look like him.
Yarce said he does not feel homeless encampments in the city are a good place for people to be staying, but he does not support removing them.
“I will not support sweeping encampments,” he said.
While Sawant has been highly critical of Amazon for contributing to the city’s affordability crisis and not doing enough to help fix the problem — the online retail giant chipped in $25,000 to oppose the head tax — Yarce said he’d rather work with Amazon and other large businesses to find ways to make Seattle more livable and support small and micro-businesses.
“I don’t think Amazon is evil,” he said.
However, if Amazon can’t work with the city and do a better job supporting the community, he would consider talking taxes, Yarce said.
Other issues Yarce said he supports are improving transportation and transit, increasing mental health and substance abuse treatment, and public safety.
He said he appreciated the amount of time Mayor Jenny Durkan has spent reaching out to Seattle communities during her first year in office.
Yarce was one of three recipients of the mayor’s 2018 Emerging Leaders Pride Award for his work with Venture and as an LGBTQ advocate.
His early endorsers include Seattle Port Commissioner Ryan Calkins, Washington state Rep. Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney and Burien Mayor Jimmy Matta, who spoke during the Nov. 29 campaign launch.
Matta said he looks forward to having Yarce as a partner as the region works collectively to address the homelessness crisis and work with labor groups and micro-businesses.