Yakima elects first Latina city council members after Voting Rights case

Dulce Gutierrez (left) and Avina Gutierrez (right) both led their races for city council positions. It was the first time that Yakima voted in city elections after a federal judge ruled the previous election system violated the Voting Rights Act, marginalizing the city's Latino population. (Photos via the campaigns)
Dulce Gutierrez (left) and Avina Gutierrez (right, no relation) both led their races for city council positions. (Photos via the campaigns)

The city of Yakima elected its first Latina city council members Tuesday night, with Dulce Gutierrez and Avina Gutierrez (no relation) with formidable leads in their city council races in early returns.

A third Latina council hopeful, Carmen Mendez, has a slim lead in her race against her opponent.

Yakima voted in districts for the first time Tuesday after losing a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that said the citywide elections had violated the Voting Rights Act. Though 40 percent of the city of Yakima is Latino, voters had never sent any Latino residents to serve on its city council until Tuesday night. In 2008, Yakima attorney Sonia Rodriguez True was appointed to city council, but she was voted out of office in the subsequent election.

The court ruling threw all the council positions open and all seven of Yakima’s council seats were up for grabs. Several current council members opted not to run for re-election. The city is currently appealing the ruling.

Dulce Gutierrez leads Russell A. Monteiro 81.8 percent to 14.6 percent in District 1, a majority-minority with Hispanic voters making up about 52 percent of the voting age population. Avina Cristal Gutierrez received 61.1 percent of the vote to Maud Scott’s 38.6 percent of the vote in Yakima District 2, where about 40 percent of the voting age population is Hispanic.

The Yakima Herald-Republic also pointed out that if the first day returns hold, it also means that Yakima also will have its first female-majority council, with women leading in five of seven council races.

Seattle elects first Latina council members

Seattle voters also have elected Seattle’s first Latina city council members, with Lorena Gonzalez and Debora Juarez with big leads in their council bids in early returns. According to the Seattle Times, Seattle also has never elected a Hispanic council member before this year.

In Position 9, a city-wide at-large position, Gonzalez, a senior advisor and legal counsel to Mayor Ed Murray, received 75.97 percent of the vote to the 23.54 percent received by Bill Bradburd, a neighborhood planning advocate.

In District 5, which covers north Seattle, both candidates identify as having Mexican American heritage. Juarez, an attorney, is an enrolled member of Blackfeet Nation and her father’s family originated from Mexico. Sandy Brown, who is a pastor, cited his mother’s Mexican heritage as a key early influence. Juarez received 63.1 percent of the vote to Brown’s 36.4 percent.

About 6.6 percent of Seattle residents identify as Hispanic or Latino, according to the U.S. Census.

Tuesday was also Seattle’s first general election after creating districted council positions, which were created after voters passed a city measure in 2013.

This post has been updated to fix a typo in the District 9 results.

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1 Comment

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