Cliff Cawthon

Cawthon to challenge Troutner for Kent City Council seat

Works at Bellevue College political science professor

Cliff Cawthon, a Bellevue College political science professor and longtime community activist, launched his campaign to challenge incumbent Toni Troutner for Position 4 on the Kent City Council.

Cawthon said he has picked up key early endorsements from Kent City Councilmember Marli Larimer; State Sens. Mona Das, D-Kent; Joe Nguyen, D-White Center and Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle; State Reps. Steve Bergquist, D-Renton and David Hackney, D-Seattle; former King County Councilmember Larry Gossett; Auburn City Councilmember Chris Stearns; Dawn Bennett, who is running against Dana Ralph for Kent mayor; and others. He has also been endorsed by the Martin Luther King Jr. County Working Families Party.

In a time when Kent families are being hit by crises of COVID-19, rising housing costs, climate change and in light of the racial reckoning that faces America, Cawthon said he brings a needed perspective and focus to solve our problems through systemic change.

“I’ve had a career as a community organizer and am currently a professor of political science at Bellevue College,” Cawthon said in a Monday, April 5 press release. “I am deeply rooted in values of social justice. I believe in putting equity at the heart of policy decisions and making those decisions through a transparent process that engages the community.”

Cawthon received a master of arts degree from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom in 2012. He is originally from Buffalo, New York and he grew up learning about the importance of community from his mother, who raised him alongside his grandparents, extended family and neighbors.

Since moving to Washington in 2014, Cawthon has worked in Kent and South King County on various campaigns focusing on workers’ rights, housing and transportation equity. In 2019, he and his fiancee were finally able to become homeowners on the East Hill of Kent.

Kent community leaders Shamso Issak and Awale Farah shared a statement with their joint endorsement:

“Cliff has been at the forefront of helping candidates of color get elected in South King County,” Issak and Farah said. “We believe Cliff will be a great voice for the community. In my years we have known Cliff, he has been working to make the community better, we found him to be totally trustworthy and incorruptible. Cliff’s well-known commitment to accountability in city government will promote an atmosphere of openness in the area of city government finances.”

Cawthon has also been a vocal advocate for police reform and active in the Black Lives Matter movement. He is unapologetically supportive of promoting transparency, accountability and community-orientated policing practices while addressing the disconnect between the Kent Police Department and communities of color.

In response to the Kent Police Department’s killings of Giovann Joseph-McDade and other stories of police misconduct, Cawthon said he wants to work with members of the council to take the measures necessary to ensure that the Kent Police inspire trust, not fear among community members.

Troutner is the council president and recently announced she will seek a second four-year term. Voters elected Troutner in 2017 when she defeated Tye Whitfield.

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