Category: Campaign News

Chair of Washington Human Rights Commission brings fight for dignity, equality to Seattle City Council race

Chair of Washington Human Rights Commission brings fight for dignity, equality to Seattle City Council race

Charlene Strong, a human rights advocate, is hoping to take her work a step further by as a Seattle City Council member. She is running for Position 8.

Like many others in Seattle who watched in shock as Donald Trump was elected president in November, the event pushed Strong into action and she decided to run for office.

“How did we as such smart, intelligent people not anticipate this big, huge political backlash?,” Strong pondered in an interview with CHS.

The 53-year-old wife and mother who runs a physical therapy practice in Interbay with her wife and is the chair of the Washington State Human Rights Commission said people had asked her when she’s going to run. Now, they have an answer.

Strong has been advocating for human rights, starting with LGBTQ rights, for the past 10 years. The event that pushed her to action then was the death of her partner Kate Fleming after flooding on December 14, 2006 trapped the woman in their Madison Valley home. Strong was denied visitation while Fleming was in the hospital where she died. In the next state legislative session, Strong testified for rights and protections for LGBTQ couples. Now she speaks to government agencies and departments to expand civil rights laws.

“I believe in equality and I believe in the dignity of another human being,” Strong said.

(Image: Elect Charlene Strong)

(Image: Elect Charlene Strong)

Strong is focusing her campaign on homelessness, addiction and mental illness, affordability, and small businesses.

“There are many people in our city who are working tirelessly for people who are homeless and unsheltered,” Strong said.

Finding the right answer for getting unsheltered people the help they need for mental illness or addiction while hearing concerns from citizens about safety and needles left in public spaces, requires having tough conversations and listening.

Making Seattle more affordable is also going to require people on both sides — renters and property owners — to listen and work together. She is concerned that the new Renters’ Commission doesn’t include property owners.

“Without us working together and both sides coming together I’m worried about unintended consequences of rents rising even higher,” Strong said.

As small business owners, Strong said she and her wife have noticed expenses are rising rapidly, but profitability is decreasing.

“Small businesses are the eyes and ears of our communities,” Strong said. They know about neighborhood issues and are gathering places, she added.

When old buildings are torn down, many times the small businesses that lived there can’t afford to return to the new development that took its place, she said.

“There has to be some way we can work to get small businesses back to where they were before the building was torn down,” she said.

Strong is joining 9 other candidates who have filed for candidacy in the race for Position 8. In November, Jon Grant, former director of the Tenants Union, announced his bid for the seat left open by longtime council member Tim Burgess’s impending retirement. Since then notable others have decided to vie for the job. Among them are Mac McGregor, a gender, diversity, and sex educator, activist, speaker, and coach, Teresa Mosqueda, political director for the Washington State Labor Council, and Sheley Secrest, local NAACP vice president.

On Monday, the National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington announced its endorsement of Strong.

In her 30s, Strong lived and came out on Capitol Hill. Through 2006, Capitol Hill and Madison Valley were her home.

“As I move into a different realm of my life … I’m never far from what I came from and the vibrant community in Capitol Hill,” Strong said. Her work securing rights for people across the nation started on the Hill, she said.

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Mom, Small Business Owner, and Civil Rights Advocate, Charlene Strong, announces run for Seattle City Council

Mom, Small Business Owner, and Civil Rights Advocate, Charlene Strong, announces run for Seattle City Council

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, February 21

Seattle – Charlene Strong, a civil rights advocate best known for her fight to expand rights and protections for LGBT couples following the tragic 2006 death of her partner Kate Fleming, today announced her bid for Seattle City Council in Position 8. This seat is the at-large, open seat as a result of the retirement of Councilmember Tim Burgess.

In kicking off her campaign, Strong laid out her vision for representing all of Seattle. Specifically, Strong promised to fight to make Seattle more affordable, to advocate for small businesses, and to tackle the issue of homelessness, addiction and mental illness – an issue that has impacted her personally.

“I have a family member who struggled for many years through the cycles of addiction and homelessness. So, this is deeply personal for me,” Strong said. “I believe there is more we could be doing in this city to accelerate the good work that has been done while continuing to be compassionate and effective. I want to add my voice and my energy to that work.”

In addition to addressing issues around addiction and homelessness, Strong plans to be a champion for small businesses in our city. As a small business owner and with more than 20 years of experience in business management, Strong believes the city’s continued economic success depends on doing more to protect and boost small businesses.

“As with housing affordability, small businesses are being priced out of the commercial real estate market,” Strong added. “We could be doing more as a city to support small business in terms of streamlining permitting and increasing access to microfinancing and capital for low and moderate-income small businesses.”

In 2006, Strong turned sorrow into action following the tragic death of her partner, Kate Fleming, who was trapped in their flooding basement in Madison Valley during a devastating storm. Because she was denied hospital visitation for her partner and there were no laws protecting LGBT couples at the time, Strong testified in the Legislature the following session to push for rights and protections of LGBT couples. The legislation passed, a first step of many in the march toward marriage equality. For the next ten years, Strong flew across the country speaking at universities, advising governmental agencies and departments and pushing for laws that expanded civil rights and marriage equality.

Now, Strong is the Chair of the Washington State Human Rights Commission where she leads the Commission’s important work to protect the rights and expand equality to all Washingtonians, like her recent work on HB 2029, which would create a telephone hotline and website to assist people on immigration and citizenship issues.

Strong is married to Courteney Bealko, a longtime friend who helped Strong rebuild her life after the devastation in 2006. They both live in Magnolia with their two young children, Etta and Anders.

For more information, please visit Charlene Strong’s website at

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Charlene Strong