Led by Drag Queen Miss Texas 1988, and hosted by yours truly, the Washington Bus, alongside The Stranger, after years of absence we brought back Candidate Survivor—a spectacular, wacky, yet policy-focused and youth-led candidate forum for this year’s Seattle City Council races. With an exciting program that included candidate talent shows, lip-syncing for life, and a spicy showdown at the end, we at the Bus hoped to truly reach and encourage young people to vote in this upcoming local election.

This year, candidates came through with a harmonious musical of instrumental prowess. Performing on the guitar, keyboard, bongos, and harmonica, District 2 candidates Tammy Morales and Margaret Elisabeth, alongside D4 candidate Ron Davis, D5 candidates Nilu Jenks and Shane Macomber, and finally D3 candidate Joy Hollingsworth all played music for the crowd. We saw incredible ad-libs and remixes from Joy, Tammy, Nilu, and Ron as they sang lyrics that rang true to their districts and their constituency. D1 candidate Maren Costa wowed the crowd with a disappearing trick-turned twins that juggle trick while D1 candidate Stephen Brown recited presidents in order, almost getting to all of them before hitting time. Andrew Ashiofu of D3 brought forth an incredible spoken word poetry performance while D6 candidate Dan Strauss instigated a lutefisk eating contest (that he actually ended up losing…) And last, but not least at all, candidates Andrew Lewis of D7 gave a mean tweets presentation while ChrisTiana ObeySumner of D5 slayed the talent show down with an incredible Burlesque performance of Separate Ways by Journey.

Moving into the lip-sync round—District 1 candidates fought in lip-sync combat performing 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton while District 2 ran the show with an incredible performance of Run the World (Girls) by Beyoncé. District 3 came through with a lip-sync performance of Run This Town, and then the scrappy candidates of Districts 4, 6, and 7 all competed with each other to perform Lizzo’s Truth Hurts better than the others. And finally, District 5 threw down with Hey Ya! by Outkast. With all these acts coming together, the audience finally chose the final five to move on to our Spicy Election—voting with their voices. Then, the illustrious Miss Texas 1988 interpreted the roaring electorate, and sent Maren Costa of District 1, Tammy Morales of District 2, Andrew Ashiofu of District 3, Ron Davis of District 4, and ChrisTiana ObeySumner of District 5 to the final round.

After a brief intermission, candidates returned to a set-up reminiscent of a “Hot Ones” challenge, where Bus & Stranger staff asked spicy questions while candidates ate spicy vegan nuggets. Candidates who advanced to our spicy final round faced questions that challenged their progressive values with topics like reparations and corporate taxation. In the end, after various superlatives were awarded and audience cheering was calculated, Andrew Ashiofu of District 3 emerged victorious—grasping Candidate Survivor victory through an incredible spoken word poetry act, an intensive lip-sync showdown, and his even spicier answers to our spicy questions.

Throughout the exciting night, our Fellows at the Washington Bus canvassed the crowds in order to make sure everyone attending had a plan to vote in this upcoming election. Candidate Survivor—though a spectacle on the stage and a night event filled with colorful lights and funny quips—is primarily a Get-Out-The-Vote event, where we engage younger voters in the political process and encourage greater turnout. At the Bus, we’re proud of the amazing work our staff and program participants have been doing in order to build political power for youth, and Candidate Survivor supports this by bringing accessibility for younger voters—engaging them where they are in a language and environment that excites them. Together, with our volunteering candidates, partners at The Stranger, and the amazing youth who turned out for our event, we continue to prove that young people give a damn about local elections.

We want to express our gratitude to all of you, our incredible supporters, for making events like these possible. Your continued dedication to empowering youth and promoting positive change in our community fuels our work! With your support, we hope to host many more Candidate Survivors and countless other electoral events for years to come. And remember, if you’re a voter, remember to turn in your ballots by August 1st and use your Democracy Vouchers. If you are waiting until the last second, we recommend dropping your ballot at your nearest ballot drop box to ensure King County Elections receive and count your vote.

Let’s make our voices heard, because young people give a damn about local elections.