Shane Harms/ Ballard News-Tribune
Rudy Pantoja a.k.a Hugh Mungus has announced he plans to run for City Council.

'Hugh Mungus' to run for City Council

Before last February Ballard resident, Rudy Pantoja Jr. a.k.a. “Hugh Mungus” never thought he’d run for City Council, but after becoming an internet viral meme and supporters giving him a hand, Pantoja has his sights on grabbing the at-large City Council Position 8 seat.

Pantoja, 52, announced he was thinking about the race last month, however, health issues made him weary of taking on the endeavor. Pantoja suffers from a blood disorder and recently had a hip replacement. He is also in recovery for alcoholism. According to Pantoja, his doctor has “cleared him” as healthy enough run for city council.

Furthermore, a recent GoFundMe campaign raised $150,000 for Pantoja, which he says will help with medical bills and getting back on his feet. Pantoja has worked as a gardener and cleaning the streets for Ballard merchants since the 90’s.

Pantoja attributes the financial support to him recently falling into “hero” meme status after a video went viral that shows him telling activist, Zarna Joshi, that his name was “Hugh Mungus.” Josh was filming Pantoja when he said it. The scene escalated to Joshi screaming that Pantoja had sexually harassed her. In the video Pantoja calmly denies he sexually harassed Joshi and eventually walks away.

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Illustrations by Adonis Acebes.

Pantoja describes the incident as a “conflict of different ideas,” and has no negative feelings toward Joshi; however, he does believe the incident is an example of bullying.

The incident happened last August at a City Council meeting held to discuss the new North Precinct, controversially called “The Bunker.” The precinct, estimated to cost $160 million, is something Pantoja supports. Other issues he plans to campaign for include public safety, cleaning up Puget Sound, funding education and social services and forming a middle-class tax-payer commission.

“My plan is really just for a better quality of life, especially for the middle class. We are really being squeezed here in Seattle by the taxes that have been implemented on us over the years that are catching up with us,” said Pantoja.

According to Pantoja he is no stranger to the political stage; he says he already ran for city council once and for the Washington State House twice. He also said he has over 25 years of experience in community advocacy serving on the King County Mental Health and Substance Abuse Board, the Latino Advisory Council and the Precinct Advisory Council.

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Pantoja hopes to bring a fresh perspective to the council.

Pantoja calls for more public education and outreach so that people are understand the resources available to them when they need it most. He said that despite programs being available to people in need, they are not aware of them or how to access them. One example he pointed out was a bulletin board at the UW Medicine Harborview Mental Health and Addiction Services facility being the major route to inform people about services devoted to drug treatment and homelessness aside from the web.

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Pantoja points to a bulletin board at the UW Medicine Harborview Mental Health and Addiction Services Center. He believes more outreach and education is needed to mitigate drug addiction and homeless.

“My plan has nothing new. It’s an old plan that has worked. The best defense is a good offense, and what I mean is an educated public for who to call, when to call and citizens being able to work directly with departments of the city to make the change they want to see. …We need to respect our civil servants, first responders, teachers, utility, transportation and all others that serves our population.”

Being an urban gardener for almost thirty years, Pantoja says he has encounter the worst and the best in people. Regularly interacting with drug dealers, mentally impaired individuals, addicts, concerned citizens and police officers, have provided Pantoja with what he thinks is a unique perspective that would help remedy the growing homelessness, drug and crime problems in Seattle.

“I’ve seen positive results from a community who works together on a public private partnership. We need to work together. Sometimes we have to compromise, and by compromising I mean working together and not working against each other and being civil.”

Pantoja pointed to the incident with Joshi as an example of not being civil in the pubic sphere.

“Right now it is easy for us to get on a blog ad complain about the neighborhood and that's where it stays, there’s no action, and the fastest way for action is to pull the neighborhood together and focusing on a target, working with law enforcement, human services and focusing on the source of the problem of unresolved conflict and address it. Do we educate it? Do we incarcerate it? Do we treat it? Or is it something that we have to go ahead and live with? There’s nothing wrong with holding members of our community responsible for their actions.”

Furthermore, Pantoja criticized Mayor Ed Murray and Governor Jay Inslee for their opposition to President Trump’s administration, and said that if he were elected to City Council he would do what he could to work with congress.

“I think cutting off and saying we are going to tax ourselves out of federal money -- well, you just wait until we have a natural disaster. Seattle is broke if that happens. Is there a rainy day fund for that? It seems to be a no brainer. … It boils down to this: because I don’t like you, I’m going to take my toys and not play. That is just ridiculous. … Seriously, I’ve been talking to leaders across the country and asking them if I can get access to working with the current congress. Yes, I can, but I have to get elected first. So I don’t have a problem doing that and bypassing the mayor the same way the mayor is bypassing the president. For the middle class, heck yeah I would do it.”

Pantoja said he is in the early phase of his campaign and still planning and starting a team before the race starts in August. As of now there are currently seven people bidding for the seat.

For more information visit Pantoja’s Facebook page.

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