The initial results in Tuesday’s Seattle City Council primary election have yielded some winners, some losers and some questions that may not be answered for months.
The two top primary vote-getters in each of the seven council districts up for grabs this year are advancing to the Nov. 5 general election. More votes will be counted in the coming days.
The results were updated Wednesday afternoon with about 50,000 additional votes, bringing the current count to about 70% of the total expected ballots, according to King County Elections.
There were no changes in position Wednesday. Among the candidates headed to the general election, all those running more to the left gained ground slightly. Almost all those running more to the center lost a bit of ground.
• Socialists survived. Had polarizing incumbent socialist Kshama Sawant and Democratic Socialists of America candidate Shaun Scott bombed out of the primary, the movement would have stalled. Instead, she led with a modest 34% of the District 3 vote Wednesday and Scott was advancing with 20% of the District 4 vote. Mayor Jenny Durkan sought to knock District 2 candidate Tammy Morales last month by describing her as a socialist. But Morales, endorsed by Democratic Party groups, led with 47% of the vote in her race. “Seattle isn’t afraid of socialists, which is something that a lot of people outside Seattle don’t quite understand,” said Crystal Fincher, a Kent-based political consultant.
• It can be difficult to tell exactly how much endorsements by newspaper editorial boards matter to voters. But all seven candidates endorsed by the center-leaning Seattle Times editorial board were positioned to advance past the primary, in each case matched against candidates endorsed by left-leaning The Stranger.
• Former council aide Alex Pedersen and current council aide Dan Strauss soared. Pedersen, who worked for Tim Burgess when Burgess was a council member and is running on more cautious approaches to spending and density, racked up more actual votes (7,717) than any candidate other than District 1 incumbent Lisa Herbold. Strauss, who works for Councilmember Sally Bagshaw and grew up in Ballard, led with 32% of the District 6 vote despite being endorsed by neither the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce nor the Martin Luther King County Labor Council.
• The Chamber was a winner, considering the business group that opposed last year’s short-lived head tax will have candidates in every district race come November, including attorney Phillip Tavel in District 1, crime-prevention coordinator Mark Solomon in District 2 and nonprofit leader Egan Orion in District 3. They’ll be selling “change from ideology to pragmatism,” said Markham McIntyre, who heads the Chamber’s political-action committee (PAC). “Tavel did pretty well and (the Chamber) helped get Solomon and Orion through in crowded races,” added Paul Queary, a political consultant with Strategies 360, whose firm worked for the Moms for Seattle PAC to support some of the same candidates.
• The Chamber was also a loser, because most of its candidates were running second in their races and to the extent that Amazon and other donors to the group’s PAC care about how much money they spend. Not including polling and other overhead costs, the PAC spent more than $103,000 to support Tavel and oppose Herbold, amounting to $20 per vote. The group spent about $32 per vote on Solomon and $30 on Orion. “They’re doing some math right now and trying to figure out how much they need to raise,” said Heather Weiner, a political consultant who worked to help a PAC opposing the Chamber. “It’s going to be really expensive.”
• The concept that City Hall must take a tougher approach on street homelessness, addiction and crime to save Seattle from dying, spurred by a controversial KOMO-TV special and championed by some online groups, had a bark worse than its bite. Ari Hoffman in District 2 and Pat Murakami in District 3, who carried that banner, didn’t clear the primary. “That message might be popular across the region and the country, but it just didn’t vibe with what life is like in Seattle,” Fincher said.
• Real-estate project manager Michael George garnered only 9% of the District 7 vote in the initial results despite being endorsed by the Chamber and the local Sierra Club and recommended by the advocacy group Speak Out Seattle. His campaign may not have resonated outside his downtown neighborhood, in Magnolia and Queen Anne. Not grabbing a Times endorsement also hurt, said Michael Charles, a political consultant who worked with George.
• School-board member Zachary DeWolf and scientist Emily Myers likewise disappointed and won’t advance, despite major support from the Labor Council and citywide Councilmembers M. Lorena González and Teresa Mosqueda. The Labor Council, which includes the union representing Seattle police officers, bet on DeWolf and Myers to beat Sawant and Scott in District 3 and District 4, respectively. Neither wager paid off, and now the Labor Council must decide whether to back the socialists, make common cause with the Chamber or move to the sidelines. “The police union is obviously unhappy with Sawant,” who voted against a new contract last year, Queary said.
• All three incumbents hurdled the primary, including District 5’s Debora Juarez (four sitting council members declined to seek re-election). But each will have to battle over the next months to retain their seats. Sawant had the lowest vote percentage among the incumbents and is clearly vulnerable but also had the most viable challengers. Herbold had the highest vote percentage but only two challengers.
• Seattle’s innovative democracy vouchers helped encourage dozens of candidates to run in the primary, including many who said they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Scott relied heavily on the taxpayer-funded vouchers and is still in the mix. But it remains to be seen whether his blueprint can deliver a general-election win in a compelling District 4 contest between a 34-year-old urbanist Democratic Socialist renter (Scott) against a wonky 50-year-old moderate Democratic homeowner (Pedersen).
• Seattle voter turnout may not break 50%, according to King County Elections. But the percentage should be higher in November, when more voters are in town and paying attention. That means candidates will be competing to pick up new supporters, including college students.
These are the candidates positioned to move ahead to the general election:
• District 1: Lisa Herbold (incumbent) and Phillip Tavel
• District 2: Tammy Morales and Mark Solomon
• District 3: Kshama Sawant (incumbent) and Egan Orion
• District 4: Alex Pedersen and Shaun Scott
• District 5: Debora Juarez (incumbent) and Ann Davison Sattler
• District 6: Dan Strauss and Heidi Wills
• District 7: Andrew Lewis and Jim Pugel