The first results from the general election are in. Voter turnout was low, and none of the predicted “waves” came to fruition. But urbanists came out ahead with a solid majority on the Council and a new transportation levy.
Seattle City Council
District 1: Shannon Braddock has a 6-point lead over Lisa Herbold. Braddock, the chief of staff for King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, was pegged as the establishment candidate in the race, garnering the endorsement of The Seattle Times and independent expenditures from business groups. Herbold, the 17-year legislative aide to outgoing lefty City Councilmember Nick Licata, was pegged as the populist candidate, winning the endorsement of The Stranger and often compared with Kshama Sawant and Jon Grant. In the primary, the two were neck-and neck, but Herbold ended with a two-point lead. Her supporters are looking for a bigger swing for her to pull ahead this time.
District 2: Incumbent Bruce Harrell has a 10-point lead over challenger and food-activist Tammy Morales. Morales showed a marked gain from the primary, growing from 24.66% to 44.93%, and will likely continue to grow as more results come in. A mere 800 votes currently separate the candidates. But this district had the lowest turnout by far, with only 25.8% of ballots returned.
District 3: Socialist incumbent Kshama Sawant defeated Urban League Executive Director Pamela Banks in the tightest race of the night, though the margin is likely to widen as late ballots favor Sawant. During her 2013 upset against incumbent Richard Conlin, Sawant was losing on election night and went on to win by 1.7%. This race was the most expensive, beating out city-wide Position 8 (Burgess vs Grant). Sawant received $441k in contributors, to Banks’ $384k. It also saw the highest voter turnout of 32.77%.
District 4: This district featured the two premiere urbanist candidates of any race, Rob Johnson and Michael Maddux. Johnson, currently the Executive Director of Transportation Choices Coalition, has a 10-point lead over Democratic activist Maddux. The race stood out for its civility between the two candidates, who were often pictured laughing together and carpooling to interviews. Maddux was the only openly LGBT candidate to make it to the general. Johnson will go on to replace Jean Godden, the only incumbent to lose her bid for re-election.
District 5: Debora Juarez has a commanding 26% lead over Sandy Brown, who was considered the candidate to beat early on. Juarez will be the first Native councilmember in Seattle history, representing the Blackfeet Nation. Notably, Juarez picked up endorsements from five of six opponents who did not make it through the primary.
District 6: Incumbent and kayaktivist Mike O’Brien beat out neighborhood activist Catherine Weatbrook with an 18-point lead. The Seattle Times notably declined to endorse in this race during the primary, only to backtrack and endorse Weatbrook for the general. But O’Brien’s support remained virtually untouched, matching his 58% showing on the night of the primary. O’Brien is considered part of the left-wing of the Council, along with Sawant and outgoing Licata. This district saw the second-highest voter turnout of 31.67%
District 7: Sally Bagshaw came out with the widest margin of any race — a resounding 60 points — against her opponent Deborah Zech-Artis, who surprised many by skating past fellow challenger Gus Hartmann in the primary. Representing the distinct voices of both Downtown and Magnolia/Queen Anne, Bagshaw is currently one of the safest urbanist votes on the Council.
Position 8 (city-wide): City Council President Tim Burgess beat out challenger Jon Grant, former Executive Director of the Tenant’s Union. Burgess was considered by some to be the weakest incumbent to make it through the primary, though he currently enjoys a 16-point lead. This race was rocked by a recent scandal involving a developer allegedly blackmailing Grant over a lawsuit, offering to make a $200k independent expenditure “go away”. The second most expensive race after District 3, Burgess outspent Grant $391k to $75k.
Position 9 (city-wide): Attorney Lorena Gonzalez beat neighborhood activist Bill Bradburd by 52 points, making it the second-largest spread of the evening. Gonzalez, a former Murray legal staffer, will be the first Latin@ on the Council. This race was largely seen as a bellwether for urbanists vs slow-growth candidates, with urbanist Gonzalez seeing a clear victory and expanding her primary showing by 10 points. Gonzalez will be the first to take her seat on the Council, after Sally Clark resigned from the seat earlier this year. John Okamoto was appointed to serve until the general election results are certified on November 24th.
Proposition 1, known as “The Transportation Levy to Move Seattle,” won a decisive victory, earning 56.53% of the vote. Supporters became concerned as opponents (namely, one rich resident) poured heavy expenditures into the final weeks of the campaign. But this appeared to be too little too late. The measure replaces and expands upon the expiring Bridging the Gap Levy and will fund a multitude of transportation projects across the city, including seven new RapidRide+ lines, 50 miles of protected bike lanes, and safe routes to school at every public school in the City.
Initiative 122, known as “Honest Elections,” also saw a strong showing with 60% of the vote. Hailed by some as a national model for public campaign finance reform, the measure will create a “democracy voucher” system, providing $100 in vouchers for voters to donate. It also included a number of anti-corruption measures, like prohibiting politicians from lobbying the City shortly after leaving office.
It was another great night for urbanists. At least six of our endorsed candidates won their respective race, with District 1 still too close to call. Most importantly, the anti-growth activists saw resounding defeats in District 6, 7, and 9. Indeed, these three races saw the largest margins of the night (18-points, 60-points, and 52-points respectively).
We will see the first female majority since 1998 with five women winning their seats, including Shannon Braddock (D1), Kshama Sawant (D3), Debora Juarez (D5), Sally Bagshaw (D7), and Lorena Gonzalez (P9). There was a potential for as few as three and as many as seven women to win. There are currently just
two three women on Council (Jean Godden, Kshama Sawant, and Sally Bagshaw) after Sally Clark stepped down earlier this year.
We will also see four people of color on Council, including the first Latin@ and Native councilmembers, up from three currently on the Council. These include Bruce Harrell (D2), Kshama Sawant (D3), Debora Juarez (D5), and Lorena Gonzalez (P9). Seven candidates of color made it through the primary, but were spread across just four races — with three races being exclusively between people of color, including Districts 2, 3, and 5.
For the first time since 2003, there will be no out LGBT councilmembers on Council. Sally Clark stepped down earlier this year and Tom Rasmussen declined to seek reelection. Michael Maddux, a gay father, was the only LGBT candidate to make it through the primary. Only two of the original 47 candidates were LGBT, including Rod Hearne in District 3.
The Populist wave didn’t come to fruition. Only Socialist Kshama Sawant was able to prevail. Populist challengers including Lisa Herbold (D1), Tammy Morales (D2), Michael Maddux (D4), and Jon Grant (P8), were all unsuccessful, though as noted earlier, D1 could still flip.
Neither did we see an anti-incumbent wave, as some predicted would come with the new districted system. All five of the incumbents who made it to the general were re-elected, including Bruce Harrell (D2), Kshama Sawant (D3), Mike O’Brien (D6), Sally Bagshaw (D7), and Tim Burgess (P8). Admittedly, three incumbents chose not to run (Sally Clark, Nick Licata, and Tom Rasmussen), and one incumbent ran and lost during the primary (Jean Godden). After the dust is settled, we will still have a majority incumbent Council.
The famed “levy fatigue” was also absent tonight, with voters approving three tax increases: Move Seattle, Honest Elections, and the King County Best Starts for Kids measure to fund early intervention and prevention programs for kids in poverty. King County voters also turned their noses to Tim Eyman’s I-1366, an attempt to force the legislature into passing a constitutional amendment enshrining a 2/3 requirement for all new revenue. Though the measure is passing handedly state-wide, it may not survive review by the Washington State Supreme Court.
The Seattle Times beat out The Stranger, with seven of their endorsed candidates winning tonight, compared to just five victories for The Stranger. Though it’s difficult to determine the effect these endorsements have on voting patterns, it may reveal who has a better pulse on the Seattle electorate.
Finally, Democrats will now enjoy a 6-3 majority on the King County Council as former Bellevue Mayor Claudia Balducci unseats 21-year incumbent Jane Hague. State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles also won, replacing the outgoing Democrat Larry Phillips.