Politics
Pins supporting councilmember Kshama Sawant are shown on Sunday, August 4, 2019, at Pratt Park in Seattle.
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Pins supporting councilmember Kshama Sawant are shown on Sunday, August 4, 2019, at Pratt Park in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Trends we noticed on primary election night in Seattle …

The first batch of primary election results dropped on Tuesday night, and we’re noticing some trends. Top two candidates advance to the general election in November.

1.

Seattle Times versus the Stranger.

This one smacked us in the face.

The two leading candidates in almost every city council race were endorsed by either the Stranger, the alternative weekly in Seattle, well known for its bold, lefty endorsements, or by the Seattle Times, which skews conservative.

Given that there were 55 candidates for Seattle City Council, it would seem these endorsements carry weight.

The Seattle Times’ cheat sheet was in near lockstep with the Chamber of Commerce endorsements. (The chamber is, unsurprisingly, pro-business.) One exception: The chamber endorsed incumbent Debora Juarez in District 5, same as the Stranger.

The two leading candidates also tended to be on opposite ends of Seattle’s political spectrum. (In Seattle, politics are shades of blue, although some hew more purple.)

Kshama Sawant, the socialist incumbent from District 3, addressed this at the podium on Tuesday night.

"Big business hates us because we are effective and we get things done," she said.

She asked her supporters to unite around rent control, the city’s green new deal, and against corporate political action committees, which can raise any amount of money for candidates.

Sawant blasted Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, saying that she’s the one who gives him nightmares. She called former Councilmember Tim Burgess his “lieutenant.”

Burgess, who left the council last year, helped to form a political action committee aimed at unseating his liberal colleagues.

“The campaign for the Seattle City Council this year is really a battle between these two wings of the liberal or progressive side of the political spectrum,” Burgess told KUOW last week.

(Scroll all the way down this post to see what we mean; we listed the two leading candidates and who endorsed them.)

FILE: Olivia Blanchard, 4, drops a ballot into the ballot drop box outside of the Seattle Public Library on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Ballard.
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FILE: Olivia Blanchard, 4, drops a ballot into the ballot drop box outside of the Seattle Public Library on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Ballard.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

2.

Seattle has waaaay more voters than in 2015, when residents first voted for city council representation by district.

Seattle has 55,000 more voters than four years ago — that’s a mid-sized city of voters getting smooshed into our city limits.

Nowhere is this voter increase more pronounced than in District 2, south Seattle, which saw a 19 percent increase in registered voters since 2015.

Voter turnout was more impressive this primary election, too: 36 percent of registered King County voters are expected to vote, compared with 25 percent who voted in the primary four years ago.

3.

The legend of Larry Gossett…

County councilmember Larry Gossett is a Seattle institution. First elected in 1992, he has coasted into his county council seat since.

But this year, Gossett, 74, faces a serious challenger in Girmay Zahilay, a 32-year-old attorney who moved to the U.S. from Sudan when he was 3. The results were unexpected: Gossett got 39 percent of the first returns, compared to Zahilay’s 52 percent.

In the Seattle Times, David Gutman wrote: “[Gossett’s] vote margins over the years — 84%, 100%, 100%, 100%, 80%, 98%, 98%, 98% — look more like the grades of an excellent student than what they actually are — Gossett’s overwhelming victories in each of his general elections.”

Seattle city council candidate in the 6th district Heidi Wills, center, smiles at her campaign manager, Alex Wenman, right, after the first election results came in on Tuesday, August 6, 2019, at Hales Ales in Seattle.
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Seattle city council candidate in the 6th district Heidi Wills, center, smiles at her campaign manager, Alex Wenman, right, after the first election results came in on Tuesday, August 6, 2019, at Hales Ales in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer


4.

Is homelessness being used as a wedge issue?

Timothy Harris, director of Real Change street newspaper in Seattle, told KUOW reporter Kate Walters that the consensus among his peers is that homelessness is being used as a “divisive wedge issue that prays on fear and disgust around what people are seeing on our streets to effect a conservative realignment of the city council that favors wealth, favors developers, favors the Chamber.”

Harris continued: “That’s not to say that the dysfunction people are seeing on our streets isn’t real, and that we don’t need solutions to that.”

In District 5, Ann Davison Sattler, who was in second place on Tuesday, posted a video of herself on Facebook in front of a tiny tent encampment, saying that the parks must be accessible to all. She said residents had experienced "aggressive behavior, verbal abuse" from people living there.

Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle/King County coalition on homelessness, concurred, and noted that President Trump has recently started mentioning homelessness in his tweets …

“I believe that there is a clear strategy among extreme right-wing conservative national strategy setters to take this issue and deploy it as a wedge issue at the national and local level,” Eisinger said.

“And I think that there are plenty of people, whether they are doing this wittingly or not at the local level, who are playing into that strategy.”

To our earlier point, here it is distilled:

City Council District 1 (West Seattle)

Lisa Herbold (incumbent): 48% (STRANGER)

Phil Tavel: 34% (SEATTLE TIMES/CHAMBER)

City Council District 2 (South Seattle)

Tammy Morales: 45% (STRANGER)

Mark Solomon: 24% (SEATTLE TIMES/CHAMBER)

City Council District 3 (Capitol Hill)

Kshama Sawant (incumbent): 33% (STRANGER)

Egon Orion: 24% (SEATTLE TIMES/CHAMBER)

City Council District 4 (Fremont/University District)

Shaun Scott: 19% (STRANGER)

Alex Pedersen: 45% (SEATTLE TIMES/CHAMBER)

City Council District 5 (North Seattle)

Debora Juarez (incumbent): 42% (STRANGER/CHAMBER)

Ann Davison Sattler: 28% (SEATTLE TIMES)

City Council District 6 (Ballard)

Dan Strauss: 31% (STRANGER)

Heidi Wills: 23% (SEATTLE TIMES/CHAMBER)

City Council District 7 (Magnolia)

Andrew J. Lewis: 29% (STRANGER)

Jim Pugel: 26% (SEATTLE TIMES/CHAMBER)

Kate Walters, Amy Radil, and Brandi Fullwood contributed reporting.