Insiders were supposed to be out, and outsiders in. But voters suddenly got a little moderate. The top two finishers in the primary will advance to the Nov. 7 general election, with issues such as homelessness, housing costs and police reform teed up for debate.
It looks like the revolution may have to wait awhile.
Progressives looking to radicalize Seattle politics and Democrats hoping to ride anti-Trump passions in the suburbs each ran into stiffer winds of moderation than expected in Tuesday’s top-two primary election.
The centrist candidate for Seattle mayor, former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, was easily besting the 21-candidate field — despite all the perceived momentum for more insurgent anti-establishment figures such as Seattle Peoples Party activist Nikkita Oliver.
It isn’t yet clear who Durkan’s opponent in November’s general election will be (the primary is to choose two candidates to head to a general-election runoff, and vote-counting will continue all week). But Durkan now is the heavy favorite to be the next Seattle mayor, regardless.
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There was a sense restless voters might turn on insider Democrats like Durkan, and instead go outside the traditional party system altogether. But third-party candidates were lagging a bit. In an open seat for City Council, Democratic Socialist Jon Grant was running behind newcomer Teresa Mosqueda (a more traditional labor-backed Democrat), even though Grant has run for the seat before.
Both Grant and Oliver were endorsed by the city’s socialist councilmember, Kshama Sawant, and hailed along with her as an emerging anti-corporate, pro-rent control, anti-police “independent left.” Both still have a chance to make it to the general election. But voters appeared to be saying to the movement: Not so fast.
More evidence of not-so-fastism: Voters were turning down King County’s proposed $469 million sales tax for arts and culture.
It was the kind of feel-good, do-right taxing measure that almost always passes around here. Who isn’t for the arts? Plus the big arts institutions in town raised $1.7 million for their campaign, against no organized opposition.
But maybe generous voters finally are wearying of the endless roulette of tax levies floated by local leaders. So many levies have been approved, maybe the politicians started to take your “yes” votes for granted.
Or maybe voters just thought: The arts? Don’t we have more urgent crises to attend to, such as homelessness and opioid abuse and affordable housing?
Out in the suburbs, the Republican party has been dwindling to an endangered species. Now, in the age of Trump, Democrats have been giddy that the stage is set for voters to drive the GOP completely extinct.
But Republican incumbents were running comfortably ahead — by 13-point and 17-point margins — for two legislative seats in southeast King County’s 31st District. Democrats had been hoping those seats would be more vulnerable as part of a Trump backlash.
The good news for Democrats is that state Senate candidate Manka Dhingra was running first in the Eastside’s superheated 45th District campaign. Her margin over Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund was good — 8 percentage points — but not so strong that there won’t be a multimillion-dollar slugfest for the seat in November.
If Dhingra wins in the fall, Democrats would take control of the state Senate — giving the party command of every state legislative body on the West Coast, as well as all the governorships. Already Republicans have poured $2 million into trying to save that seat, and it’s only the primary.
Democrats clearly have the upper hand to win it. But the vote results Tuesday carried a warning on its winds of moderation.
It’s this: Voters are discerning. They pick and choose. They maybe aren’t quite as revved up for a full-on revolution as the social-media hype suggests.
Most important, and this is the liberal Achilles’ heel right now (I suffer from it myself): Everything is not always all about Trump.