On Tuesday night, Seattle Times reporters and photographers fanned out across Seattle and King County to report on election-night results and celebrations from Bellevue to West Seattle. Below you’ll find their dispatches from the field.
The top of the scorecard so far:
- Seattle City Council District 3: Egan Orion leads Kshama Sawant
- King County Council: Girmay Zahilay leads Larry Gossett
- Washington voters are favoring $30 car tabs
- Voters appear to be narrowly rejecting affirmative action with Referendum 88
Incumbents lead in Bellevue City Council race
In Bellevue, City Council incumbents were leading in early results, with candidate Jeremy Barksdale ahead in the only open seat on the council.
Barksdale is running against Stephanie Walter for the Position 3 seat.
Barksdale said Tuesday night he looked forward to “keeping Bellevue affordable and engaging the community and modernizing the city.”
Incumbent councilmembers Janice Zahn, John Stokes and Jennifer Robertson are running for their second, third and fourth terms, respectively, and had strong leads over their opponents in Tuesday’s count.
Early results indicate voters may reject reinstating affirmative action
Voters were rejecting Referendum 88 by a thin margin in Tuesday night’s vote count, indicating that Washingtonians may not ultimately support affirmative action.
With most counties reporting results, 51% of voters were rejecting the referendum. The election-night count is not final, however, and supporters of affirmative action hope the results will shift in their direction as more votes are counted in the coming days.
Votes counted in King, Jefferson, San Juan and Whatcom counties Tuesday tipped toward reinstating affirmative action, while those in Pierce, Snohomish, Clark and Thurston counties — and Eastern Washington — went the other way.
Girmay Zahilay celebrates big lead over longtime King County Councilmember Larry Gossett
When Girmay Zahilay found out he was leading in Tuesday’s vote results against incumbent Larry Gossett for King County Council, he went on stage at Rumba Notes Lounge and thanked his mother.
To a crowd of supporters gathered in the Columbia City venue, the 32-year-old recounted growing up in poverty, at one point living in a homeless shelter. He said his mother, Abebe Anagaw, would sneak in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because he didn’t like the food there.
Now, Zahilay is poised to take over the seat that has belonged to Gossett since the 1990s. Gossett had never received less than 80% of the vote in a general election, but as of Tuesday night, he had received only 43%.
In another highly contested County Council race, Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles defeated challenger Abigail Doerr with 73% of the vote tallied Tuesday.
King County Council candidate Girmay Zahilay stands by stage waiting for polls to close, hugs staffer Joyce Bruce, and has his mother grab his head to kiss it. Full election results: https://t.co/qLoVHoID36 Live coverage: https://t.co/tk1SOrc4ZN @seattletimes #waelex pic.twitter.com/ChO702e7vG
— Ken Lambert (@SeaTimesFotoKen) November 6, 2019
Gossett said he wasn’t totally surprised. In the primary election, Zahilay won by more than 19 percentage points.
At Emerald City Community Church in the Central District, Gossett said he would continue to be involved in working for social change, even if he isn’t on the council. He said he’s working on a memoir and has considered teaching African-American history.
Seattle Times reporters David Gutman, Sydney Brownstone and Nina Shapiro contributed to this post.
In Medina, voters split on property tax increase
In Medina, a property-tax measure that would increase the city’s levy rate was trailing by just four votes in Tuesday’s early election results.
The city, which counts billionaires Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos as residents, is projecting a $500,000 deficit in 2020 without a hike in property-tax revenue.
The city’s preliminary plan if the measure isn’t passed is to eliminate marine patrol, seasonal lifeguards and seasonal public-work employees.
Sawant trails, other incumbents lead in early Seattle City Council election results
Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant is trailing behind challenger Egan Orion, while two other incumbents were leading in initial results Tuesday night.
Sawant was behind with 46% against Orion, while Lisa Herbold was ahead with 51% against Phil Tavel and Debora Juarez was up with 57% against Ann Davison Sattler.
In Seattle’s four other council contests, Tammy Morales, Alex Pedersen, Dan Strauss and Jim Pugel were ahead in early results. Morales and Pedersen were up by larger margins, while Strauss and Pugel led more narrowly.
Additional votes will be tallied in the coming days and more progressive candidates tend to gain ground as additional votes are tallied. In a speech at her election-night party at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, Sawant said it was a good sign ballot boxes were jammed full Tuesday morning.
“Those of you with us in 2013 will remember what happened,” Sawant said, recalling her comeback against Richard Conlin, in which late votes erased a sizable deficit to win her a council seat.
On Capitol Hill, Orion told a boisterous crowd of supporters that Sawant has an advantage with late voters. But he said his 8-point plus lead is enough to hold.
“I’m feeling 90 percent confident in where we are right now,” he said. “I think this is a steep hill for her to climb.”
Asked if he thought the last minute infusion of Amazon cash into council races pushed him over the top, he replied: “I think it took a few points away from me. We didn’t need any more money in this race. I think it was a big distraction that played right into Kshama’s hands.”
In West Seattle, city councilmember Lisa Herbold said she felt exhilarated at the early results and that she’d continue addressing homelessness on the council.
“There is always uncertainty, but traditionally votes run progressive after election night,” she said.
Tavel hopes the late votes work in his favor, as he said he reached many West Seattle residents who don’t usually vote in local elections.
District 7 candidate Lewis said he’s cautiously optimistic, as his opponent Pugel is leading by a small margin. Unite Here Local 8, a union representing hotel workers, chanted “si se puede” for Lewis at his election-night party.
There weren’t big cheers at Pugel’s election party, with the results coming in so close Tuesday night. His campaign manager, Ilani Nurick said they knew it would be a “nail biter.”
Seattle Times reporters Daniel Beekman, Evan Bush, Hannah Furfaro, Lewis Kamb, Neal Morton and Scott Greenstone contributed to this post.
Voters like $30 car tabs
Washington state voters were favoring Initiative 976 to cut car-tab taxes in Tuesday’s election results. The initiative was leading with about 54.5% of the vote in favor.
I-976 would lower the cost of vehicle registration for drivers across Washington state by capping many annual state vehicle license fees at $30.
The measure was the latest effort of perennial initiative sponsor Tim Eyman, who hoped to tap into taxpayer frustration over car-tab costs
Eyman declared victory at 7:45 p.m., before the polls even closed. “We already know how it’s going to turn out,” he said.
A sober but not panicked mood prevailed at the anti-976 party, in Seattle’s Chinatown International District, where a projected map showed only four counties — King, Whatcom, Jefferson and San Juan — where a majority voted no.
“It’s too early to call,” said Alex Hudson, executive director of the Transportation Choices Coalition, a nonprofit backed by members, transit agencies and contractors.
She guessed the tide would turn as later votes are counted. “We know from past trends these votes are going to be more progressive,” she said.
Initial election results are in
Tuesday vote results show Seattle City Council incumbent Kshama Sawant and longtime King County Councilmember Larry Gossett trailing their challengers, with other City Council incumbents positioned to win reelection.
In other races:
- Voters are favoring Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976 to cut car-tab taxes
- Leslie Harris, Liza Rankin and Chandra Hampson led in their races for the Seattle School Board
- Incumbents on Bellevue City Council were leading in early returns
The results are not final, as they do not include ballots that are still in the mail or were turned in to drop boxes today.
A list of tonight’s results can be found here.
Tim Eyman gives victory speech before voting even closes
At an election-night party for supporters of an initiative to cut car-tab fees to $30, initiative sponsor Tim Eyman said he won’t be watching the polls.
“Why would I do that?” he said. “We already know how it’s going to turn out.”
The anti-tax crusader gave a victory speech at 7:45 p.m., a quarter-hour before voting closed.
Opponents have argued that if the initiative is approved, it will cause havoc as agencies fight to backfill funding cuts. City officials across the state said the initiative could seriously slash their budgets for projects including paving, pothole repair and sidewalk construction.
Larry Gossett reflects on his long career and eyes the future
Supporters of Larry Gossett are waiting to see if the civil-rights trailblazer’s decades-long career on the King County Council will come to an end, as he faces 32-year-old attorney Girmay Zahilay.
At Emerald City Community Church, the councilmember said the primary election results were a wake-up call. Gossett had never received less than 80% of the vote in a general election, but only got 37% in the primary.
Gossett said the primary election results woke him up — he realized that not everyone in D2 knew his story. The neighborhoods had gentrified, and white millennials didn’t know who he was. pic.twitter.com/w8a8rHQJN3
— Sydney Brownstone (@sydbrownstone) November 6, 2019
Gossett sees the results as a sign of gentrification in his district. He brought a printout of his FBI file from when he was a founding member of the Seattle Black Panther Party to the event and showed mugshots from when he was arrested after a sit-in at Franklin High School.
In Columbia City, where Zahilay’s supporters are gathered at Rumba Notes Lounge, 53-year-old Freddie Harris was a generation older than many of the people who turned out to the event. Harris, who grew up in the Central District, said he admires Gossett but thinks “his time is just up.”
Disco lights and a DJ at Girmay Zahilay’s #waelex party, at Columbia City’s Rumba Notes Lounge. Zahilay says he’s ready to sing with the crowd at the end of the night. https://t.co/6g0vUk8eyk pic.twitter.com/AmQmk25OdU
— Nina Shapiro (@NinaShapiro) November 6, 2019
Before he made his decision, Harris said he emailed both Gossett and Zahilay. Harris goes into prisons to counsel inmates, and he wanted to know where the candidates stood on giving opportunities and mental health support to those reentering society.
Gossett didn’t reply, but Zahilay sent him a response quickly, he said. They went out to lunch and Harris said the young candidate was open to addressing the issue.
“I couldn’t do anything but tell him he had my vote,” Harris said.
Another supporter, 30-year-old Aaron Sherman, said he’s excited about the candidate because, “It’s the millennial’s turn.”
Back at Emerald City Community Church, Gossett said he needed to change with the times in some ways.
After some talking with supporters, he also just noted to me that he needs to stop calling women “baby” because times have changed. “I’m an intellectual so I’ve got to learn,” he said. #waelex
— Sydney Brownstone (@sydbrownstone) November 6, 2019
Seattle Times reporters Sydney Brownstone and Nina Shapiro contributed to this post.
Seattle City Council District 3 contenders are both upbeat
In the most closely watched Seattle City Council race — Councilmember Kshama Sawant vs. challenger Egan Orion, a small-business advocate — both sides are feeling confident.
At his election-night event at the Sole Repair Shop on Capitol Hill, Orion said he’s not afraid of potential backlash to Amazon’s backing of him, including its recent $1 million injection into the local elections.
“You never know what that last bomb that was dropped will do to the electorate,” he said, with bass pumping behind him.
Nearby, at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in the Central District, Sawant’s supporters were standing behind the incumbent.
Millie Kennedy, who is scheduled to speak at the event, said Sawant has been a “powerful advocate” for Native Americans and Alaska Natives.
Sawant’s staff said they’re proud of the campaign they’ve run against the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s political-action committee, which has used contributions from developers and corporations, including Amazon, to try to push Sawant out of office.
District 3 voters may have been annoyed by the Sawant campaign’s relentless door-knocking and tabling, said campaign manager Chris Gray, but the councilmember was going up against “piles” of mailers and digital ads.
I’m at the @VoteSawant election party where campaign staff/ volunteers are getting things set up. No shortage of red posters decorating Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute. Kicks off at 7. #waelex pic.twitter.com/5mjsiIY1y2
— Evan Bush (@evanbush) November 6, 2019
Seattle Times reporters Evan Bush and Lewis Kamb contributed to this post.
Get to the ballot drop box soon, if you want to vote
Long lines have been reported at the Capitol Hill drop box at Seattle Central College. As long as you’re in line by 8 p.m. sharp, you’ll be able to drop off your ballot, according to King County Elections.
Less than 40% of ballots had been returned in each of the seven Seattle City Council races as of 6 p.m., according to King County Elections.
— Daniel Beekman (@DBeekman) November 6, 2019
To learn more about the candidates and issues on the ballot, take a look at The Seattle Times Voter Guide.
Still haven’t registered? You can do that, too, at elections offices around the state.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz votes
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who contemplated an independent presidential run earlier this year before scrapping it in September, has voted.
Schultz, a Seattle resident and voter, received a round of criticism after launching his proto-campaign in January, when a Seattle Times column revealed that he had voted in just 11 of the preceding 38 elections. Schultz then again failed to vote less than a month later, skipping last February’s Seattle school-levy election.
“It would have been great to vote in every election, and I commend all of the Seattleites who have a 100% voting record. I didn’t vote in every local election, but I am proud of Sheri’s and my civic record in this community,” Schultz said at the time, referring to his wife.
But Schultz, who said in September that an independent campaign posed too great a risk of helping to reelect President Donald Trump, voted this time, according to county records.
110 brand new voters in King County
This is the first year Washington has allowed same-day voter registration, which about 110 King County residents made use of by 3 p.m. today, according to King County Elections.
Online registration closed on Oct. 28, but registration has continued at county elections offices. Since the end of online registration, 366 people registered in King County.
In King County, you can register at elections offices in Renton, downtown Seattle or at a vote center through 8 p.m., when voting closes. Offices in other counties can be found on the Secretary of State website.
As of 3 pm today, we have registered 110 new voters just TODAY! And 366 since online registration closed on 10/28. We are so happy to have same-day registration to make it possible for our voters to make their voices heard!
— King Co Elections (@kcelections) November 6, 2019
Seattle's billionaires have sent in their ballots
Billionaire King County residents Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos have both sent in their ballots, according to state records.
The world’s two wealthiest men have homes in Medina, which hopes to fix a projected budget shortfall with a measure that would increase the city’s levy rate.
Voters at drop boxes tell us who they voted for — and why
At drop boxes around Seattle, some voters cited Amazon’s record spending in local elections as a factor in how they picked candidates, while others said they wanted to change a council that they see as increasingly combative and unable to compromise.
On Capitol Hill, voters who visited a drop box at Seattle Central College said they had trouble deciding between Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant and challenger Egan Orion.
Patrick Heard, an eight-year Seattle resident, said he left the bubble for that race empty at first, because he couldn’t decide who to vote for. He said he liked Sawant’s policies but ultimately decided to vote for Orion, whom he feels is more approachable and able to compromise with others.
Maxwell Parsons, a tech worker who moved to Seattle from the Bay Area four months ago, went the other way. He said he “hated” both candidates but voted for Sawant, solely because Orion had the support of the Amazon-backed Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.
In the Central District, some voters outside Garfield Community Center said they were most invested in the race between King County Councilmember Larry Gossett and attorney Girmay Zahilay. Dominique Dinish said she hoped Gossett would be able to make a comeback from the primary election, in which Zahilay received 55% of votes.
Dinish, who has lived in the Central District for 50 years, said she can understand why some people might want a newcomer to address the rapid growth the neighborhood has seen. But she said Gossett has a proven track record.
“He’s still a champion for the black community,” Dinish said. “He’s always been one to speak for us.”
In the University District, dozens of college students stopped by a drop box between lunch spots on University Way Northeast and classes on the University of Washington campus.
Conventional wisdom says Seattle City Council District 4 candidate Shaun Scott needs young people and renters to turn out in droves in order to edge past Alex Pedersen, who dominated in the primary election in neighborhoods populated by older homeowners.
Erica Jonlin, a 59-year-old UW employee who rode her bike to the drop box, said she went with Scott because she believes he’ll prioritize cyclists and because he worked hard for her vote, visiting her home several times.
Murphy Bush, a 22-year-old graduate student studying public policy, said picking a candidate wasn’t easy, especially with Amazon “influencing” the election by backing Pedersen. He ultimately went with Pedersen, though, expecting his “moderate” voice to add balance to the council.
Bernie Sanders campaign texts support for Seattle council candidates, and again rips Amazon spending
Seattle’s City Council elections have been drawing national attention, largely due to record-setting spending by Amazon. Democratic Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren weighed in last month, criticizing Amazon’s efforts.
Sanders’ campaign followed up with an Election Day text in support of four progressive council candidates he’s endorsed, though the text garbled the name of council member Lisa Herbold.
Bernie Sanders camp now texting in support of Seattle City Council candidates.
— Heidi Groover (@heidigroover) November 5, 2019
King County voter turnout lags expectations so far
Voter turnout in King County is lagging expectations, according to county elections officials.
King County Elections has projected 43% turnout countywide, but ballots so far have been coming in lighter than expected, said Halei Watkins, an elections spokeswoman.
It remains to be seen whether that’s a sign of relative disinterest — or procrastination.
Watkins said elections workers this morning received about 10,000 more ballots in the mail than expected, and drop box sites have been busy, requiring elections workers to schedule extra pickups Tuesday in Ballard, Capitol Hill and outside the King County Administration building downtown.
Seattle turnout typically runs 4 to 6 percentage points higher than the county as a whole, Watkins said.
A 43% countywide turnout would match 2017’s figure. Turnout that year in Seattle reached 49% driven by the mayoral contest in which Jenny Durkan defeated Cary Moon.
Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s office is not making a prediction for statewide turnout: “I gave my Magic 8 Ball away a long time ago…” she said in a statement. However, she said based on past experience about half of the ballots are returned the week of the election.
All in favor say 'Woof'
About 62,000 ballots arrived via mail early Tuesday morning, the King County Elections office tweeted at 7:30 a.m. “That’s 9,000 more than we have projected for this haul. Keep ’em coming, King County! 12.5 more hours to make your voice heard!”
In typical Seattle fashion, dogs and rock stars are doing their part to promote voting on Twitter.
— Mike McCready (@MikeMcCreadyPJ) November 4, 2019
Just dropped off my ballot, so here's a friendly reminder from Gromit to go vote! pic.twitter.com/qfyvMK7Icx
— Adam Wesley (@adambwesley) November 5, 2019
Spokane, apparently, prefers cats.
Coast is clear on Capitol Hill
As of noon, there’s still room in the popular ballot drop box at Seattle Central College on Capitol Hill, which was emptied around 10 a.m. after quickly filling up.
Ballot boxes reportedly filling up; Sawant campaign calls for extended drop box hours despite state law
Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s re-election campaign is asking the King County Elections Board to change the deadline for ballot drop boxes from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. after reporting that a ballot box at Seattle Central College is “so full that voters are trying to cram in their ballots. King County Elections have a truck on the way, but we’re also urging them to extend their hours.”
The campaign’s Twitter account also urged its followers to call the elections office and “demand an extension of all drop box hours.”
The King County Elections Twitter account responded, “We love that y’all are excited about voting BUT it’s state law that drop boxes close at 8pm sharp.”
The elections office confirmed it sent a team to empty the Seattle Central drop box after these reports, in addition to three pickups already scheduled for that box throughout the day. The box was emptied around 10 a.m., the elections staff tweeted.
“High-traffic boxes have 2-3 regularly scheduled pickups today but we have extra teams deploying out as needed,” the elections office wrote in a separate tweet. A box at the King County Administration Building in downtown Seattle also filled up quickly Tuesday morning, according to elections staff.
Neighborhood news blog MyBallard reported Tuesday morning that its readers are saying the Ballard Library drop box “is (as usual) overflowing.” About 2,000 ballots were picked up from that box by 7:45 a.m.
Drop boxes have been open for three weeks, but a surge in ballot returns on Election Day is common. Voters can report full drop boxes at 206-296-8683.
Key races to watch
In Seattle, all eyes are on seven district City Council races that are playing out as a gut-check on how the city’s leaders are handling an unprecedented period of growth and its impacts, from a housing-affordability crisis to homelessness and traffic congestion. A flood of spending by business and union-backed PACs have made the contests the most expensive in city history, due in large part to Amazon’s record-setting donations of $1.5 million to the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s political arm.
In one of the most watched races, District 3 Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant, the avowed socialist known for anti-Amazon rhetoric and her role in helping achieve a $15 minimum wage, is fighting to overcome a poor primary election showing and beat challenger Egan Orion, an LGBTQ leader and small-business advocate whose candidacy has been backed by more than $617,000 in PAC spending.
Voters will revisit a long-running debate about car-tab fees, and weigh whether to cut them to a flat $30 as proposed by Tim Eyman-sponsored Initiative 976. If approved, opponents warn I-976 would slash billions of dollars dedicated to expanding Sound Transit’s light rail, as well as other transportation projects across the state.
Another statewide ballot measure will decide the fate of affirmative-action programs in Washington. The Legislature earlier this year passed Initiative 1000, which tossed out a two-decade-old voter-approved ban on affirmative action in hiring, contracting and education. On Referendum 88, a vote to “approve” Initiative 1000 reinstates affirmative action; a vote to “reject” reinstates the ban. (Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated what a vote to approve and a vote to reject would do.)
Two King County Council incumbents are trying to fend off strong campaigns by younger challengers. Larry Gossett, a civil-rights leader who has held his position for more than two decades, fared poorly in the August primary against challenger Girmay Zahilay, an immigrant and Ivy League-educated lawyer.
Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who was in the Legislature for 23 years before being elected to the council in 2015, is being challenged by transit advocate Abigail Doerr.
Competitive City Council races are also going on in Bellevue, where three incumbents face challengers and the seat vacated by Mayor John Chelminiak is also up for grabs. Also on the Eastside, the wealthy community of Medina — home to Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos — is facing a budget shortfall and voting on whether to raise property taxes. And in Spokane, big money is being tossed around in a contentious mayoral race between former TV journalist Nadine Woodward and City Council president Ben Stuckart.
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