This is the first year Seattle voters elect City Council members by geographic district — and nobody knows quite what to expect. But recent election results, considered through the lens of the new districts, offer some potential clues.
This year will be the first that Seattle voters elect seven City Council members by geographic district — and nobody knows quite what to expect. But recent election results, considered through the lens of the new districts, offer some potential clues.
Six current council members are seeking re-election. Council President Tim Burgess is campaigning for one of the council’s two remaining citywide seats, while the others — Sally Bagshaw, Mike O’Brien, Kshama Sawant, Bruce Harrell and Jean Godden — are quasi-incumbents trying to win in different districts.
Until very recently, Sally Bagshaw was the only council member unopposed ahead of the primary’s Friday filing deadline. This makes sense when results from her last election are considered. In 2013, 84.1 percent of voters citywide and exactly the same percentage in what is now District 7 picked Bagshaw, according to an analysis by The Seattle Times. District 7 covers Magnolia, Queen Anne, downtown and South Lake Union. Her 2013 opponent, Sam Bellomio, an activist known for ranting against the council, wasn’t a political heavy-hitter. Even so, Bagshaw’s overwhelming victory may be one reason why she didn’t draw challenger Deborah Zech-Artis until the last minute.
Jean Godden, based on her last election, looks vulnerable. She squeaked past Bobby Forch with 50.4 percent of the citywide vote in 2011. Godden has three credible opponents this year — Tony Provine, Michael Maddux and Rob Johnson. She did better in what is now her home district, District 4, scoring 53.4 percent across the University District, Wallingford, Ravenna, Laurelhurst and View Ridge. But District 4 wasn’t Godden’s best area. She garnered higher percentages in District 1 (West Seattle and Delridge), District 5 (North Seattle) and District 7.
Bruce Harrell, who’s running in Southeast Seattle’s District 2, did best in his own part of the city in 2011 when he held off former financial journalist Brad Meacham. He tallied 63.9 percent in what is now District 2. Tammy Morales is his only opponent so far this year.
District 6, which includes Fremont and Ballard, was Mike O’Brien’s second-best area in 2013, with 70.6 percent. He trounced Albert Shen with 73.4 percent of the vote in what is now District 3 (Capitol Hill and the Central District).
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District 3 is the seat that Kshama Sawant is seeking and where she was most popular two years ago, scoring 58.3 percent of the vote in a close victory over Richard Conlin.
Districts 1 and 5
No current council members are running in District 1 and District 5, but previous results suggest candidates aligned with Seattle Mayor Ed Murray may fare better in both districts this year than super-lefty activists in the Sawant mold. Murray, widely viewed as the establishment candidate, beat then-Mayor Mike McGinn with 56.9 percent in District 1 and 52.4 percent in District 5. Conlin won the same areas. There were, as of Wednesday, 11 candidates with registered campaigns in District 1 and seven in District 5, and some are running further to the left than others. More debate around hot-button issues like rent control and high-density real-estate development may lead to additional separation as the August primary approaches.
A wild-card factor in some races could be turnout. Just 45 percent of registered voters in District 2 cast ballots in 2013, while 57.6 percent did in District 6. That means Harrell and Morales may have fewer voters to compete for than O’Brien and his opponent, Catherine Weatbrook.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled District 7 challenger Deborah Zech-Artis’ name.