Candidates like Catherine Weatbrook and Tammy Morales hope to score upsets in Seattle’s new district voting system for City Council. Tuesday’s election also features several ballot measures and races all over the region, from Bellevue to Snohomish County.
Seattle City Council candidates Catherine Weatbrook and Tammy Morales didn’t get much rest this past week. But rest isn’t what they signed up for when they decided to run in Seattle’s first year of voting by geographic district.
The candidates knew campaigning would be hectic before Tuesday’s election, which also includes races for Seattle School Board, Port of Seattle Commission, Bellevue City Council, Metropolitan King County Council and Snohomish County executive, plus ballot measures. All nine Seattle City Council seats are up for grabs, and seven are by district.
Weatbrook is challenging Councilmember Mike O’Brien in District 6, which covers Fremont, Phinney Ridge, Ballard and parts of Green Lake and Wallingford.
Morales is up against Councilmember Bruce Harrell in District 2, which covers Southeast Seattle neighborhoods like Beacon Hill, Georgetown and the Rainier Valley.
“Oh my gosh, I’ve probably knocked on 12,000 doors,” Weatbrook said last week, catching her breath before approaching yet another Wallingford bungalow.
Visiting homes in the New Holly neighborhood, Morales paused: “There are days when I feel like I’m running on fumes.”
Weatbrook and Morales said the district system has encouraged candidates to engage more with voters. Both believe they’ve gained momentum recently after being outpolled by O’Brien and Harrell in the Aug. 4 primary election. But whether districts will push the challengers’ campaigns over the top as part of a council shake-up remains to be seen.
The Seattle School Board has eight candidates vying for four seats. Two aspiring Port of Seattle commissioners with concerns about the impacts of business on the environment are competing for the commission’s open seat, while incumbent Courtney Gregoire is expected to retain her spot against perennial candidate Goodspaceguy.
Bellevue voters have four City Council races on their ballots, with one candidate running unopposed. The other three contests may determine whether the growing city continues to spend on transportation improvements and social services — or not.
Three of four Metropolitan King County Council races on the ballot this year aren’t competitive. Rufe Orr, who’s running against state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, for the seat of retiring Councilmember Larry Phillips, has raised no money. Incumbents Larry Gossett and Joe McDermott, both Democrats, are running unopposed. The fourth race pits incumbent Republican Jane Hague against Bellevue Mayor Claudia Balducci, a Democrat, for a seat on the officially nonpartisan council.
Snohomish County Executive John Lovick, a former sheriff and state legislator from Mill Creek, is trying to fend off a challenge from Snohomish County Council Chairman Dave Somers, a former fisheries biologist. Somers won the primary. Both are Democrats. Snohomish County voters are also weighing a sales-tax increase of 0.3 percentage points, to give bus service a big boost.
In Seattle, voters are considering Move Seattle, a $930 million, nine-year transportation levy, with its record $279 annual bill for a midpriced, $450,000 home; and Initiative 122, a campaign-finance reform measure with a $30 million levy for public financing of candidate campaigns through a voucher system.
King County Executive Dow Constantine is asking county voters to approve the Best Starts for Kids Levy, county Proposition 1, a $392 million levy for early-childhood intervention and other youth programs that would add $63 to the annual property-tax bill for a $450,00 home. Anti-tax crusader Tim Eyman is backing state Initiative 1366.
Eyman’s measure would lower Washington’s 6.5 percent sales tax to 5.5 percent unless the Legislature puts a state constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot. The amendment would restore a two-thirds, supermajority requirement for passing tax increases in the Legislature, except for increases sent to a public vote.
Another state measure, Initiative 1401, would make it a crime to buy, sell, distribute or trade animal parts from certain endangered species, including elephant ivory.
District door knocking
As she was door knocking Thursday, Weatbrook’s opening line was: “I think we need better coordination between land use and transportation.” Weatbrook, 46, a former software analyst and nonprofit facilities manager, hopes voters share her concerns about congestion and other problems related to development in neighborhoods like Ballard.
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“The City Council has not been stepping up to its role in planning for new school buildings,” Weatbrook said to a Wallingford mother at her door.
Another woman on the same block told the candidate she worries about cars speeding through the neighborhood and about homeless people living outside nearby.
O’Brien led the council’s opposition this year to the Port hosting Shell Oil drilling rigs and has supported siting a city-sanctioned homeless encampment in Ballard.
He said he’s enjoyed campaigning for a district seat and is proud of his endorsers, which include the Cascade Bicycle Club, the Sierra Club and many unions.
Ringing doorbells in New Holly before a voting party at the neighborhood’s community center, Morales encountered at least one voter dissatisfied with Harrell.
“It seems like he’s a little detached from the community,” said Grant Underwood, 39, a carpenter who complained about poor schools and crime near light-rail stations.
Morales, 46, is telling people like Underwood she’d be more responsive, arguing that Harrell should be doing more about shootings that spiked this summer in District 2.
“What we’re experiencing in the community in the last year is a public-safety crisis,” she said. “He hasn’t held a single hearing on the gun violence.”
Harrell said crime is down in District 2 overall compared with last year. Morales’ campaign has been overly negative, he said.
“I think smart voters will see through smoke screen attacks like that and realize we’ve implemented strong policies,” he said.
Harrell said he’d like to connect more young people from Southeast Seattle with jobs in parts of District 2 where more companies are, such as in the Industrial District.