Hundreds of thousands of ballots remain to be tallied in the Nov. 2 general election, but candidates in some marquee races jumped out to decisive leads reflecting trends that are mirrored nationally.
Here are five quick takeaways from Tuesday’s results:
◼ Fright night for Seattle progressives. While they didn’t quite run as an explicit slate, the more moderate, business-backed candidates in the city’s three most watched races surged to huge and likely insurmountable leads.
Bruce Harrell, the former City Council president, hammered his rival M. Lorena González, the current council president, for her past statements of support for defunding the police by 50% and eliminating single-family exclusive zoning. He led by a whopping 30 percentage points — a gap that is unlikely to be closed in the coming days.
In the city’s most contested City Council race, anti-racism activist and attorney Nikkita Oliver was far behind brewery owner Sara Nelson, who once served as an aide to Richard Conlin, the council member defeated in 2013 by socialist Kshama Sawant.
Meanwhile, police abolitionist Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, who had the support of every Democratic legislative district group, was losing badly to Republican Ann Davison.
Late ballots tend to trend to the left in the city. But not by enough to flip all three of those races — if any.
■ A good night for Seattle Republicans, but about King County … It’s been more than three decades since the phrase “good night for Seattle Republicans” has been written in reference to a city election.
But Davison, who ran for lieutenant governor as a Republican in 2020, has a 17-point lead in the nonpartisan race for city attorney.
No Republican has won a city election in Seattle since Paul Kraabel, who served on the City Council from 1975 until 1991.
But before local Republicans get too excited about a resurgence (Donald Trump won just 8% of the Seattle vote in 2020), they should look east.
Longtime King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert looked likely to lose her seat, which she’d held since 2001, to nonprofit executive Sarah Perry. County Council seats are also nonpartisan, but Lambert is a Republican and Perry a Democrat.
That would shift the County Council further left, from a 6-3 Democratic majority, to 7-2.
■ Becoming a Republican to get help from Democrats. OK, it’s hard to stop thinking about the city attorney race.
Ann Davison ran for Seattle City Council in 2019 and, after losing, complained that Seattle Democrats were mean and that she couldn’t get Democratic political consultants to help her challenge incumbent Councilmember Debora Juarez.
So she switched to the Republican Party in 2020 and ran for lieutenant governor. She didn’t make it out of the primary.
Flash to this year and City Attorney Pete Holmes was looking like he’d go unchallenged when both Davison and Thomas-Kennedy filed at the last minute. They beat Holmes in the primary.
That left the Democratic political establishment sweating. While local Democratic district organizations rallied behind Thomas-Kennedy, former Govs. Christine Gregoire and Gary Locke broke ranks and endorsed Davison.
And in her suddenly well-funded general-election push, Davison wound up getting the support she’d craved from some top local Democratic consultants, including Dean Nielsen, who advised her campaign, and Sandeep Kaushik, who helped run a PAC that mailed hundreds of thousands of pieces to Seattle households quoting Thomas-Kennedy’s past controversial tweets.
They may have helped in pulling off Davison’s historic win (if it holds). “Hell is frozen over,” Nielsen said in a text Tuesday.
■ Timing is everything. If his lead holds, Harrell will have taken a most unusual path to become Seattle’s 57th mayor.
Harrell also served as mayor for one week in 2017, a year in which Seattle had four mayors as a result of the fallout from the sex-abuse allegations that brought down Mayor Ed Murray.
After Murray’s resignation that September, Harrell, as council president, became acting mayor for one week. Harrell declined to serve out the remainder of Murray’s term and returned to his council position. Councilmember Tim Burgess became mayor for a few months until Jenny Durkan won the 2017 mayoral election.
Harrell decided against running for reelection to his council seat and appeared done with politics. But then he threw his hat in the ring for mayor. While he’d been on the council for three terms, during which problems like homelessness grew worse, he avoided being tagged for the past couple years of chaos.
Given the election trend, he might have picked a really good time to step away, and then return.
■ It’s grammar time. It would be hard to imagine a less impactful change, but King County voters looked likely to change the county’s foundational document.
Hey, the U.S. Constitution hasn’t changed since 1992, so it’s at least worth noting when the county changes its constitution (technically it’s called the county charter).
County voters appeared in favor of approving two changes.
The first changes the stated purpose of the charter to include forming a more “equitable” government “for all” and promoting “a superior quality of life.” It also makes a grammatical change: shifting the word “insure” to “ensure,” in a sentence about the county’s responsibility for accountable governance. Both words are technically correct, but, according to Merriam-Webster, “insure” is more frequently used with financial matters, while “ensure” is used more broadly.
The second changes timelines and dates for filing initiatives, referendums and ballot measures so that the dates in the charter comply with state law.