A few weeks ago, one of the campaigns for Seattle mayor released some background polling on the general mood of Seattle’s voters.
“I’ve been fielding and reading polls for 30 years and I’ve never seen people this pissed,” one of the consultants, for candidate Colleen Echohawk, summed up.
This was a popular assumption — that after a year of protests and riots, pandemic shutdown and boarded-up downtown, voters here and around the region were hacked off and ready to rumble to the polls for change.
Not so much, it turns out.
In the initial returns of the primary election Tuesday, most incumbents, including those attached to the supposedly unpopular Seattle City Council, seemed to be doing just fine.
King County Executive Dow Constantine appears to be on his way to a fourth term, garnering more than 53% of the vote in the first counts. An expected hot challenge from the activist left, in the person of state Sen. Joe Nguyen, may still materialize, but he is lagging well behind at about 30%.
In the Seattle mayor’s race, voters not only chose the current City Council president, but also the previous City Council president, as our two nominees for the general election.
Talk about rolling with insiders — none of the outsider campaigns, from the defund-the-police left to the clean-up-this-damn-town right, got much traction with voters.
Bruce Harrell rode a sepia-toned, Joe Biden-like campaign to a convincing lead. He’s a known quantity, with 12 years on the City Council, and is also an old-school progressive without too much ideological spice. Seattle’s version of political comfort food.
His opponent in the general election likely will be M. Lorena González, who is more activist and has the backing of labor. She’s been elected with ease twice before and ran on an overall platform that she would keep doing what the City Council has been doing.
So many of the campaign mailings featured the theme of the Emerald City tarnished. “Seattle is on the wrong track,” said a mailer from mayoral candidate Jessyn Farrell, over a gloomy downtown skyline. “Politicians at City Hall have failed us. We need new leadership.”
This pitch did not work. Farrell was pulling only 7.5% of the vote Tuesday. Echohawk, whose theme was “a new generation of leadership,” also didn’t catch with that message, scoring just 8.3% of the vote so far.
Either voters are content with most of the current crop of leaders, or they didn’t feel the outsidery candidates were up to the job — or both. Results could still swing quite a bit as more votes are counted, but probably not enough to change the mayoral outcome.
Incumbents running strong typically pull 50% or more of the vote in primaries. Incumbent City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda is easily topping that threshold, scoring about 55% in a crowded 11-candidate field.
The only establishment pols in obvious trouble are, in Seattle, City Attorney Pete Holmes, who was drawing a woeful 33%, and out in the ‘burbs, the longtime King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert, who was pulling just 41%.
Holmes was in second after Tuesday’s count, trailing mediation attorney Ann Davison. But it’s basically a three-way tie at this point among Davison, who wants to get tougher on crime; public defender Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, who wants to defund police and abolish much of the city’s prosecution of crime; and Holmes, who is stuck in the middle and has been publicly lamenting that his career might be over.
Elections reveal who we are better than any poll. More than half the town didn’t vote at all, so how pissed can they be? But this city attorney three-way tie offers up a possible breakdown for the Seattle electorate:
A third think Seattle is dying. A third are at the ramparts for the revolution. And the final third? They’re looking forward to going hiking this weekend.