As promised, here's a more detailed analysis of the map we published in Fizz this morning.—Eds.
The paint-splatter aesthetics of this year’s mayoral primary map demonstrate how divided Seattle is. This map shows many instances where candidates “win” precincts with only 20-30 percent of the vote (see the map’s many pale-colored precincts.)
There are striking focal points, though, that suggest opportunities and warnings for both incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn and his challenger, state Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill), the two candidates who emerged from the primary earlier this month.
Murray, for his part, looks strong in wealthier, establishment areas, but appears to have weak support among Seattle’s working class. McGinn’s laggy primary returns indicate losses in the "suburban" districts of the city, but gains in Seattle’s diverse, southeast neighborhoods suggest he may be surprisingly well-positioned to pick up new voters, and even former Bruce Harrell supporters. (By "suburbs," I'm referring to Seattle's wealthier, more single-family neighborhoods.) Let’s dig in.
Murray racked up significant margins in West Seattle and the moneyed precincts in Queen Anne, North Seattle, and the Lake Washington shore. He also managed to divide the Capitol Hill vote with incumbent McGinn. The clearest map takeaway is primary winner Murray’s success with outer-ring Seattle voters. Murray racked up significant margins in West Seattle and the moneyed precincts in Queen Anne, North Seattle, and the Lake Washington shore.
He also managed to divide the Capitol Hill vote with incumbent McGinn: while McGinn racked up apartment-dwelling urbanists, Murray dominated most places north of Republican Street (see the sea of red around Volunteer Park.) McGinn won many of those precincts north of Republican in the 2009 primary.
Overall, Murray actually edged McGinn on the Hill, 38 percent to 36 percent. This is a change from 2009, when McGinn scored 38 percent here and defeated his nearest opponent (then-incumbent Greg Nickels) by over 15 points. Most of this loss came from the affluent parts north of Republican Street, an area fairly competitive in both the 2009 primary and general.
Murray’s wins with wealthier North Capitol Hil voters weren’t anomalous, either. McGinn suffered broadly in nice, suburban areas, and Seattle has a lot of voters in nice, suburban areas. For example: even with native son Greg Nickels in the 2009 primary, McGinn managed 26 percent in West Seattle in a nearly three-way tie. This year, he was down to 23 percent, losing convincingly. McGinn had similar poor fortune in areas like Laurelhurst and Magnolia.
McGinn improved in Southeast Seattle, surging from 23 percent in the Rainier Valley in the 2009 primary to 28 percent in 2013.
How did McGinn stay afloat? Many forget that McGinn’s 2009 coalition wasn’t just core-city urbanists. It also included the middle-class suburbs north of the Montlake, beyond inner Fremont and Ballard to Greenwood and Crown Hill. McGinn doesn’t look great here this time (often winning with less than 40 percent), but he managed.
A more promising area for McGinn is Southeast Seattle. He actually improved there, surging from 23 percent in the Rainier Valley in the 2009 primary to 28 percent in 2013. This result is especially impressive because Bruce Harrell had significant traction in this area.
Indeed, Bruce Harrell presents one of the primary’s big questions. Outside of McGinn’s “urban pioneer” vote in places like Columbia City and Lakewood, the southeast was Harrell Country. Murray barely registered in these precincts. Does that indicate McGinn might resonate better with Southeast Seattle voters? Is his coalition broader than people realize? Or, alternatively, did McGinn’s urbanist primary base here represent a near-ceiling?
It’ll take more for McGinn to beat Murray. He needs to darken every place he appears on the primary map, as opposed to seeing the anti-incumbent vote coalesce. To stay on the political map, the mayor must find a way to turn his light-green primary wins into dark-green majorities by November.
Benjamin Anderstone is a Seattle-and-Tacoma-based political consultant who specializes in analyzing voter behavior and election results. Benjamin's work has been featured in the Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, Fox News's Fox and Friends, Tacoma News Tribune, and at academic summits on political geography. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This analysis was completed by analyzing results of Seattle's nearly 1,000 precincts for the 2013 Mayoral Primary, the 2009 Mayoral Primary, and the 2009 Mayoral General. The results were mapped using MapWindow (mapwindow.org). Coloration represents the candidate receiving the most votes in the precinct; ties indicated with stripes. Color scale adapted from Dave Leip's U.S. Election Atlas (uselectionatlas.org).