If you didn't think local elections were important, nothing disproves that more than elections in King County this year. Two incumbents have faced allegations of sexual assault; Seattle had three mayors in one week, and an open at-large city council seat; and one race could determine party control in the state Legislature.
Here's a recap of the most contentious races this year and why you should remember to vote.
The Mayor's Race
While this year's mayoral race may have started out with pundits thinking it would be straightforward—incumbent Ed Murray was regarded as a shoo-in, with the first high-profile candidate, Nikkita Oliver, entering the race in February—Murray dropped his bid for reelection and eventual resignation after five accusers came forward with sexual assault allegations.
With Murray out of the picture, 21 candidates chose to run for mayor, four of the six most high-profile candidates women—two of those women, Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon, made it through the August primary. (The other two finished in third and fourth place.) Why is that important? Seattle hasn't elected a female mayor since 1926.
Since the primary, Durkan has raised a record-breaking amount of money (nearing $1 million), excluding independent expenditures from business and labor, while Moon has poured her own money into her campaign. With a few exceptions (city council member Mike O'Brien and a few unions endorsed Moon) and most urbanist or transit groups, Durkan won the major endorsements from city, state, and federal officials (big labor groups SEIU 775 and Martin Luther King County Labor Council, three city council members and the mayor, Governor Jay Inslee and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Senator Patty Murray).
Both are progressive candidates—Durkan, a former Obama-appointed U.S. attorney who was a key player in the city's police reform efforts, and Moon, a civic activist and urban planner whose platform focused on affordable housing. But they differ on major issues like:
-taxes (Durkan says she doesn't want new ones),
-homeless encampment sweeps (Moon says she wants to stop them),
-a municipal bank or municipal internet (Moon wants both),
-and education. Durkan has a plan for free college tuition for all Seattle public school graduates, while Moon says she wants funds to focus on K-12 education.
City Council Position 8
Labor leader Teresa Mosqueda has cleaned up on the endorsements—Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, labor groups, four current Seattle city council members and Mayor Tim Burgess, and dozens of city and state elected officials. Ex-Tenants Union director and democratic socialist Jon Grant was also endorsed by two city council members and all of Seattle major papers' editorial boards—The Stranger, The Seattle Times, and Seattle Weekly.
They fundamentally differ on how to approach Seattle's affordable housing shortage, as well as opening up collective bargaining agreements between the city and police unions to the public. Mosqueda received 31.6 percent of the votes in the August primary, while Grant came in second with 26.9 percent.
The Sheriff's Race
Less than a week before the general election, The Seattle Times reported that King County Sheriff John Urquhart faced a sexual assault allegation that led to an unusual settlement paid by the county. His campaign also offered to disclose an accuser's medical records in an attempt to discredit her.
Urquhart lost the endorsement of several officials and groups, including Seattle city council member Lorena Gonzalez, and a few days ago took down all his endorsements on his webpage.
45th Legislative District
The race between Democrat Manka Dhingra and Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund for the open state senate seat has also been record-breaking in the millions of dollars put into both their campaigns.
Voters living in the 45th Legislative District will determine whether the state will have a Democratic trifecta—Democratic control in the House, Senate, and executive branch—or whether the state Senate will hold a narrow GOP majority. Two of the biggest groups invested in Dhingra's campaign? Planned Parenthood and the Washington Conservation Voters.