Is Districting Challenging the Incumbent Lock on Council? The Numbers Say Otherwise.
1. City council candidate fundraising for the month of March is in, tracking how much money each candidate raised last month and overall—and how much cash they've each got on hand.
Before looking at the money numbers, though, there's something worth pointing out about the supposed effect of districts, which seem to have—as intended—drawn far more candidates than usual; 36 newcomers are running along with six incumbents.
But weren't districts supposed to undo the lock of incumbency? Of the 36 challengers, 22 are clustered in races where there is no incumbent running, and an additional five are running against incumbent Tim Burgess, who's in an at-large race as opposed to one of the seven districted spots. That means more than 75 percent of the candidates are not fulfilling the populist equation envisioned by districting.
Weren't districts supposed
to undo the lock of incumbency? Of the 36 challengers, 22 are clustered in races where there is no incumbent running.
Would 10 candidates be running against Tom Rasmussen in West Seattle's district one if Rasmussen hadn't retired? (Ha. Maybe.)
Incumbent Bruce Harrell in southeast Seattle's district two has only drawn one opponent.
Mike O'Brien in northwest Seattle's district six has only drawn one opponent.
And, as I've groused before, Sally Bagshaw in downtown, Queen Anne, and Magnolia—position seven—hasn't drawn any challengers at all.
The only two incumbents who have drawn a handful of challengers, but not many more than incumbents traditionally faced in the traditional at-large races, are Kshama Sawant in district three, Capitol Hill and the CD, and Jean Godden in district four, the U District northwest to Sand Point. The small crowd isn't atypical: Sawant, as early polling showed, is polarizing, so you'd expect some challengers. And Godden? Well, three people ran against her as well during her last (at-large) election campaign in 2011.
As for the money.
Shannon Braddock, Lisa Herbold, Thomas Koch, and Phillip Tavel have emerged from the pack of 10 in West Seattle's district one as the strong fundraisers—each having impressive March hauls and emerging from the pack having raised the most money overall. Braddock, Herbold, and Tavel however, don't have nearly as much cash on hand as Koch, who's well ahead of the pack with $25,661.
As for the other major cluster of candidates, North Seattle's district five: Sandy Brown, Deborah Juarez, and Mian Rice have emerged as the top fundraisers; Rice has the slight edge on cash on hand (around $9,000); and Brown has raised the most money overall, around $42,000.
As for the incumbents, Burgess and Harrell are killing it; Burgess has raised $125,000 with $86,000 on hand and Harrell has raised $96,000 with $75,000 cash on hand. None of their respective opponents are close. Neither of Burgess's two main opponents, Jonathan Grant nor John Persak, had a particularly impressive March take, raising $2,000 and $3,000 respectively. Harrell's only opponent, Tammy Morales, raised just $4,000 in March. (Burgess has a new opponent, John Roderick, but Roderick only jumped into the race last week.)
Sawant had a big fundraising month, taking in $26,000 (her closest competitor for the month, Pamela Banks, was behind by $10,000 raised). A few footnotes: Sawant, however, is spending money fast. Despite raising $51,000 overall, she only has $7,000 cash on hand. Another candidate in the race, Rod Hearne, had a middling March compared to Sawant and Banks—he raised $9,000—but he has the most cash on hand: $14,000. Banks has $6,000.
In the wide-open ninth spot, Lorena González and Bill Bradburd remain deadlocked.
Jean Godden finally had a respectable fundraising month, taking in $15,000; her nearest rival, Rob Johnson, raised nearly $8,000. Godden, who had been slightly behind Johnson in cash on hand last month, has nudged ahead $21,000 to $18,000.
O'Brien had a solid fundraising month, taking in $21,000 (total raised $23,000) with $19,000 cash on hand. His opponent Catherine Weatbrook raised about $8,000 bringing her total to $9,000, but she only has $6,000 cash on hand.
In the second at-large postion, the wide-open ninth spot, Lorena González and Bill Bradburd remain deadlocked; both have $31,000 cash on hand, though González had a better March, taking in $21,000 to Bradburd's $13,000.
Along with Roderick, there are a few other brand new candidates—James Keblas is running against Bradburd and González, Tony Provine is running against Godden, and Debadutta Dash has joined the pile-on in north Seattle's fifth district.
2. Despite Harrell's impressive fundraising, his opponent, food activist Tammy Morales, appears to be tweaking him—or at least, her campaign views a pending rule change in southeast Seattle's 37th Legislative District as a sign that Harrell is anxious.
Harrell supporters are reportedly behind a 37th district proposal to increase the amount of time a member must be a member in good standing from 25 to 60 days and require attendance at minimum one membership meeting before participating in an endorsements meeting. The move would short circuit Morales's effort to bring new supporters into the district to help her compete for the district's endorsement.
Bringing in new members has been an effective strategy lately—new state representative Brady Walkinshaw ran the table with his recruitment efforts to secure his 2013 win in the 43rd Legislative District as did the 37th's own new state senator Pramila Jayapal in her campaign last year.
"While I understand that some people may be upset about our organizing efforts, I don't think that the appropriate response is to try to make it harder to be a voting member." —State senator Pramila Jayapal
And in fact, Jayapal sent a letter out to the district this weekend denouncing the rule charge. She wrote:
I want to alert you to the fact that, at the upcoming meeting this Monday, April 13th, there will be an important proposed rule change that I hope we can DEFEAT. Unfortunately, the proposed change would increase the amount of time a member must be a member in good standing from 25 to 60 days, and require attendance of at least one membership meeting before participating in an endorsements meeting. This will certainly make it more difficult for people to engage in democracy. I believe this is a direct response to our successful efforts last year to organize around my endorsement. While I understand that some people may be upset about our organizing efforts, I don't think that the appropriate response is to try to make it harder to be a voting member. We’re happy to say that the Executive Board of the 37th District Democrats is unanimously opposing this, but we still need to make sure people come out and make their voices heard so that we defeat it.
3. Mayor Ed Murray's office continues to tell me that part of their affordable housing proposal (coming soon from the mayor's Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda task force) will include a plan to use public money and land to build housing. But the mayor's office was cool to that very idea (which had been formally proposed by council member Kshama Sawant in last year's budget) as recently as this month.
Late last year, as part of the budget, the council passed Sawant's "statement of legislative intent" calling for the executive department and the office of housing to: "investigate/study a capital project finance by a large public bond sale to build or finance publicly owned or land trust owned high quality housing that is affordable to working people in Seattle on city-owned surplus properties."
The executive's response was due on April 1. And it came. Concluding that there wasn't as much property as Sawant said and that the market wouldn't support her idea, the mayor's office wrote back on April 1: "In summary, a portion of the city‘s debt capacity could potentially be made available to support investments in low-income housing, but only if funding can be identified to address the subsidy needed to maintain and operate such housing into the future. The scale of any such investment would need to be gauged carefully to avoid the City taking on imprudent risks that could jeopardize the city’s bond rating, and result in higher borrowing costs for other critical capital projects such as transportation improvements and public safety facilities."