Last night’s election featured a decisive win for the $930 million transportation levy, which mayor Ed Murray heralded as a win for “a coalition of people on the margins…for neighborhoods that have been neglected too long.”
Using some snap metrics to evaluate last night's municipal elections, here's a special Morning (after the election) Fizz.
The Snap Metrics are:
Conventional Wisdom: How did the conventional wisdom hold up in last night’s election?
The Murray Metric: What does the result mean for the mayor?
The Socialist Revolution: What does last night mean for Kshama Sawant?
Districts: What does the result say about the new districted system?
The Establishment, aka, Developers: How did this year's bogeyman do?
Money: How did money impact the result?
Cosmic Karma: Ultimately, how does this result affect the cosmos (and what does it say about the cosmos)?
And Ultimate Winner or Loser?
PROP 1, THE TRANSPORTATION LEVY
Yes: 56.43, No: 43.47
Conventional Wisdom: Chances were “shaky” (as I reported here just 24 hours ago.) At the last minute, insiders—including the mayor and everyone at SDOT—were so convinced the measure was going down in flames that one local consultant, who had seen recent polling, told me Monday that despite the previous conventional wisdom about the measure being in good shape, “it would be the night’s biggest upset if it won.”
So, consider this win the night’s biggest upset.
The Murray Metric: This is a huge win for the mayor. After a rough summer—his HALA stumble and his hookah lounge nonsense—Murray’s run of successes (the parks district, preschool funding, the minimum wage compromise) finally seemed to be at an end. Nope. Chalk up another major win for the mayor. (Consider: His predecessor, former mayor Mike McGinn, tried and failed to pass one of these expensive hodgepodge transportation packages in the middle of his term too—and failed badly.) Murray was downright giddy at the Prop. 1 victory party at the jam-packed Belltown Pub where he took the stage in front of TV crews and reporters and his fawning, exuberant staff. In addition to taking a shot at the opposition campaign’s line that the measure was nothing but a blank check for the wayward SDOT—“Thank you Scott Kubly,” he poked (name checking SDOT’s director), “no department has led on accountability like SDOT”—Murray closed by dissing the Seattle Times (they came out against the levy.)
The Socialist Revolution: Funding mass transit is one of the premier things government can provide for working people (it’s actually Socialist.) But Sawant had very little to do with this one. In fact, her quixotic call for a millionaire’s tax to fund mass transit was actually a default criticism of Murray’s property tax initiative. And her populist rhetoric merely stoked supposed “Levy Fatigue.”
Districts: The Seattle Times, in urging a no vote on the measure, called for a time out, asking voters to wait until the districted members took office so they could propose transportation fixes that actually jibed with local needs. Voters didn’t fall for the pseudo populist appeal to process and understood that sometimes the city’s job is to actually design comprehensive packages and get shit done.
The Establishment, aka Evil Developers: Hey, progressive Seattle...Vulcan ($20,000) and Amazon ($25,000) were the top contributors to this winning progressive cause. Ha!
Money: One conservative property owner, Aurora landlord Faye Garneau, spent a stunning $325,000—nearly as much as the yes campaign in total—to defeat the measure. She lost.
Cosmic Karma: Funding for the Graham Street station in Southeast Seattle. Funding for the 130th Street station in North Seattle. Greenways. Safe routes to schools. The social justice/urbanist alliance. Campaign co-chair Shefali Ranganathan cruising into Linda’s at 12:30 AM declaring “RapidRide for everyone. Bike lanes for you!” All is right.
Winner: Scott Kubly. Loser: Seattle Times.
I-122, ELECTION VOUCHERS
Yes, 60.33, No, 30.67
The Conventional Wisdom: Rout. But, wow!
The Murray Metric: Business brought him last time. It’s not going to be so easy next time.
The Socialist Revolution: Not exactly.
Districts: The voucher system will likely lead candidates who opt in to rely largely on district dollars; that was hardly the case this year.
The Establishment, aka, Evil Developers: They’ll just go out and form Independent Expenditure groups.
Money: I’ve pointed out many times now the glaring irony that this campaign finance reform measure raised a stunning $1.4 million, much of it from hard to track non-profit PACs.
Cosmic Karma: Sunlight, not limits, are the solution to Citizens United-era electioneering. Idealistic Seattle voters got just a little bit had.
Winner: Sightline; the environmental non-profit’s brainy director Alan Durning was the mastermind behind the policy—which I’m being a little hard on…it does create legit incentives for people to rely on small contributions and rein in the influence of lobbying by prohibiting contributions from groups with business before the city. The big win bolsters Sightline’s clout.
- Shannon Braddock: 52.92
- Lisa Herbold: 46.48
The Conventional Wisdom: It was too close to call. (And it still is.)
The Murray Metric: Braddock would be more of a Murray ally and Herbold would be part of the Sawant bloc. However, longtime Nick Licata aide Herbold has high praise for Murray, calling him “the best mayor [she’s ]seen” at city hall “getting the most done on the issues I care about.” And footnote: While Herbold definitely shares Sawant’s populist leanings, she also bailed on Sawant’s last-minute press conference where Sawant called for a quixotic millionaire’s tax. Several other candidates, looking for an angle, joined Sawant. If Herbold does pull it out, and Braddock is only up by 733 votes, Herbold will be far more collaborative with Murray than Sawant wants—and less likely to follow Sawant lockstep. Having said that: Herbold’s not going to follow Murray either.
The Socialist Revolution: As of the first drop, the revolution didn’t happen, but we’ll revisit this one on Thursday.
Districts: Incumbent council member Tom Rasmussen didn’t run because door-to-door retail politics isn’t his thing. Neither Herbold nor Braddock would have run in a citywide race. This contest, featuring two down-to-earth, West Seattle moms, was the poster child for districts. Whoever wins this one, Seattle will add a legit, progressive woman to city council.
The Establishment, aka, Evil Developers: If the numbers hold, consider this a win for the developers. Herbold is perhaps, the premier champion for taxing developers and was interested in putting the linkage fee (sans an upzone) back on the table to fund affordable housing.
Money: Independent Expenditures from Business interests like the Seattle chamber and local landlords focused on tenants’ rights advocate Herbold, spending $150,000 in independent expenditures for Braddock. Check back in on Thursday to see if it worked.
Cosmic Karma: PubliCola endorsed Herbold because while we didn’t agree 100 percent with her lesser Seattle politics, she was hands down the most qualified candidate on this year’s ballot. Things won’t be quite right in the space-time continuum if Herbold doesn’t eventually win.
- Bruce Harrell, 54.87
- Tammy Morales, 44.93
The Conventional Wisdom: Harrell wins. Seems like it so far.
The Murray Metric: Harrell and Murray are allies.
The Socialist Revolution: Bruce Harrell is not a Socialist. And he actively campaigned for Sawant’s opponent, Pam Banks.
Districts: At 25.8 percent, turnout is trending the lowest in District Two. The new council scheme doesn’t appear to have engaged perhaps the most disenfranchised district in the city.
The Establishment, aka, Evil Developers: The antiestablishment Stranger tried to reverse the obvious in Southeast Seattle. They do seem to have nudged up Morales numbers.
Cosmic Karma: Seattle Met's PubliCola, the only other news outlet besides the Times and the Stranger to offer endorsements, didn't dig in deep for this race for a full-fledged endorsement. We simply stuck with incumbent Harrell (we've liked his work on civil rights.) Now, I'm wishing we'd made time to focus on it. Sincere apologies, but we do have a limited band width.
- Kshama Sawant 52.56
- Pamela Banks 47.12
The Conventional Wisdom: Sawant, and her incomparable organizing machine, were heavy favorites all along. The vote was certainly tighter than people would have thought—Banks is only losing by 850 votes out of the 15,550 counted so far— but Sawant’s margin will climb as the next few batches come in. And so, as expected, it’s time to cue up side two of Sandinista!
The Murray Metric: Sawant has emerged as Murray’s foil. Despite the fact that his staffers were clamoring about her low(ish) numbers last night, her solid win is surely disappointing to the mayor.
The Socialist Revolution: Sawant did her part, but her allies appear to have faltered, denying her a council majority.
Districts: While Sawant has cultivated allies in Capitol Hill’s LGBTQ community, her grandiose socialist platform is not specific to the district. And the biggest swath of her contributions—40 percent—came from outside of the city where socialist chapters worldwide view her as a superstar. (For example, Al Jazeera is interviewing me about Sawant this morning.)
The Establishment, aka, Evil Developers: Big Losers.
Money: Sawant’s fundraising is a model for progressives. Half of Sawant’s donations, 1,722 of them, were for $50 or less. First of all, no other candidate came close to even having that many contributors overall, not to mention at $50 or less. Second, with that type of grassroots fundraising, Sawant’s average contribution was $120, the lowest of any candidate.
Cosmic Karma: Cults of personality, particularly ones where white guys snap their fingers along to speeches like they’re at an Amiri Baraka poetry reading or a jazz concert, rub the universe the wrong way. But Sawant’s fight for the little guy lines up with the moral arc.
Winner: The Socialist Alternative Party
- Rob Johnson, 54.80
- Michael Maddux, 44.70
The Conventional Wisdom: Well-polished Johnson was supposed to win this one (in a district that includes lots of old ladies) over the slightly wired Maddux. Leading by nearly 1,100 votes and slightly over 10 percentage points in the opening count, it seems like the pundits called it right.
The Murray Metric: Freed up by Prop. 1’s victory to pursue an urbanist agenda now, Mayor Murray will look to urban planner Johnson, whose non-profit group Transportation Choices Coalition oversaw the $930 million transportation levy campaign, to shepherd SDOT’s agenda and the HALA upzones through council.
The Socialist Revolution: Maddux kept showing up at Sawant press conferences, positioning himself as a part of Sawant’s bloc. Johnson didn’t bother, though he helped build an unprecedented environmentalist/social justice alliance of his own at TCC.
Districts: If it’s possible, the lanky Johnson got even skinnier over the course of the campaign. That’s because he ran a professional district field effort, knocking on 35,000 doors and contacting 17,500 voters. Major irony: Districts were supposed to empower the so-called neighborhood movement (during the primary, both Johnson and Maddux beat out a neighborhood council candidate with a history of fighting upzones.) District Four, home to three of Seattle’s seven pending light rail stations, reclaimed the neighborhood movement for the YIMBY’s by electing an urbanist like Johnson. (Way before Transit Oriented Development was cool, Johnson was part of the original crew ten years ago that fought to run light rail through the Roosevelt neighborhood instead of along I-5, and then followed up by advocating for upzones.)
The Establishment, aka, Evil Developers: With his chamber backing, Vulcan money, and pink Oxford shirts, there’s no doubt Johnson was the establishment candidate. However, in Johnson’s case, that establishment also included far left unions like the Hotel Employees Restaurant Employees Local 8 union and the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 21, the Sierra Club, the Seattle Bike Blog, tunnel detractor Cary Moon, Sawant’s recent pick to fill the temporary council vacancy, civil right leader Sharon Maeda, and Sightline leader and “Honest Elections” leader Alan Durning
Money: Johnson raised $160,000 to Maddux’s $60,000.
Cosmic Karma: Maddux was a top-notch contender who brought charisma, policy smarts, and class to one of the most cordial, but competitive campaigns this season. Cosmic Karma #1: Maddux will be back. Cosmic Karma #2: Johnson’s campaign manager Emilio Garza ended up buying Maddux a drink at Linda’s at the election night after party.
Loser: Developer watchdog and Lesser Seattle icon John Fox; of all the races to focus on, Fox set up an independent expenditure to defeat Johnson. Maddux disavowed the IE. Johnson appears to have won.
- Debora Juarez, 63.08
- Sandy Brown, 36.43
The Conventional Wisdom: Juarez wins. Yep.
The Murray Metric: Murray, who endorsed Brown early on, apparently saw the writing on the wall, and endorsed Juarez last week too.
The Socialist Revolution: Neither candidate aligned themselves with Sawant. Juarez is a corporate lawyer whose firm’s clients include Shell. She’s a liberal, though.
Districts: There were originally eight candidates in this North Seattle district race. And the final race featured nerdy, local debates over sidewalks, private beaches, upzones, community centers, bike lanes, and policing. Very cool.
The Establishment, aka, Developers: The actual antiestablishment candidates got knocked out in the primary.
Money: I’m hung up on this stat—Juarez only has 12 donors in her district. Nearly Nearly 60 percent of her donors live outside of Seattle.
Cosmic Karma: Juarez will be the first Native American to be on the Seattle city council. Pretty powerful.
Winner: Moxie Media, Juarez’s consultant, simply crushed Christian Sinderman’s candidate; otherwise, Sinderman, the city's blue chip consultant, is likely to win six of the eight council races he worked on. The other loss would be to Sawant...and, well, what are you gonna do?
- Mike O’Brien, 58.80
- Catherine Weatbrook, 40.93
The Conventional Wisdom: O’Brien wins. And he did.
The Murray Metric: O’Brien is part of the Sawant bloc.
The Socialist Revolution: Sawant holds on to one of her trusted allies, O’Brien, a born again social justice vote. O’Brien is currently ushering through a right-to-organize bill for Uber drivers.
Districts: Weatbrook was another so-called neighborhood movement leader. And yet again, the so-called neighborhood movement did not do well at the polls. However, it’s a bit more complicated than that. O’Brien, may have actually been a casualty of districts anyway. Once an all-star urbanist, O’Brien has catered to Lesser Seattle interests recently—leading the charge for linkage fees, cracking down on pod apartments, reining in low-rise zone development, and missing the beat on ride sharing. The strategy (or is this the real Mike O’Brien?) got him re-elected.
Developers: As I said, O’Brien has spent the past year irking developers. However, he’s emerged as the keeper of Murray’s grand bargain between developers and affordable housing advocates that calls for both developer fees and upzones. Two questions here: 1) When the specifics of the upzones come before council, will O’Brien stand up to neighborhood crowds and 2) When Sawant tries to reintroduce blanket linkage fees with no upzones, will O’Brien help undermine Murray’s deal?
Money: Neither candidate attracted much evil corporate money (Weatbrook attracted a maritime industry IE that raised all of $16,000), but there is a noteworthy fundraising detail here. When it came to raising money from within the district, Weatbrook trumped all the other candidates—70 percent of her donors lived in the district. (She raised a middling $66,000 and only had 320 donors, though.) But still, by way of comparison, O’Brien, who raised $89,000, only found 26.5 percent of his donors in District Six. It’s kind of a glum note for Seattle’s inaugural districted election season to see that one of the few candidates who relied on district money got trounced.
Cosmic Karma: It’s very hard not to like Mike O’Brien.
Losers: The neighbors who protested the Ballard homeless encampment.
- Sally Bagshaw 79.85
- Deborah Zech-Artis 19.38
The Conventional Wisdom: Bagshaw crushes it. Yep.
The Murray Metric: Bagshaw and Murray are allies.
The Socialist Revolution: Bagshaw shepherded through Sawant’s only substantive budget adds last year, but she’s also openly critical of Sawant’s style and remains firmly in the Murray bloc.
Districts: This was the most disappointing race of the season. Why didn’t Bagshaw draw a credible opponent?
Developers, aka, the Establishment: Big win for developers. Bagshaw was just one of two votes against sweeping developer fees last year.
Cosmic Karma: TBD
Loser: Seattle Tech missed their opportunity to field a candidate.
- Tim Burgess, 57.88
- Jon Grant, 41.57
The Conventional Wisdom: Burgess is going to win, but I can’t escape the feeling that with that Stranger endorsement and the coming populist uprising, a Grant upset is going to be the story of the night.
Nope. Burgess just flat out won.
The Murray Metric: Actually, never mind Murray, let’s do the former mayor Mike McGinn Metric. McGinn was so committed to ousting his old council foe Burgess, that first he endorsed Burgess rival, indie rocker John Roderick in the primary. After Roderick lost, McGinn endorsed Grant, who had pretty much zero in common with Roderick. McGinn even appeared on Grant’s mailers. Murray endorsed Burgess.
The Socialist Revolution: Apparently voters decided they only want one Sawant on the council.
Districts: NA, though a bit odd that this year’s biggest antiestablishment candidate chose to run at-large and not in the people-powered district set up.
The Establishment, aka, Developers: Despite conventional wisdom, Burgess’s voting record is actually not favorable to developers. And the antideveloper votes didn’t just kick in this year; he voted to raise developer fees 46 percent above former Mayor McGinn’s proposal back in 2013. However, developers have to be thrilled that Grant lost. Grant demonized developers on the stump, as a HALA member, he walked away from the grand bargain between developers and social justice advocates (calling instead for blanket fees), and he ran on things like rent control.
Money: Yes, Burgess had the donor class, including a $221,000 business-backed IE, on his side. But that does not excuse Grant’s tepid fundraising. Lefties like Herbold and O’Brien both raised more than him—and they were running for district seats. Grant got some earned media with Triad scandal, but...
Cosmic Karma: Turns out funding preschool speaks more to progressive Seattle than being angry about rent control.
Winner: Triad Development. After all that, they got their settlement. Stay tuned.
- Lorena Gonzalez, 75.97
- Bill Bradburd, 23.54
The Conventional Wisdom: After winning the six-way primary with 65 percent of the vote, Gonzalez was expected to win big again in the general election over Bradburd, a neighborhood community council leader who came in second last August with 14 percent. No surprise here.
The Murray Metric: Gonzalez is Murray’s former legal counsel. He enthusiastically endorsed her. Gonzalez, a civil rights attorney and daughter of immigrant farm workers, is now the real deal progressive on the council. Murray has a serious social justice ally that’s going to give him political clout against Sawant.
The Socialist Revolution: Daughters of immigrant farm workers who start working when they’re eight years old and go on to put themselves through college and law school so they can sue the SPD, don’t have time for socialist revolutions.
Developers: Bradburd joined Grant in the constant refrain against big developers. He also joins Grant in the L column.
Cosmic Karma: Give back Seattle.