The Stranger's Primary Endorsements 2013
Vote for Mike McGinn, Mike O'Brien, Kshama Sawant, and more—our full endorsements and handy CHEAT SHEET are right this way!
Download The Stranger Election Control Board CHEAT SHEET right here.
Yeah, sure, we know. It's summer. It's sunny. You've got better things to do than waste five minutes and a postage stamp voting in some stupid, pointless primary. In this election, the top two candidates from each race will continue to the November ballot, and in most races, we already know who they will be.
But you know what happens when you don't vote? Mayor Mike Fucking McGinn!
Four years ago, some car-hating, pot-smoking cocksuckers at a foulmouthed alt-weekly thought it would be funny to endorse a fat bike-riding sociopath for Seattle mayor, and because you didn't vote, he won! The result: the postapocalyptic nightmare we now all live in—something along the lines of Mad Max, but with fewer cars.
It doesn't have to be this way. Together, we can toss out these idiot politicians those idiot voters put into office. Just fill out your ballot—exactly as we advise below—and Seattle will enjoy a brighter, slightly less dystopian tomorrow.
The Stranger Election Control Board is Bethany Jean Clement, Paul Constant, Christopher Frizzelle, David “Goldy” Goldstein, Jen Graves, Dominic Holden, Tim Keck, Cienna Madrid, Anna Minard, Eli Sanders, Dan Savage, and Kesha Sebert.
Mike McGinn was never supposed to be mayor. When he ran in 2009, the city's power brokers backed former mayor Greg Nickels, and after Nickels lost in the primary, they rallied behind T-Mobile executive Joe Mallahan. But the outsider McGinn won anyway, and Seattle's butthurt establishment insiders have treated him like an illegitimate mayor ever since.
McGinn was set up for failure from day one. The Seattle City Council rejoiced in thwarting McGinn's agenda, twice freezing the mayor's Transit Master Plan (they were concerned McGinn preferred light rail over buses), while our Republican-humping, anti-cycling daily paper ran their presses dry spewing dishonest articles that did everything from accusing McGinn of wanting to make Seattle a "motor-less city" (seriously) to denying him the credit for creating a school attendance program they effusively praised.
If this sounds like the congressional Republican strategy to blame Obama for their own obstruction, it's because it is.
And now that McGinn is up for reelection, these same business lobbies and career politicians have made these trumped-up allegations of divisiveness and ineffectiveness the centerpiece of their anti-McGinn campaign. But it was McGinn who accelerated transit planning, rescued the city budget during a recession, and brought a huge cast of unusual bedfellows together for police reform. And it was on McGinn's watch that prosperity returned to Seattle, while crime plunged to its lowest level in five decades. Yes, McGinn has stumbled, too—we're not too high to forget that—but he's muscled through a progressive, pro-transit, urban agenda.
Economy and City Budget: Despite former county executive (and current Ed Murray endorser) Ron Sims's asinine claim that if voters stick with McGinn, Seattle will "retire like Gary, Indiana" (a city infamous for its economic nosedives and fleeing population), Seattle is booming. The Downtown Seattle Association reports 30 construction projects under way downtown, representing $2.8 billion in investment, a "level not seen since 2008." Meanwhile, Seattle's unemployment rate has fallen to 4.7 percent, more than two points below the state average. The mayor's budgets have replenished the rainy day fund (spent down by the council in 2008), while rebuilding a South Seattle community center and sustaining social services. McGinn also brokered a public partnership to bring ultra-high-speed broadband to Seattle next year and led the charge to double the Families and Education Levy to help schools. Seattle is not "retiring." It hasn't even peaked.
Public Safety and Police Reform: This is arguably McGinn's weakest issue—and, paradoxically, one of his strongest. The US Department of Justice sued the Seattle Police Department last year for excessive force and racial bias—a culture, however, that was seeded years before McGinn took office. Still, before the Feds ever stepped in, McGinn voluntarily partnered with law enforcement to launch Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, a nation-leading program to direct low-level drug offenders into treatment (it's de facto decriminalization). McGinn reformed a decades-old trespassing rule that had been used to ban youth of color from public spaces. He launched a privately funded gun buyback, which helped keep unwanted firearms off the street (the state estimates $2.9 million in guns are stolen annually). And while we believe he should have settled sooner with the Feds and picked a stronger police chief, he deserves credit for three landmark accomplishments: (1) creating a citizen police commission that brings together conventional business interests and lefty reformers, (2) defying the police union by committing to a binding legal settlement instead of fighting against reform in court, and (3) tweaking the settlement agreement to limit onerous obligations for more middle management and welcoming rules that could gauge racial impacts of policing by disparate outcomes. All told, McGinn has built a powerful coalition to implement these reforms—and nobody in this race is better suited to finish the job he started.
Light Rail and Transportation: McGinn has accelerated transit planning for light rail to reach Ballard, so that when voters consider another light-rail measure, hopefully in 2016, Seattle will likely have a nearly shovel-ready project. And finally, McGinn has also pledged to fully fund the city's bicycle plan and has begun building protected bicycle lanes along key routes. No other candidate is as ambitious or specific in transit planning.
McGinn's accomplishments demonstrate collaboration with lawmakers, regional agencies, business, and activists, belying the claims that he can't get anything done.
We're not deluded about McGinn's failures. We've written about them at length: Most dramatically, McGinn opposed the deep-bore tunnel without ever proposing a viable alternative. That was idiotic. McGinn also resisted the best choice for the court-appointed monitor to oversee police reforms; he vowed to get rid of 200 strategic advisers in city government, who have important jobs; and he advocated unsuccessfully to have the liquor board extend bar hours.
But none of the challengers has made a case that he or she can do better. In fact, they largely agree with McGinn's policies and agenda, but offer nothing substantive about how they would be more effective.
Ed Murray, the state senator behind the state's gay marriage law, is a solid Democrat. But he has offered virtually no details about his agenda for the city—instead, he's run an ad hominem campaign obsessed with the theme that McGinn is a divisive loser. Murray is the one fomenting division. He claims to have brought together factions in Olympia, but the Democratic caucus fractured this year with Murray as its leader, and Murray has brokered record-setting highway budgets while funding for higher education has fallen off a cliff.
Seattle City Council member Bruce Harrell, although a solid progressive on most issues (such as helping convicts get jobs), says he would have fought in court to avoid a settlement that binds the city to reform the police department. He questions the Feds' argument about excessive use of force. (Wow.)
Finally, former city council member Peter Steinbrueck prefers buses over light rail; he's stuck in the 1970s, and we'll be stuck in traffic. Steinbrueck is supported by the loudest anti-density, anti-transit groups in town. The other candidates in the race are all long shots, including a smart planner and neighborhood activist named Kate Martin, who holds draconian views on panhandling.
Our priorities are increasing public safety, reforming the police, building a citywide light-rail network, creating new jobs, and helping businesses grow. Which makes our endorsement in the mayor's race a simple one: Vote McGinn, who is already delivering that agenda.
City Council, Position 2
He may look goofy, but Richard Conlin isn't just a huge-headed tooth balloon—he's arguably the most destructive member of the Seattle City Council.
He has claimed to be a progressive environmentalist during his 16 years on the council, when in fact he has spent those four terms helping to kill mass transit, build new highways, and seek harsh penalties for panhandlers. He's not a progressive; he's a green-washing liberal fraud. Sure, Conlin has served on the Sound Transit board and prized a bill to legalize backyard pygmy goats—which shows how much he lervz the earth—but as council president, Conlin hampered real environmental progress: He brought votes to suspend funding of the city's Transit Master Plan while leaving the city's Bicycle Master Plan mostly unfunded. Conlin backed building a wider, six-lane 520 bridge that still lacks $2 billion in funding for Seattle's side of the project. He championed a deep-bore tunnel (dishonestly calling it a "green alternative") that won't accommodate any mass transit. And Conlin ignored environmental reviews for the tunnel in the name of expediting highway construction, while arguing in favor of environmental reviews as a means to delay mass transit projects and homeless shelters.
On human rights, Conlin's record is terrible: He was the only "no" vote on the council on a bill to require paid sick leave. He also ignored the Seattle Human Rights Commission, appointed by the mayor and council, which unanimously opposed new penalties for aggressive panhandling (which is already a criminal offense), because they violated due process in court and provided a fast track to jail. "The proposed ordinance does not comply with human rights standards," the commission found. What did Conlin do? He rushed the bill to a vote and voted for it anyway (Mayor McGinn later vetoed the bill).
In other words, don't vote for that snake-oil-sweating charlatan.
In this race, the clear choice to represent Seattle is Kshama Sawant. Despite her "Socialist Alternative" label, there isn't anything particularly radical about the core of Sawant's progressive agenda. She promotes a $15 an hour minimum wage and new taxes on the wealthy to bolster funding for mass transit, while cutting taxes on small businesses, homeowners, and workers.
An Occupy Seattle organizer and economics instructor at Seattle Central Community College, Sawant—who is sharp as a tack and loud as an air horn—brings a lefty perspective that would widen the council's ideological spectrum and make the progressive council member Mike O'Brien seem more moderate in comparison. We wouldn't want a council filled with Sawants. But we don't want a council filled with sniveling, prevaricating Conlins, either—and that's pretty much what we have now.
Brian Carver, another challenger in the race, hasn't shown the spine our council needs. But Sawant has—vote Sawant.
City Council, Position 8
The Seattle Times thinks you're a gullible, cud-chewing cow, and those fuckers are flexing their fingers and aiming to milk you, hard. Why else would they try to convince you that Council Member Mike O'Brien is the "mayor's sidekick and occasional puppy" and that the mayor is "his ventriloquist"? Everyone watching city hall has witnessed O'Brien prove to be an independent, accomplished progressive. Where McGinn has fostered some acrimony and flopped on some campaign promises, O'Brien has racked up accomplishments with the help of his council colleagues. The Seattle Times is being dishonest with you.
In his freshman term, O'Brien passed a bill to ban plastic bags, thereby reducing the city's waste, and, by collaborating with grocers, avoided a referendum challenging the measure. (In 2009, before O'Brien began, the council passed a similar bag bill, but the plastic industry ran a $1.3 million campaign in 2009 to successfully overturn it.) O'Brien also sponsored legislation that gives political newcomers a better shot at running for city hall seats by preventing incumbents from rolling over their war chests of cash from one campaign to the next. A bill that allows homeless people to sleep in their cars outside churches also came from O'Brien, and he's been a stalwart supporter of his colleagues' liberal bills (including paid sick leave and helping people with criminal records get jobs). While courts tossed out O'Brien's bill to require a registry that let residents opt out of yellow pages delivery, we appreciate that he tried getting those useless lumps of pulp off our porches.
Meanwhile, O'Brien has sometimes agreed with the mayor and sometimes defied him, tweaking McGinn's deal for a new Sonics arena to get more public benefits and increasing the rate of affordable housing in South Lake Union. And while O'Brien opposed the deep-bore tunnel—along with the mayor and this newspaper—he managed to remain collegial with his peers.
Put simply: O'Brien is the most effective, most progressive member of the city council, and he's shown broad support by sweeping endorsements from key labor groups, district Democrats, and a cavalcade of Seattle lawmakers.
The only reason we can imagine that Albert Shen, a Seattle Community Colleges board member and engineering consultant, got into this race is that O'Brien was considered a vulnerable target—maybe because of the Seattle Times' hatchet jobs. But Shen is fuzzy on the details of city business. He's unfamiliar with a public campaign financing measure on the fall ballot and told the SECB that light-rail funding should begin by asking federal officials for cash (the city should go to the Feds last). He's also too conservative: In addition to thinking pot should still be illegal and that the city should add more penalties for aggressive panhandling, which is already a crime, Shen opposes nearly all bike lanes. Bike lanes get in the way of vehicles, he says, and should be restricted only to streets where "it is safe for them." Maybe we've been snorting too many bath salts over here, but painting bike lanes where it's already safe and letting cyclists continue to get crushed on the most dangerous streets sounds bananas. If Shen seems out of touch with Seattle, well, his campaign isn't really a Seattle campaign: 68 percent of Shen's money comes from outside the city. In contrast, O'Brien only has 17 percent of donors who live in another city. So don't vote for out-of-touch Shen and don't vote for David Ishii, a joke candidate.
Proposition No. 1: Parks Levy
For Christ's sake, vote yes on the parks levy to prevent our county-run parks—places like Marymoor Park, Cougar Mountain, and the Burke Gilman Trail—from becoming trendy new dumping grounds for the bodies of missing children. This levy doesn't cost much (about $56 per year on a $300,000 house) and provides about 70 percent of the King County parks system's budget to maintain 200 parks and hundreds of miles of trails. Only assholes don't like parks. Are you an asshole? No? Then vote for the parks levy.
King County executive Dow Constantine's challengers include a twice-bankrupt civil engineer, a part-time Metro operator with no money, and the delightfully batshit Goodspaceguy (who wants to colonize the moon!).[CORRECTION: Goodspaceguy says, "I am an advocate of colonizing orbital space, which would be much more healthy than colonizing the moon."] Constantine is the only real candidate in this race. During his first term as county executive, Constantine reined in expenses while leading successful efforts to rebuild the South Park Bridge, lobbied for the taxing authority to fund Metro, and curbed the euthanasia rate at the county animal shelter from 40 percent to 14 percent. He's also screwed up some stuff: Constantine censored left-leaning political ads on Metro buses while selling space to the antigay Mormon Church, tried to strip public defenders of their autonomy by bringing them in-house, and ginned up war-on-cars rhetoric by saying tunnel opponents were trying to force drivers to "abandon their cars." Yeesh. But still, there's no one better (or viable) in this race. Plus, have you seen his hair? It's like his scalp gave birth to a litter of well-groomed baby minks.
County Council, District 1
The county council appointed Rod Dembowski, a status quo Democratic establishment type, to fill out Attorney General Bob Ferguson's vacated council seat. So we went into our SECB interview really, really looking for a reason to hate him. And we couldn't find one.
Dembowski is a smart, aggressive "recovering lawyer" with a working-class background that informs his pro-transit, pro-environment, pro-social-service agenda. And he's willing to fight more moderate Democrats: As we mentioned, County Executive Constantine is attempting to bring all public defenders to work inside the structure of county government, thus stripping their independence and potentially weakening their advocacy for criminal justice reform. Dembowski has already resisted, bucking Constantine's legally dubious argument that the county needs to neuter the defense agencies.
Community activist Naomi Wilson, while well-meaning, is clearly outmatched. She speaks authoritatively on the health and human service issues she knows well, but lacks depth on other county issues. Also, she needs to pay a few more dues before asking voters to cast their ballots for somebody who has rarely cast a ballot herself.
County Council, District 9
We had hoped that Reagan Dunn's embarrassing seven-point thumping in last year's attorney general race (he barely won his own council district) would finally stick a rusty fork deep in his undeserved political career. When he ran for attorney general, Dunn had the council's worst voting record, missing 491 votes.
Dunn presents himself as the stern face of fiscal conservatism (he roused himself from his vegetative state of sloth long enough to vote against a temporary $20 Metro-saving car tab, against the parks levy, and against a tax to pay for public safety) while spending $6,000 on a taxpayer-funded junket to Australia. Asshole.
Unfortunately, in council elections past, Dunn's weakness of character has only been surpassed by the weakness of his opposition, leaving us with no choice but to ironically endorse long-shot challengers with no chance of winning this Republican-leaning district.
Not this year.
Democratic challenger Shari Song is a Korean immigrant, a mom, a successful businesswoman, and a grassroots community organizer who not only epitomizes the American Dream but understands how hard it can be to attain. "I've had to figure out how to make dinner on $2.50," Song told the SECB about her early struggles. "Not Reagan." It's a perspective that makes Song a better fit for this largely rural district than the jet-setting Dunn.
Song's vision for King County is clear: pay for parks, attract living wage jobs, and improve our transit and road infrastructure. And her critique of Dunn is dead-on: "He supports things that sound nice ... but he always votes against new revenue, even the parks levy." And refreshingly, Song promises to be a "full-time council member."
It also wouldn't hurt to give the county's large Asian community some representation on the council for the first time in recent memory. Enthusiastically vote for Shari Song.
Commissioner, Position No. 3
We've been covering Port of Seattle races for years, and we're still not exactly sure what the commissioners do, or why they get to spend taxpayer dollars subsidizing giant shipping companies. But we're pretty certain it's got something to do with "the economy," so we try to take this seriously.
In that spirit, we're endorsing Stephanie Bowman, who brings the most relevant experience and credible endorsements to the position. Bowman's fellow commissioners appointed her in May, after she served five years managing federal governmental affairs at the Port of Tacoma. We're crossing our fingers she turns out to be the accountability and "economic justice" advocate she says she is.
Michael Wolfe argues that his travel industry experience would bring a needed airport-centric perspective to the commission, which we agree is lacking, but he doesn't have Bowman's breadth of knowledge and experience. Meanwhile, software engineer Andrew Pilloud is even more clueless about the commission than we are. Vote Bowman.
District No. 4
As if you needed more proof that the Seattle School Board is a dystopian shithole, the board members, in a self-evaluation released this summer, anonymously described themselves like this: "The poster-child for a dysfunctional school board." "It's like Kabuki Theater." "A board like this will repel all people of quality."
Seriously, we didn't even have to make any of that shit up. Consequently, school board races are normally filled with wackos. But this year, the candidates were thoughtful, intelligent, and for some god-awful reason, engaged in the minutiae that makes up school board work.
Take Sue Peters, for instance. An education buff who started the group Parents Across America and edits the wonky Seattle Education blog, Peters opposes the corporate education reform agenda, including charter schools and Teach for America, and she's skeptical of the state-mandated Common Core curriculum soon to be rolled out in schools.
Opponent Suzanne Dale Estey is well-qualified, but despite saying she opposes privatizing public education with charter schools, she's in bed with the corporate education "reformers" behind charter schools. Most notably: Tania De Sa Campos, sponsor of last year's charter schools initiative, gave to Estey's campaign. Estey is also backed by problematic past board members who should have prevented the district from losing millions of dollars in a scandal a few years back. Specifically: She's been endorsed by retiring incumbent Michael DeBell and former school board member Peter Maier (they received a report about the risk of theft years ago and did nothing). We don't need another candidate perpetuating dysfunction. The other guy in the race, Dean McColgan, is a charter schools supporter who says he'd bring a "business background" to the board. Yech. Peters points out, rightly, that "the last time we had a board with business backgrounds... we ended up with a superintendent and CFO being fired."
District No. 5
Stephan Blanford seems a little, well, bland (ha-ha, Stephan Blandford!), and he hedges on issues more often than we'd like. But he's more familiar with the district and its problems than opponent Olu Thomas, a parent and social worker. An education consultant who's worked with the district before, Blanford prioritizes early education funding and addressing the achievement gap. Thomas thinks we should move money from the capital to the operations budget (which isn't possible), was unfamiliar with Teach for America, and has a bit of an anti-teacher bent, which plays poorly for someone looking to help direct a school district. LaCrese Green, a tutor, didn't even show up to our endorsement meeting.