Tuesday's election resulted in a decisive victory for Jenny Durkan as Seattle's first woman mayor in nearly 100 years. Up north, Everett will choose its first elected woman mayor, but the contest is closer; with the votes still being counted, the candidates are seven votes apart.
Everett faces a drug epidemic so drastic that in March, the city sued the manufacturer of OxyContin for "recklessly" supplying the drug and fueling a black market trade. As The Los Angeles Times reported last year, black market OxyContin has been devastating Everett, contributing to crime, overdoses and a heroin epidemic.
Not surprisingly, both Everett mayoral candidates, Cassie Franklin and Judy Tuohy, have focused their campaigns on the drug epidemic, as well as growing homelessness.
In August, Everett auto shop owner Gary Watts set up four surveillance cameras to spy on a homeless camp across from his business. He planned to set up microphone and a "drone program." He started live-streaming it on a YouTube channel he titled "Everett Tweakers." The channel has since stopped streaming but still has over 8,000 subscribers.
In August Sylvia Anderson, CEO of the Everett Gospel Mission, told KING 5 that the live stream would do more harm than good. "This will not solve the problem," she said. "Humiliating people has never been a successful tactic in changing behaviors. In fact, it will alienate them even more and keep them from getting help."
During the election, Watts spent $50,000 of his own money launching a write-in campaign for mayor to convince people that the city needs to take a more "tough" approach to homelessness and the drug epidemic. Watts earned 10 percent of the vote, far more than any previous write-in candidate.
Perhaps worried about losing voters, neither of the two front-runners disavowed Watts or the "Tweaker Cam."
In a televised interview with KING 5, both candidates said it was hard to tell whether Watts's campaign would influence the race. Neither candidate admitted even a shred of reservation about Watts's stunt. If anything, they gave him soft praise.
"He's brought the challenge that we're facing, street-level social issues in our community to the forefront," Franklin said. "And I think as a community leader, I completely understand the frustration he's experienced. I appreciate that it's upped the conversation around this public safety crisis that we're facing... He's certainly making a strong statement for what's important."
In an email, Tuohy wrote of her thoughts on the "Tweaker Cam": "While I never like to see our city labeled negatively, it did bring attention to a growing problem and the frustration many business owners and neighborhoods are experiencing. He definitely got his message across."
KING 5 suggests in its report that the stunt could have an impact on the election, since Watts has scooped up 10 percent of the vote. Watts himself thinks he helped tip the election in Tuohy's favor. KING 5 reports that he met with both candidates and offered to endorse the candidate who agreed with his views.
Tuohy said that Watts has not endorsed her campaign "to my knowledge." But Watts thinks his "Tweaker Cam" stunt helped Tuohy.
In the last week of her campaign, Tuohy put out a political mailer saying that the city's approach to public safety, in particular its Safe Streets Initiative, had "failed." This was a surprising move, given that she had voted to spend money on it as a council member.
"Judy made a strategic move that made the front page of the local paper," Watts told KING 5. "I think that pulled a significant number of votes in her favor."
Tuohy isn't sure about this. She wrote in an email that she'd met with voters who were undecided between Watts and herself. "It is hard to know who his voters would have voted for or if they would have voted at all, if he were not a write-in candidate. However, I can say I lost several voters to Gary and this is a very close race."
It is indeed. We'll see what happens in Everett. Also, please vote in your local elections.