According to the latest numbers, one candidate has made it to the November general election with more votes than those earned by Seattle City Council members Kshama Sawant and Mike O'Brien combined. His name is Goodspaceguy, and this is his 16th election (he believes).
Okay, okay, it's not exactly a fair comparison: Goodspaceguy, a staunchly persistent local candidate who in past races has championed space colonization, is running for Port Commission Position No. 2, a county-wide seat. The number of ballots returned for the countywide races is more than double the number of ballots returned for the citywide races—and Sawant and O'Brien won in districts containing fractions of those votes.
But the comparison is still worth making, if only to show how big the port races are and yet how little attention they're given. Goodspaceguy, who describes himself as "the capitalist" of the race, raked in 23,216 King County votes, second to incumbent Courtney Gregoire's 83 percent majority. He also won a bigger percentage of the electorate in his Port Commission Position No. 2 race than the percentage won by the candidate the Seattle Times' endorsed in the other port race for Position No. 5.
Which raises the question: Do the people voting for Goodspaceguy know who he is?
Goodspaceguy told the Stranger Election Control Board (SECB) that "one of the reasons I’ve run in the past is that I want work for everyone." He then went on to explain why he's against the state minimum wage:
People should not be banned from work. And so I’ve stressed the fact that people cannot find work at $9.40 an hour, the state minimum wage. So these people who cannot find work? What are we going to do with them? Some of them become homeless, and create condemnation of themselves because the law says they may not sell their labor at the market rate, which is less than the minimum wage. And because of the minimum wage, it’s so expensive to clean up King County, so we have trash everywhere. So when visitors come through the port, businessmen and tourists, and they see such a trashy King County, it makes a real bad impression.
The setup of Goodspaceguy's race explains a lot. In a small race with only two other candidates—an incumbent who happens to be a former governor's daughter, Gregoire, and John Naubert, a socialist workers organizer—you can see how a quirkier candidate could obtain a relative edge. (Or even just benefit from people who aren't paying much attention to port races and decide to reward his very unique name with a vote.)
But just so ya know, Goodspaceguy was also highly critical of—and pretty condescending toward—Courtney Gregoire's economic acumen:
GOODSPACEGUY: Well I don’t think Courtney has studied economics. So if she had studied economics she would probably have different opinions. She is like the majority of people in our society, in our society…
ELI SANDERS: You’re not making a lot of friends in this room here.
GOODSPACEGUY: Well, you have to speak truth if you want solutions that work. So, if our public schools taught the principles of economics to our students, we would have a much more prosperous society. It’s not Courtney’s fault that the public schools failed her by not teaching her economics.
And he is undeterred by the fact that he has never occupied public office:
ES: How many times have you run for office?
GOODSPACEGUY: I believe this is the 16th time.
ES: And have you ever won any race for public office ever?
GOODSPACEGUY: I’ve won the primary elections.
ES: But have you ever won a race?
GOODSPACEGUY: Yeah, I have. [Eds: In fact, he has never won any race for public office. Winning a primary is not the same as winning a race.]
ES: What does that suggest to you?
GOODSPACEGUY: It suggests that when I try to explain economics, people don’t believe me.
Why? Why, King County, why? Did 23,216 of you vote for Goodspaceguy because he has a funny name and you were bored? We get it. The port fails to exude the sexiness of progressive city politicians head-butting each other over housing policy. Port races hardly have any posters or free food events, and port commission meetings are soul-sucking exercises that challenge attendees to stay conscious during endless, awful PowerPoint presentations. (They are hell.)
But the port IS SO IMPORTANT. And not enough people are voting in elections that could have enormous implications for the rest of the city and the county. The port, which generated more than half a million dollars in profit and collected $72.9 million in property taxes in 2014, is one of the potentially responsible parties in the Duwamish cleanup. It also opposed the adoption of SeaTac's $15 minimum wage ordinance, which means that a lot of airport workers still make $9.47 an hour. And then there's the whole Shell Oil rig debacle. Gregoire was a part of it, yeah, but she's now admitted she made mistakes and will learn from them. Goodspaceguy? He told The Stranger he supported the deal to host Shell's drilling fleet on port property, and would do it all again if voters put him in office. Port races are also happening at a time when West Coast ports are facing new incentives to build refineries and export terminals servicing fossil fuel industry's crude oil boom in North Dakota.
Goodspaceguy did make one solid point about all of this. "The Port of Seattle is a business owned by the people of King County," Goodspaceguy explained to the SECB. "So the people of King County are the owners. But instead of getting dividends from the port, they’re getting taxed by the port."
But voting for port races like you don't give a shit means that the port can continue to do whatever it wants without representing the input of voters, the shareholders in this analogy. In the absence of that input, port commissioners are probably happy to continue voting however big business tells them.