Click here for The Stranger's 2017 general election endorsements.
There's this asshole... You know the guy—it's always a guy—who says voting is pointless? That asshole.
"Look at the last election," this asshole says. "You tried to save the country, you voted, but old, racist whites handed the nuclear codes to an old, racist orange. So fuck it. Don't vote. There's no point. Let's just enjoy our pot lozenges and Tumblr porn until rising oceans or the North Koreans finish us off."
You're not that guy. You're not an asshole. You're not a defeatist. "Why bother?" wasn't your takeaway after the last election. Nope, you've been marching and donating and arguing with—or cutting off—old, racist relatives who voted for old, racist orange. You want the 2018 midterms to come around so bad, you can almost taste your ballot.
We're excited to vote next year, too—hell, half of the Stranger Election Control Board (SECB) is thinking about illegally registering to vote in swing districts in red states so we can vote against Republicans in vulnerable House races in 2018. But guess what? We don't have to wait until next year to vote! We get to vote this year! It's true! Twice! Primary this summer! And general election this fall! Okay, okay. These aren't the midterms, we realize, and we don't get to vote against many actual Republicans in off-year Seattle elections. But you know what? #LocalElectionsMatter. So go and CHECK YOUR MAIL, you non-asshole you. Find the envelope marked "Official Election Mail." Open it. Take out your 2017 primary ballot. Get a pen.
You're going to be voting for new members of the city council, port commission, and school board. The top two vote-getters in each race will appear on the general-election ballot in November. You're also deciding whether to approve a small tax that will allow low-income kids to go to plays, museums, and the zoo. There's a new baby giraffe at the zoo. ONLY A SACK OF SHIT WOULD VOTE AGAINST SENDING CHILDREN TO SEE GIRAFFES. Are you a sack of shit? No, you are not.
Oh, and maybe you've heard we'll be choosing a new mayor, too?
The SECB spoke with as many of the candidates as we could cram into our hot, sweaty, poorly-lit conference room. Two stormed out (was it something we said?), three brought us doughnuts (the SECB's carb-of-choice), and one brought us four cases of beer. (The beer came courtesy of Sara Nelson, the Chamber of Commerce–endorsed city council candidate we want you to vote against. Thanks, Sara!) We ate, we drank, we took notes, we stared slack-jawed as former US Attorney Jenny Durkan clamped her hands on Nikkita Oliver's shoulders and hijacked a question that had been put to Oliver about her spotty voting record. We regret not capturing that moment on film, as it was (1) amazingly awkward/awkwardly amazing and (2) a clear indication that Durkan really, really, really wanted us to endorse Oliver, so she could run against her in November. (If it's Durkan vs. Oliver in November, Durkan thinks she'll win. Most of SECB thinks so, too.)
And speaking of the mayor's race: Did you know there are 21 candidates running for mayor? Twenty. Fucking. One. During our last mayoral primary, only 35 percent of registered voters turned in their ballots. It's possible someone could win the primary with 15 percent of the vote or less. The only way to make sure there's someone on your general-election ballot come November that you actually want to see in the mayor's office come January is to vote for that person in the primary on the August 1 ballot. Seattle and all its problems—homelessness, rising rents, shitty slumlords, shooty cops, wage thieves, woo girls and tech bros, billionaire fuckwits—will fall into the hands of our new mayor.
Don't fuck this up by skipping the primary, people. Fill out your ballot and get it postmarked by August 1. Vote.
The Stranger Election Control Board is Sydney Brownstone, Christopher Frizzelle, Heidi Groover, Steven Hsieh, Tim Keck, Ana Sofia Knauf, Charles Mudede, Tricia Romano, Eli Sanders, and Dan Savage. The Stranger does not endorse in uncontested races or ones we forgot about. Reading our endorsements means you accept the SECB's terms of service. SECB endorsements are legally binding.
King County Proposition No. 1 (Sales Tax for Cultural Access Program)
This is a small tax that will send low-income kids to see plays, museums, and baby giraffes. It's also a tax for arts and science programs in schools. Arts and science and schools and giraffes are good.
There's no organized opposition to this tax, but half a dozen backdoor virgins in sensible shoes (the Seattle Times editorial board) will try to convince you to vote no. They are going to tell you we can't afford a silly arts tax when the world is on fire. That's bullshit because beyond "just" arts, Proposition 1 will fund in-class science and cultural-heritage programs. It's bullshit because Proposition 1 will allow low-income people to access places like the Woodland Park Zoo and the Pacific Science Center. It's bullshit because, of the $67 million raised every year under this tax, $24 million will go to small community-based arts, science, and cultural programs. Another $38 million will go to large organizations, but they have to use at least half of that money on public-school programs, serving more people of color and low-income families, and serving more people in suburban and rural King County, and they can't use any of it to build fancy new buildings or buy blow for board retreats.
The ballot measure is a nightmare of bureaucratic language and rules and sub-rules and amendments to the sub-rules, which the SECB read after downing three shots of Fireball with pot lozenges dissolved in it because someone dared us to do that and the SECB never says no to a dare. But suffice it to say, this is not some sort of blank check to the symphony so it can install gold-plated rim seats in Ludovic Morlot's secret sex dungeon under Benaroya Hall. It's money for art, science, and cultural heritage for kids who wouldn't be able to access those things otherwise.
There is one critique of this measure that isn't bullshit: We're sick of funding things designed to help low-income people with regressive taxes that disproportionately impact low-income people. Yes, this .1 percent sales tax increase amounts to just a penny on every $10 spent, but it's still a shitty regressive tax. We're voting for it anyway. If that makes us hypocrites, so be it. But anyone who's against endorsing this thing because it's regressive and isn't out there pushing for a fairer, more progressive tax system is a far worse hypocrite.
King County Executive
Dear Dow: We're sorry we made you sit in a conference room for an hour with Goodspaceguy, the perennial candidate who wants to eliminate the minimum wage, and Bill Hirt, the anti-transit fuckwit who stormed out of the meeting after five minutes. Our endorsement of you was a foregone conclusion—you knew it, the SECB knew it, Bill Hirt obviously knew it—and not just because your opponents are garbage. You're actually really good at this "being county executive" shit. In the last couple years, you approved a plan to increase Metro service hours, signed legislation granting paid parental leave to some county employees, and championed a ballot measure that would bump the sales tax to fund critical arts programs. Impressive! Especially when one is reminded—by you, Dow, at every opportunity—that you inherited a budget nightmare when you took office in 2009. (There were talks of cutting Metro hours back then.) Now the books are balanced and the city of Seattle enjoys a collaborative relationship with our county overlords. You've worked with Mayor Ed Murray on initiatives to launch a regional homelessness plan and the country's first-ever safe injection sites, and we trust you'll play nice with Seattle's next mayor.
Yours truly, the SECB
P.S. Dear readers: Yeah, yeah. Dow Constantine is a political climber who probably touches himself in his swimsuit area when he thinks about moving into the governor's mansion in Olympia. But what's wrong with that? Don't we want politicians whose policies we support to climb to higher office? And, yes, Dow's "swoop of silky hair," as we wrote in our last endorsement issue, deserves at least half of the credit for his accomplishments. But the guy (and his swoopy hair) gets shit done.
PORT OF SEATTLE
Commissioner Position 1
Everyone forgets the port exists until a major scandal flares up—and a port scandal flares up about as often as the SECB's chronic yeast infection. And the port's most persistent source of painful yeast infections? Port CEO. In the last year, port CEO Ted Fick—whose title was changed to "executive director" after people began to ask why a public agency had a CEO, LOL—resigned after it was revealed that Fick gave himself a $24,500 bonus in addition to his $350,000 salary as part of a 7 percent pay raise that was supposed to cover nonunion port employees (not the highest executive position in the place). A sexual-harassment claim and a DUI didn't help Fick's performance review much.
This isn't the first time a port CEO has gotten into trouble. But here's the thing: It was the port commission that hired Fick, and port commissioners also approved the 7 percent pay raise Fick gave himself. So Fick was not the problem at the port. He was a symptom of a gross corporate culture that's 30 years behind other public agencies in King County. So how do we fix it? Flip the fucking port commission—which will require getting rid of John Creighton, its longest resident—before it hires a new CEO, er, "executive director."
Our choice: Ryan Calkins, a guy who resembles a pre-man-bun Ken doll. (The SECB reserves the right to judge male candidates on their looks.) Calkins either has the energy and ideas to actually make the port commission accountable or does a good job of faking it. Only one way to find out which it is—put this classic Ken on the port commission. A former president of an import company, Calkins is a transit/enviro nerd and recognizes that the port has a huge capacity to fund and shape local housing and transit policies. He likes bike lanes, density, and electrifying the port vehicle fleet. He doesn't like fossil-fuel projects like Shell or that natural-gas plant proposal in Tacoma. Also, he says he's going to do something about that long-ass walk from the airport light-rail station to the actual airport terminals through the fucking parking garage. Seriously, whoever made that walkway so long should be locked in a basement and forced to read Mitch McConnell/Paul Ryan slash fiction for the rest of their lives.
Commissioner Position 3
FLIP. THE. PORT. Incumbent Stephanie Bowman—a former staffer at the Port of Tacoma—has had four years to show us what she can do. Not much, as it turns out. Plus, during the fight against Shell in 2015, Bowman sided with letting Shell host its Arctic oil-drilling rig in Seattle because of inertia. (Seriously, she justified her pro-destroy-the-planet position by saying "there were no 'guiding principles' for energy projects.") There is only one thing more annoying than actively siding with a multinational oil company intent on destroying the world, and that is passively siding with a multinational oil company intent on destroying the world.
Ahmed Abdi, on the other hand, came to the United States from war-torn Somalia through a Kenyan refugee camp and has dedicated his career to helping low-wage workers and people in low-income housing. A couple of years ago, Abdi helped pass Prop 1, a $15 minimum wage for hotel and airport workers at Sea-Tac—the campaign that jump-started the movement to raise the minimum wage around here. (The port opposed this initiative in court.) Bowman talked a good game regarding the Trump administration's travel ban (she called it "idiotic" and "discriminatory"), but we don't trust Bowman. (If she can justify backing Shell because "inertia," who's to say she won't ultimately back Trump's travel ban for some similarly bullshit reason?) Abdi has close ties with some of communities most impacted by the Trump regime's rabid racism and xenophobia.
Commissioner Position 4
The wide-open race for Position 4 has attracted a number of candidates who make us wonder why the hell they want this job. This list includes former Seattle City Council member Peter Steinbrueck. (Dude, why are you doing this? Primarily to us, but also to yourself?) But there are really only two candidates who we think actually give a fuck about this job enough to do it well: Preeti Shridhar, a public affairs administrator for the city of Renton, and John Persak, an labor leader and port wonk. As much as Persak knows his stuff, we don't think the port commission needs another labor diehard. So we're going with Shridhar.
The port commission is supposed to represent the citizens of King County, and Shridhar, with her list of endorsements from mayors of cities near the airport, gives voice to communities that the port has historically ignored. Shridhar, who helped create Seattle's Climate Protection Initiative, also has good ideas about using the port, which has lobbyists in DC, to fight Trumpian immigration policies. We need someone to leverage the port's political power nationally—a power that has too long been used as a tool of huge port corporations to stifle worker rights and environmental protections.
CITY OF SEATTLE
If you told us four months ago that six different candidates would have a shot at becoming Seattle's next mayor, we would have laughed in your face. Sure, Ed Murray was going to take some shit for his homeless-camp sweeps, capitulation to developers, and stubborn centrism. But no serious candidate was going to challenge a popular incumbent riding a chariot pulled by horses named HALA and the $15 Minimum Wage. Barring some political catastrophe, Murray looked poised to coast into his second term.
You know the rest of the story. Three men publically accused Murray of sexually abusing them when they were teenagers, Murray dropped out of the race, and the field of candidates gunning to replace him swelled to 21.
And, hey, six of them aren't complete jokes! (How many are complete jokes? Well, that's math, and the SECB sucks at math.) But it can be hard to tell the six incomplete-jokes-to-serious candidates apart. All six want more affordable housing, reformed police, and better options for the homeless. All six say the rich don't pay enough taxes and the poor pay too much. And they're all pissed off, card-carrying members of The Resistance. With so many points of agreement, this race boils down to policy and specifics. On that matter, one candidate clearly stands out.
For her bold housing proposals, firm grasp of Seattle's most pressing issues, and decades of work fighting to keep the city livable and urban, Cary Moon deserves your vote. She's a bit of a snoozer on the campaign trail—nobody's picturing Moon pounding her fist on a podium, stirring the youth to action—but what Moon lacks in name recognition and oratorical flair, she makes up for in vision. Moon does her homework before taking a position. She's also a genuine progressive unafraid of calling bullshit on big business.
It's true, we're biased. We gave Moon a Stranger Genius Award in 2007 for her work directing the People's Waterfront Coalition, during which she waged a hard-fought and worthy campaign against the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel. She has also contributed to this paper, writing a four-part series with Charles Mudede on Seattle's affordability crisis.
But we fawn over Moon because she's smart and she has vision—and this city needs brainy, visionary leadership. Consider her platform on housing: Moon has outlined a plan to keep Seattle affordable for people in low- and middle-income brackets—one that doesn't ignore economic realities. Tech bros are moving to the city, and they won't stop anytime soon. New buildings will go up. Your favorite bar/record store/jack shack is in danger of being priced out. Moon wants the economic benefits of a booming tech sector to benefit everyone, and she outlines a plan for making it happen.
Most uniquely, she has championed a tax on real-estate speculators (rich assholes who buy property in this city without actually living here) that would generate cash for the city while deterring a practice that drives up housing costs. She arrived at this policy after carefully researching trends in rapidly growing cities, especially Vancouver, BC. Did we mention that Moon does her fucking homework?
On top of a speculation tax, Moon wants to convert unused parcels of city land into public housing, encourage community land trusts, and rezone single-family neighborhoods. She also understands that housing policy can't just focus on the development side of the picture. Efforts to protect tenants, including a proposal to prevent evictions of families with children, balance out Moon's affordability platform.
Eyeing a more equitable tax system, Moon has carefully considered where she would spend her political capital as mayor. In theory, she supports an income tax on individuals making more than $250,000. But Moon recognizes that such a tax, while needed, won't come online for the foreseeable future. We need to look at other sources of revenue, from a statewide capital gains tax (stocks and other investments) to raising the business and occupation tax to a luxury real-estate tax (expensive-ass homes).
Moon also hits the right notes on all the other important issues. She wants the Community Police Commission to have direct oversight of the department, rather than solely playing an advisory role per the city's newly adopted police accountability policy. On homelessness, she's calling for more low-barrier shelters and long-term housing, and ending sweeps. On labor, Moon has pledged to adequately fund the city's offices for protecting workers' rights so we can make sure minimum-wage workers are actually getting paid the minimum wage while enforcing secure scheduling and other labor laws. All good shit.
Jenny Durkan is a solid prosecutor, but we're worried that she'd cave too easily to business interests. Mike McGinn, who we endorsed for mayor in 2009 and for reelection in 2013, hasn't made a convincing case for himself in 2017. We don't hate Bob Hasegawa's plan to implement a municipal bank (we're pretty sure he would make sweet, sweet love to one if given the chance), but we can't endorse a candidate with just one new idea. Nikkita Oliver has mobilized young and progressive Seattleites, and we look forward to endorsing Oliver and other candidates from the newly formed Peoples Party in future races. We could live with Mayor Jessyn Farrell—one or two SECB members might go rogue and vote for her—but Moon's outsider cred and embrace of a speculator's tax clinched the deal.
Council Position 8
AIR HORN! Tim Burgess! Is leaving! The! City! Council!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A former cop and (supposedly) recovering/reformed conservative, Burgess gets a lot of credit (from backdoor virgins in sensible shoes) for being the "adult in the room" on our increasingly progressive council. But that is really just code for policy positions that hurt poor people and the kind of timid, incremental, old-school liberalism that has no place in a city as left-leaning as Seattle. So congratulations on your retirement, Tim. We can't wait to replace you. And we especially can't wait to replace you with Jon Grant.
Grant, former head of the Tenants Union of Washington State and ongoing nightmare for the landlord lobby, offers the boldest, most detailed platform in this race for Burgess's old citywide council seat. Grant wants to give tenants collective bargaining rights, tax corporations to fund public housing, slap taxes on vacant properties or homes snapped up by speculators, require developers to set aside a quarter of new housing in up-zoned areas as affordable, increase oversight of the Seattle police, open police-union negotiations over discipline to the public, create a city health-care program, build more bike lanes and sidewalks, give preference to city contractors who demonstrate gender pay equity, increase funding for legal assistance to undocumented immigrants, decriminalize some low-level nonviolent offenses, expand diversion programs—he has so many ideas, we can't even fit them all here.
Is Grant going to get every one of these things done? No, just like Kshama Sawant didn't convince Boeing workers to seize the means of production and make buses instead of planes. It's about staking out a bold position—15 Now, 25 percent mandatory affordable housing—and then dragging the rest of the council your way. (The Overton window, people—google it.) Some people dismiss these types of politicians as ineffective or too radical. Those people are idiots and, most likely, backdoor virgins. And you know who has no time for idiots? Or backdoor virgins? Lisa Herbold, a freakishly smart, no-nonsense city council member who has worked with Grant on issues like the city's rental inspection program. Herbold has endorsed Grant, and so has Sawant.
About the other candidates in this race: The Seattle Times–approved Sara Nelson makes decent beer, but she shouldn't be on the city council for many reasons, including that her "whoever decided business was the enemy?" ethic misses the whole point of the city's struggles with inequality. Hisam Goueli is a hot gay doctor (the tits on that man!), which, back when The Stranger was good, was all it took to win our endorsement. Sheley Secrest has a powerful track record on police accountability, but we couldn't get on board with her call for a temporary moratorium on development, a move that would drive housing prices up. And we really, really liked Teresa Mosqueda, but we wanted her to be bolder on issues like negotiations with the despotic police union. She opposes opening them to the public but supports allowing a representative for the public to be at the negotiating table. (If you absolutely can't vote Grant—maybe you're scared of socialism or you're fucking your landlord or, like several members of the SECB, you're a misandrist—you can vote Mosqueda with a clear conscience.)
But Jon Grant stands apart. He has a healthy skepticism of the free market, a clear focus on the city's most vulnerable residents, and the policy chops to figure out how to radically shift who benefits from this city's rapid growth. Sure, but he's running this year as a Bernie Sanders–style democratic socialist and a member of the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. And you know what's better than one socialist on the city council? Two.
P.S. We called Grant "a humorless wonk with a serial-killer vibe" when we endorsed him in 2015. We're happy to report that Grant has learned to smile more in the last two years (and a fetching smile it is), and his vibe is 80 percent less serial-killery these days.
Council Position 9
M. Lorena González
This one isn't hard. When we endorsed Lorena González in 2015, we called her a badass, and she has more than lived up to it. In just two years, she sponsored legislation to give hourly workers more control over their work schedules, create an immigrant legal-defense fund, and ban anti-LGBT conversion therapy. This year, she proposed a city paid-family-leave program that helped pressure business groups to reach a deal with labor and create a statewide program. Plus, her opponents are mostly inexperienced hackjobs, including one named Ian Affleck-Asch, who told us during our endorsement meeting that, when it comes to racial injustice in the city, he'd like to see more "color blindness." Fuck that. (When it comes to our endorsement interviews, Ian, we'd like to see less "log fucking stupidness.") González's most formidable opponent, Pat Murakami, is a well-meaning neighborhood activist who wants to "halt and reverse massive up-zoning of single-family neighborhoods." Fuck no. (When it comes to zoning, Pat, we need more up-zoning in Seattle's precious single-family neighborhoods, not less.)
But even though we love a lot of González's work, she has disappointed us, too. She settled for a police-reform package that should have been much stronger. She has mostly avoided addressing the critiques of anti-incarceration activists on her support for a new police precinct and youth jail. And when Mayor Ed Murray was accused of raping teenagers in the 1980s and then responded by attacking his accusers for their criminal records, González (like many others) said exactly nothing. She told us she now believes Murray's attacks on his accusers did a "disservice to survivors" and if she could go back, she would say so publicly.
We want to see González be bolder in her next term. She championed secure scheduling backed by labor unions, but it still takes six months on average for a low-wage worker whose boss is ripping them off to get a completed investigation from the city. Meanwhile, while low-wage workers are getting screwed by one city department, low-income renters are being failed by another, as the city's rental-inspection program fails to stop slumlords from operating buildings with rats, roaches, and faulty heating. While González almost always falls on the right side of these issues, she's not leading on them. The child of undocumented migrant farmworkers, González came into office promising to represent voices usually shut out from city hall. Low-income workers and tenants need her to step up.
SEATTLE SCHOOL BOARD
Seattle School District 1, Director District 4
If you're still reading because you're hoping for another gold-plated rim-seat joke, you can stop reading now. The next three endorsements are for the Seattle School Board, the local elected body where good ideas, political ambitions, and the SECB's sense of humor all go to die.
Eden Mack is the wonkiest education wonk who ever wonked. As cofounder of education advocacy group Washington's Paramount Duty, legislative aide for the Seattle Council of the Parent Teacher and Student Associations, and longtime PTSA activist, Mack has dedicated her life to haranguing state lawmakers to fully fund basic education in Washington. Armed with thick binders on Seattle Public Schools policy and a box of sandy, gluten-free Girl Scout cookies to ply SECB members, Mack blew her competitors out of the water with her deep familiarity with the evolution of education policy in the district in recent years. Mack said, as a school board member, she'd prioritize bringing more teachers of color into our schools and inviting local leaders into classrooms to speak about issues affecting their communities. Can't argue with that. We wanted to like newcomer Megan Locatelli Hyska, who said she was inspired to run for the seat by Our Revolution, a group formed after Senator Bernie Sanders's 2016 presidential campaign, which seeks to get young progressives into elected offices. (Great!) But Hyska brought platitudes to the table, not ideas. (Ugh!) Mack is already prepared to hit the ground running.
Seattle School District 1, Director District 5
Zachary Pullin DeWolf
We want to see more people like dreamboat Zachary Pullin DeWolf in local politics. He's young, progressive, and a Chippewa Cree tribal member. A career of community activism, including serving as Capitol Hill Community Council president, a Gender Justice League board member, a Seattle Housing Authority commissioner, and more. If we're being real, with a résumé like his, DeWolf is a little too qualified to be a school board member—the school board is where political ambitions go to die. We'd much rather be endorsing DeWolf for city council or state legislature.
DeWolf's biggest competition is Andre Helmstetter, a parent and education activist. Although both men are committed to creating equitable learning environments, DeWolf's history of advocacy on behalf of Seattle's immigrant, homeless, and LGBTQ+ communities won us over. In practice, DeWolf wants to curb out-of-school suspensions for students up to fourth grade, host "Know Your Rights" trainings for undocumented students and their families, and mandate implicit and racial bias training for district teachers and students. "Racial, gender, economic, and social justice [work] is a way of life and should be embedded within how we teach and how students learn... throughout their whole career at Seattle Public Schools," DeWolf said. "It's what makes quality public education." We couldn't agree more.
Seattle School District 1, Director District 7
Betty Patu is a goddamned legend. As a South Seattle high-school teacher and tireless advocate for minority students, Patu waltzed into local gang meetings to get her students to go back to class and once even barked down a student who held another peer at gunpoint. NBD! Patu has long supported the movement to implement ethnic-studies courses, including tribal history, in Seattle schools. As a teacher in the early 1990s, Patu, who is Samoan, created programming to better support Pacific Islander students. Her work directly lowered high-school dropout rates in the community. Despite spending nearly a decade on the school board—seen by many education advocates as the soul-sucking home of single-issue candidates—Patu hasn't wavered in her commitment to equity. Patu says she wants to find more alternatives to school suspension, which disproportionately hurts black and brown students.
Patu's opponents are Chelsea Byers, a Teach for America alumnus and director for an online skills site, and Tony Hemphill, who dropped out of the race. Although we respect Byers's goals of drawing more kids into science-focused programs, Patu's leadership in creating an equitable educational environment is critical as Seattle becomes more diverse.
Okay, okay. One last gold-plated rim-seat joke, because you were a good little voter and read all the way to the end (which legally obligates you to vote for the candidates the SECB endorsed; please refer to our terms of service). Here goes: "Knock knock?" "Who's there?" "Gold-plated rim seat." "Gold-plated rim seat who?" "The Aristocrats." (We never said the jokes would be good, which is also covered in our terms of service.) Now vote!
CHEAT SHEETClick here for The Stranger’s CHEAT SHEET for the August 1, 2017 Primary Election!