From left: Burien City Council Member Nancy Tosta, candidate Jimmy Matta, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, candidate Krystal Marx, and candidate Pedro Olguin.
From left: Burien City Council Member Nancy Tosta, candidate Jimmy Matta, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, candidate Krystal Marx, and candidate Pedro Olguin. Photo courtesy of the Pramila Jayapal campaign

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One of the most fascinating sets of races to watch this election week is happening in Burien*, where debates over immigrant rights have starkly divided the Seattle suburb. The first ballot drop on Tuesday largely showed the slate of progressive candidates—Nancy Tosta, Jimmy Matta, Pedro Olguin, and Krystal Marx—about neck-and-neck or trailing behind "Burien Proud, Burien First" (BPBF) candidates Darla Green, Debi Wagner, Joel Manning, and Patty Janssen. But today's ballot drop shows more progressive candidates leading or narrowing the gap with Burien First.


Today, one of the most exciting results showed labor leader and former farmworker Jimmy Matta gaining an edge—by just 33 votes!—over incumbent Debi Wagner.

Today's ballot drop bodes well for Matta, given the logic that later voters tend to be more progressive ones. Debi Wagner, a Burien City Council incumbent who helped organize the area's "Quiet Skies Coalition" against airport noise, supported an effort earlier this year to repeal the city's sanctuary city ordinance—an effort that was later shot down by a judge who found that it harmed Burien residents.

Matta, meanwhile, told The Stranger earlier this year that he decided to run for office after experiencing the impacts of Trump's nativist fear-mongering in his hometown.

When reached by phone today, Matta was hesitant to make predictions about future ballot counts. Still, he said he was shocked and excited by today's results.

"I gotta tell you today, this hour, this moment, the voters who are being counted have said, 'We don't like what we saw during the election with Respect Washington coming into our community and creating fear, hate, and discontent,'" Matta said. "Being a resident of this community for 20 years is just huge. Being a Latino farmworker, born to first generation immigrants in this country, it's just amazing."

Matta said today he was thinking of both his father, who died of a drug overdose in Burien, and his cousin, who was murdered by gang violence. He added that he hopes he gets to work on issues that have affected his family personally as a City Council member.

"This year, in 2017, I want to celebrate the election of my son to represent his union, and my daughter at Aviation High School, class senator," Matta added. "And now they're saying, 'Dad it's your turn.' When we elect leaders in our community, strong charactered people, people who aren't afraid of where they come from and who tell their stories to the world, it's where the New America will be. The America Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of. This is one milestone today that we've reached."

Watch this space for more.

*No, I am never going to shut up about Burien.