Last night the Martin Luther King Labor Council, a big player in local politics, counted some wins and some significant losses among the 33 candidates they endorsed countywide. Their endorsements of Sam Cho for Port of Seattle and Andrew Lewis for Seattle City Council in District 7 appear to have helped those candidates elbow through crowded races.
But labor-backed City Council candidates Zachary DeWolf (District 3) and Emily Myers (District 4) went down pretty hard, so far only garnering roughly 12% of the vote in their respective races. Attorney Girmay Zahilay's double-digit lead over civil rights legend and 26-year King County Council incumbent Larry Gossett also said something about labor's sway in this primary.
"We definitely learned some things," said executive secretary-treasurer Nicole Grant.
One thing labor learned, Grant said over the phone, was that "the center dropped out." Grant pointed to the race shaping up in D4 between Shaun Scott, a socialist, and Alex Pedersen, a guy who voted against expanding light rail. "I think they’re openly acknowledged as two clarion examples of the left and the right in the city, whereas Emily Myers was a scientist—she’s brilliant with policy, but she wasn’t far left or far right, she was in the middle," Grant said.
The other thing labor learned was that corporations are "willing to spend money to control our city and control our neighborhoods in a way we haven’t seen for a while," Grant said.
Grant attributes part of the reason for poor showings from Myers and DeWolf to negative mailers. Former interim Mayor Tim Burgess's People for Seattle PAC spent over $12,000 opposing DeWolf and $11,000 opposing Myer, all while the Seattle Chamber of Commerce's PAC dumped over $13,000 into positive mailers for Pedersen.
"They definitely hurt," Grant said. "It was very upsetting to see strong, qualified candidates...reduced to gross dogwhistle stereotypes that play on their gender and their race in order to diminish them. That's not something I'll forget."
"What hasn’t changed since last night is that Seattle is under political siege by the corporation of the richest man on earth, and that this is a company—Amazon—that’s vying for political supremacy," Grant added, echoing D3 incumbent Kshama Sawant's framing of the elections.
"Women who live here are completely locked out of the Amazon economy," Grant continued. "Amazon and their supporters like Tim Burgess are not supporters in the areas that are most crucial to us, like child care or pay equity." Amazon has yet to reveal its median gender pay gap, according to the Washington Post.
As for their next move, Grant said the MLK Labor Council will hold its next all-hands meeting on August 21. During that meeting they might vote to endorse in District 6 and District 2, two races they haven't officially weighed in on yet.
Grant didn't want to make predictions about who labor will endorse in D3 and D4 now that their top picks are looking toast, but from her perspective the general election will be "a moment of reckoning for Seattle voters," who will have to "make a decision about whether they want corporations to run Seattle in a really naked and direct way."
The good news, she said, is that the electorate will get younger and more working class in the general, with more people who have "a strong, personal stake in living in a good city where they have a chance."
Seattle City Council Member Teresa Mosqueda, who worked behind the scenes to pressure the labor council to drop Sawant and embrace DeWolf, and who also endorsed Myers, said she was "disappointed that they didn’t make it through" but applauded the values they championed during the race. "They were pro-union, pro-working families, pro-density," she said.
When asked if she could see herself endorsing Chamber-backed candidates Egan Orion and Alex Pedersen, both of whom made it through the primary in D3 and D4, respectively, Mosqueda said she did not want "a slate of candidates purporting to be progressive but being anti-affordable housing and anti-density," adding that voters should be looking at candidates who promote "pro-density, pro-union, pro-working families messages, and making sure those messages truly represent the soul of the city.”
Mosqueda went on to slam the "Karl-Rove-esque" negativity coming from "deep-pocketed, astroturfed, well-funded corporate PACs" such as Moms for Seattle and People for Seattle. "I would never in a million years think I'd see a local election campaign turn as nasty as it did," she said.