This election year, which has felt like thirty election years, is almost over. Once Tuesday rolls around, the millions of dollars of PAC money will be spent, mailboxes will finally be flyer-free, and, hopefully, we'll have some idea about who will fill the seven city council seats that, at one point, 55 people were campaigning for.
Who's going to win? Whoever we say is going to win, that's who. But, for the sake of leaving our two-block radius, we decided to ask others what they think might happen, so we hit up a few local political consultants, former candidates, and observers to get their takes.
Overwhelmingly, they all agree the corporate cash spent throughout the year will be a waste. If anything, big cash infusions like the kind we saw from Amazon will sway undecided voters against corporate candidates. Other than that, people don't seem to know or care much about District 7, they think Council Member Lisa Herbold will win over Phil Tavel in District 1, and—tentatively—that Council Member Kshama Sawant will win in District 3.
Here's what else they said:
Riall Johnson, consultant with Prism Washington, working with candidate Tammy Morales:
D1: Lisa Herbold, by a slightly comfortable margin
D2: Tammy Morales by a landslide.
D3: Kshama Sawant (hopefully)
D4: Shaun Scott (Barely)
D5: Debz (Easily)
D6: Strauss (Barely)
D7: Pugel maybe? I'm not paying much attention to D7.
Maybe I'm biased, but this is a valid prediction.
Redmond: Varisha Khan (shameless plug)
Regardless of the results, I think this election showed that real organizing can stand up to corporate money head to head and have a real chance to win. I hope that gives more people hope to stand up and show up for future elections to make a difference. Amazon and the Chamber really showed their ass with the unprecedented level of spending they put in these races. They are straight-up trying to buy Seattle's city government, and hopefully, the people throw it back in their faces. I also find it ironic how their candidates try to talk about fiscal responsibility and getting back to basics while wasting over $3 million on some of the most ineffective campaigning I've ever seen. They really went all-in with the quantity over quality approach to campaigning, and I wish they put just half that effort into other issues that they say they care about. I listened to the Seattle Chamber of Commerce preach to me and other groups about how much they cared about passing I-1000 and I-940, but never put a dime toward either of them. Vulcan was the only corporation that put any of their pocket change behind either of those issues. Now I-1000 is at risk of failing because they refused to act and put any money where their mouths were these past two years.
These corporations are full of shit and they only care about making more money for themselves. Any talk they give about equity or being "progressive" is a placating lie and they should be called out for it even after this election. They have the resources to fix so many issues in this city and state and could be remembered as heroes, but they'd rather just find more ways to get richer at the expense of the rest of us. I'd at least want them to just say they don't care unless it affects their wallets. They really need to take a look in the mirror after this race and figure out what kind of humans they want to be. I'm looking forward to how much they invest in empty politicians over the next few years, the mayor's race is gonna be a blast, and I look forward to taking them on again. I'll take our organizing over their money any day.
Heather Weiner, consultant, Strategic communications:
"I think we’re not going to know on Tuesday. There will be a couple of races that will be clear, certainly District 5 with [Debora] Juarez, but I think we won’t know. There will be a lot of conjecture on the part of reporters and consultants.
If Amazon wins in the third they will call that success. We'll have to look at whether or not they defeat a progressive majority in the council. They need to win five of the seven seats to win control of the city council. I don't think that's going to happen.
For me, Kshama is a dark horse; she’s an underdog and there's so much spending in that district. I think she’s being outspent hugely. Additionally, I think District 6 is the race that people are not paying attention to that they should be. That race—there’s more money going for Wills than there is for [Egan] Orion, there's well over $1 million in that race. That’s just crazy in a district where you’re maybe going to have 30,000 votes. [PACs] are very worried. When you see a lot of money going into a race like this it’s because the candidate is flawed. That’s the race to watch."
Hanna Brooks Olsen, writer, campaign director, organizer:
"Like in the primary, I feel like there's a level of psychic power a person needs to have to know how this breakdown is going to go. We're definitely going to see some swings as people who voted for the runners up will be forced to re-assess. I live in District 6, and I'm wondering how that will shake out. Will the Sergio voters move to Heidi? Will Dan pick up the votes from Jay? Who knows!
I do think, too, the rest of the country will be watching (or at least keeping half an eyeball on) our races to see what the influence of corporate money really is. It's interesting that Honest Elections was meant to help counteract "big" money (whatever that means to you; there's a lot of big money all over this town so everyone seems to have their own threshold) but it couldn't predict or address the impact of, say, Amazon. I suspect we'll see some serious discussions about new policies around corporate money in the coming year. Depending, of course, on who gets elected.
That said, I've consulted my tarot cards and I know one thing for sure: On election night, there will be a lot of people who look at the King County results for I-976 and I-1000 and will celebrate, not realizing that the results on the King County page are just for King County. Head over to the Secretary of State's website if you want actual results on statewide issues.
One other thing I'm sure of: A lot of people are really very ready to see this new council get sworn in and get to work. This election has all but neutralized any ability for the council do pass any laws and I'd sure like to get back to discussing actual policies, rather than theoreticals about what a candidate might do."
Mike McGinn, former Seattle Mayor:
"Big business (and their corporate-Democrat allies) are terrified of losing control of city politics. A changing public mood (combined with districts and democracy vouchers) has led to a more progressive council. The political establishment thought they could exploit homelessness and public safety to regain their council super-majority from days of old. But their heavy-handed attempt to buy the election has completely disrupted their narrative. (BTW, which consultant thought, “Yea—a million bucks—perfect!”) The candidates on the left are also pretty good campaigners. Prediction—council control is a push or one vote pickup for the non-chamber endorsed candidates. And that’s not counting the at-large council member that the chamber once endorsed, but has now alienated."
Michael Maddux, former city council candidate and staffer for Council Member Teresa Mosqueda, current political organizer:
As an initial matter, I want to reiterate how disgusting the amount of corporate cash aiming to buy another branch of Seattle municipal government is. While it shows where the Chamber and Tim Burgess and Amazon really stand – profits first, density be damned – it is also a gross abuse of a broken system, and I’m excited to see Councilmember González begin work to lead on changing this dynamic.
Further, the attempts by some to falsely state that corporate spending is somehow the same as union spending is an incredible disservice through misleading of the public. As they know, unions raise political money from members who opt-in – they can’t use regular dues for political work. It would be one thing if shareholders had to donate a portion of their dividends, and then only that could be used for political spending, but that’s not what these corporations are doing. They’re taking unlimited funds to benefit shareholders and Wall Street first, while unions, made up of workers who live here, are putting our city first. It’s not at all the same.
As for the predictions:
D1: Lisa Herbold
D2: Tammy Morales
D3: Kshama Sawant (although Orion has an outside chance)
D4: Alex Pedersen (although Scott has an outside chance – better ground game, and he’s actually showing up to forums)
D5: Debora Juarez
D6: Dan Strauss
D7: Who knows??? (probably Andrew Lewis, but it’s really going to come down to turnout in Belltown and Uptown)
In all, the political makeup of Council is likely going to be largely the same as it is now. And given that the person in charge of implementing policy (the Mayor) is going to stay the same, I wouldn’t expect any dramatic shifts toward meaningful solutions to homelessness, property crime, or transportation any time soon.
Cathy Tuttle, urbanist, founder of Seattle City Greenways, former District 4 candidate:
I think that for the most part Amazon is going to lose its bet in the election. I think that’s going to give people who are the non-Amazon candidates a 5-10 point bump. Their bet was really ill-placed. I think that it will really influence voters who are on the fence and that’s true in a couple of the significant races—it’s really going to influence how people vote.
D1: Lisa Herbold
D2: Tammy Morales
D3: Kshama Sawant
D4: Still think Pedersen, Shaun won't receive a big enough bump
D5: Debora Juarez
D6: Too close to call
D7: Too close to call, but may be one where Jim Pugel loses because of that Amazon money, which is a really important race for Amazon since this is their home district.
David "Goldy" Goldstein, former Stranger writer, current fellow at Civic Ventures
"The money [is] off the charts, both candidate spending, but especially IE/PAC spending. For perspective, there’s more IE spending on behalf of Heidi Wills than there was in ALL NINE COUNCIL RACES in 2015. Also, the blatancy of big business’s efforts to buy this council—Amazon in particular—is new. You sometimes got shit tons of corporate money from out-of-state to initiatives (like the plastic bag ban), but local businesses used to shy away from being identified with excessive political spending. Amazon seems to want you to know that they’re spending this money as a threat to any other politician who might think of crossing their path.
Another thing that’s different this year is that there’s almost no Venn diagram of candidates receiving support from both sides. You’re either with the CASE/Seattle Times slate or the CAPE/Stranger slate. Usually, there are a couple candidates that both sides endorse. But the Times couldn’t even bring itself to endorse Juarez. That’s crazy.
I rank these races into three tiers. I expect D1 Herbold, D2 Morales, D4 Pedersen, and D5 Juarez to win, and would actually be surprised if any of them don’t. In the next tier, if I had to bet, I’d say D6 Strauss and D7 Lewis, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I’m calling these wrong. Then there’s D3. I lean toward Sawant pulling this one out, but really, who knows? I’m almost certain Sawant will be trailing on election night—if she’s within 5 points, she almost certainly wins, if she’s within 10 points, I’d be reluctant to call it for Orion.
The Chamber will not “flip” the council. D1 and D5 are holds, D2 and D7 shift left (both Pugel and Lewis are more progressive than Bagshaw), and D4 is almost a wash (Pedersen is worse than Johnson on transit, but somewhat better on housing). The Chamber has potential pickups in D3 and D6. But add Mosqeda and Gonzalez to the mix, and it’s still a more progressive council than it was after Kshama won 2013."
Melissa Hall, attorney, roller derby star, land-use expert, and former District 6 city council candidate
"My predictions for the election probably won’t surprise you.
D1: Herbold. More than most, Herbold has really embraced the idea that she represents a district. She has been talking to her constituents directly through all the latest drama, making it make more sense and be less scary for people in West Seattle. Meanwhile, Phil Tavel, who looks like the Luna Park Cafe logo come to life, is fundamentally that guy who wins at trivia a lot. We all know that guy; he isn't who you wanna go to with your problems.
D2: Tammy Morales. I admit I had to go look up Mark Solomon's name to remember who she was running against, and if you look at CASE spending in this race it looks like I am not the only one who is having a hard time remembering his name.
D3: Kshama Sawant. She might not be everyone's favorite, and CASE is spending against her like she stole their ruby slippers, but she is a dynamic and interesting voice who helps keep our politics from looking too much like a Midwest PTA meeting. Orion has none of her credentials, and, while he is gay, his major contribution to the community seems to be making PrideFest the orgy of rainbow capitalism that we love to avoid.
D4: This is the district where I have people I care deeply about involved in both campaigns, so here I am gonna hold fire.
D5: Juarez. Ann Davison Sattler is actually too embarrassing even for CASE—also, why in the world would the city that still hasn't forgiven the Sonics elect someone who helped negotiate the deal that let them move?
D6: Strauss. No one is going to pretend he isn't something of a Democratic Party tool, but he is a good, solid tool who follows the rules carefully. Willis' campaign feels more like a lost episode of Arrested Development than a serious political movement; I don't think we’re a city where you can redeem your image after ethical lapses by teaching golf to underprivileged children.
D7: Lewis. What did D7 do to deserve a choice between a cop and a prosecuting attorney? But, given the choice, I will pick the guy who has taught property law—and has the guts to promote upzoning to the people of Queen Anne.
I watched Grunge happen in Seattle from the acoustically safe distance of Tallahassee, Florida. Even from that far away it was clear y'all don't like people who sell out (and have mixed feelings about money as a medium of exchange at all) so I honestly don't expect Seattle to roll over for Amazon and the Chamber of Collaborators. Regardless of the political details, it is hard to see the PAC cash dump as saying anything good about the candidates they’ve chosen. I mean, Amazon hosts ICE services, so we know what kind of politics they are comfortable supporting."