Hello, Seattle! The Stranger Election Control Board is coming to you live from Stranger World Headquarters, now situated next door to an empty WeWork. We're out partying with our future corporate overlords and/or socialist comrades so you can stay home and catch up on Succession.
While the SECB has knocked back its traditional election night cocktail of bong rips, Juul pods, Tide pods, and Scotch pods, the unprecedented spending from corporate PACs in these races has left us in an unprecedented state: stone-cold sober, high on only our anxiety, Adderall, PrEP, and a basket of gluten-free chicken strips.
Tonight, we'll find out… Is transit screwed statewide? Will Seattleites decide that Amazon's attempt to buy a city council is more divisive than Sawant turning down Democracy Vouchers? Will Washington finally do one fucking thing to dismantle institutional racism? Will Heidi Wills unzip her people-suit and reveal herself to be Frank Colacurcio? Will the college kids turn out for Scott? Will the corporate gays turn out for Orion? Will we actually know who wins any of these races by the end of the night? And will we ever find out who exactly is running in District 7?
The playlist shifted from a buoyant Prince in “Party Like It’s 1999” to Kendrick Lamar singing “we gon’ be alright,” the reassurance anthem of the 2010s, right as results came in with Sawant trailing Orion 45.6% to 53.99%.
Nervous red-shirted Sawant fans raced to reassure each other that yes, they’re going to be alright: “That’s really close.” “We’re chasing ballots.” A raven-haired man in eyeliner wearing a Goths for Bernie t-shirt and sporting a man purse emblazoned with the hammer and sickle turned to the SECB. “I feel really good,” this dark lord of political science said. “She was down more than that against Conlin.”
Indeed, that was Kshama’s message. “Those of you were here in 2013 will remember what happened,” she said, taking the stage after the customary playing of The Internationale. For those who weren’t here in 2013: She came from behind with late returns to upset incumbent Richard Conlin.
During a 30-minute speech that quoted Karl Marx and Rosa Luxemburg, Sawant highlighted worker struggles around the world and insisted that a grassroots movement will be needed to propel Bernie Sanders into the White House and support bold ideas like Medicare for All. But she reserved her strongest words for this hard-fought local election.
“We faced an onslaught of corporate cash,” she said. “If anything we underestimated the brazenness of Bezos, corporate real estate, and big business.”
The Sawant campaign raised an impressive $540,000 through individual donations that averaged $20. They also claim to have knocked on 200,000 doors.
Sawant’s biggest applause line of the night: “It is not about inviting the billionaires to the table because for God’s sakes they own the whole goddamn table.”
But as for winning the election? Sawant’s office has calculated they need a minimum of 46.7% from the first returns to be in a comfortable position. They are 1.1% shy of that figure tonight, which does not bode well.
The campaign organizers fully turned off the results on the projector, which quickly flashed that R-88 was losing by 10 points. “It’s only 112,000 votes, it’s too soon,” someone remarked. We munched french fries nervously. A few minutes later, more votes dropped and Approve Ref 88 pulled ahead 52 to 47.9, with 561k reporting. After the third drop, it looks like it’s going to be too close to call tonight.
Nichole Maher, CEO of Group Health Foundation and sponsor of I-1000, took the mic to introduce WA Fairness co-chair April Sims, campaign manager Cherika Carter, and campaign co-chair Hyeok Kim to come speak.
The women acknowledged that they were in it “for the long haul,” and that the vote is “too close to call,” with Carter quoting Pulitzer Prize winner Kendrick Lamar: “We gon’ be alright!” After, Carter reiterated that the campaign is “in it for the long haul” and is committed to the initiative’s implementation in the state. She told us she’s looking forward to the ballot drops at 4 pm from Snohomish and Pierce counties, where the initiative needs to capture at least 51 percent of the vote to pass. Oof.
Sims said that she’s “optimistic that Washingtonians are ready for the conversation moving forward,” meaning she’s hopeful our state is less racist than it was 20 years ago when affirmative action was first banned. We here at the SECB aren't so sure. We left the party with a tummy ache and a bad feeling.
With a 10-point lead, the Stable Homes initiative run by Washington CAN looks like it’ll win. The initiative ends no-cause evictions, prohibits retaliatory evictions, prohibits eviction discrimination based on a renter’s status “as a member of the military, a first responder, a senior, a family member, a health care provider, or an educator,” and allows immediate family members to live with renters without facing eviction so long as it doesn’t break occupancy codes. And it’s got teeth. If a landlord breaks any of its tenant protections, they'll owe 4.5 times the unit’s rent, plus attorney fees and court costs. “Because of this voter-passed initiative Federal Way will have the strongest renter protection in the state of Washington, stronger even than any renter-protection in Seattle,” says Xochitl Maykovich in a press release.
What will it say? People are still playing skeeball. Someone bought Shaun a consolation PBR. Has he sent the tweet yet? We don’t know.
Uhhhh, with a 9-point lead, Tim Eyman’s $30 car tabs initiative (I-976) looks like it’s well on its way to victory, threatening to devastate transit funding across the region to the tune of $4 billion. If this passes, and it very much looks like it will, and if it survives a slew of legal challenges (which it…??), expect to be stuck in traffic for the rest of your life as the seas rise around you. Thousands of hours of bus service in Seattle will likely be cut. The chair of the transportation committee in Olympia is promising “Hunger Games”-style fights for funding at the state legislature. All of this just so people can pay the same on car tabs for a Honda and a Lambo.
The SECB was UNCOMFORTABLY HOT sitting inside Populuxe Brewing by the time election results were refreshed onto a projector showing Dan Strauss was winning with 52.27 percent of the votes to Heidi Wills’s 47.14 percent. The SECB decided wearing a turtleneck was a bad idea, but Council Member Sally Bagshaw (who owns a fucking airplane) is here and the SECB isn’t going to lie, we think she’s impressed by the turtleneck.
After a few cheers of “DAN! DAN! DAN!” Ballard’s paper boy took the mic, thanked his supporters, and proclaimed: “We are not the sleepy fishing village we once were. We need strong leadership to guide this growth.”
The SECB waded through a sea of conflicted Strauss supporters (who were elated about Strauss but devastated by I-976 results) to finally get to the paper boy and ask him the question on the minds of socialists from Golden Gardens to the Fremont Troll: now that he defeated Amazon’s corporate buyout of the election, would he pledge to raise their fucking taxes?
“We need new progressive revenue and it can’t be sales tax or property tax. All other options are on the table,” the paper boy said.
Strauss also declined to declare victory but sounded triumphant, pointing out that his vote share grew during the primary during late returns, and he expects it to happen in this election as well.
Someone screamed at Sole Repair, the event space on Pike St.
Another guy, we think Orion but we couldn’t tell because we were busy trying to gracefully exit a conversation, shouted, “54, 46!” The crowd erupted.
To start what would become a lengthy speech, Orion beamed as he read the results to the crowd. “Essentially we’re just under 9 points ahead...That number is a really good number, and I think that number is going to win.” He then thanked everyone who “stuck their neck out” and advocated for him, including his campaign team and the owners of a number of small businesses. Triumphant, but ever the victim, as people on the side of power often are. He also thanked his opponent for a “spirited race,” and later pledged to “bridge the divide in the city.”
Orion notably forgot to thank Guy Palumbo, a former State Senator and current Amazon lobbyist who was hunched over a tall table looking at his phone shortly before the results were announced. Though Orion raised less money than Council Member Kshama Sawant, PACs spent 600 times more on Orion’s campaign than they did on Sawant’s.
After Orion concluded his lengthy speech, I asked a crowd of well dressed men what policy they were excited for Orion to pursue in office, should he win. “Wine!” one said, and sped to the bar.
“Nobody likes her,” another Orion supporter said, before complaining about Sawant canvassers who knocked his apartment door. “I manage that building…I told them to leave or I’ll call the cops.”
With Phil Tavel actually running 530 votes behind Lisa Herbold, and a conservative-leaning candidate potentially taking the council, we are left wondering how this happened. When did Seattle become conservative? “Things change,” a Tavel supporter said. “This pizza place used to be a Chinese restaurant.” He then pointed out the Chinese dragon rafters above the pizzas.
Up by more than 10 points after the first count, Tammy Morales is declaring victory in District 2 and dunking on the “corporate power players” who took her on—and failed.
“The people have the power to reject cynical attempts to divide us,” Morales told a cheering crowd. “What this proves tonight is that no matter how much money gets thrown at us, and lord knows they threw a shit ton of money at us... our neighborhood and our community is not for sale.”
Morales continued: “I’m gonna quote Lauren Hill y’all: ‘It’s time to change the focus from the richest to the brokest.’”
She acknowledged, though, that she hasn’t seen the other results yet, so she doesn’t know what happened in the rest of the races or who her new council colleagues are going to be.
The music stopped for a minute in the Westy. People were huddled around Shaun, who held a phone that he was seemingly constantly refreshing. The initial results are in. "This is kind of how we predicted it was going to go," one of the staffers whispered and wrapped her arm around Shaun. He has around 42 percent of the vote. Alex Pedersen has around 58 percent. "I don't think we wanted to be in a situation where we're down by this many on election night," Shaun told us, "We're down 16 percent, we're down by about 2,400 votes."
But, despite his measured response, he was still tentatively hopeful. "There are 8,000 more ballots at least to be counted." He is not considering this a victory for Pedersen. Not yet.
The young challenger destroyed Larry Gossett in the primary by 20 points. Gossett, the long-time King County council member and civil rights champion, is facing the same fate in the general. Girmay Zahilay, the pretty much unknown candidate who won our hearts with his zeal and his goals of zero youth detention, is winning by almost 57 percent to Gossett's nearly 43 percent. It's looking like King County District 2 will have new council representation.
Jeanne Kohl-Welles, the King County District 4 incumbent, has been doing great things since 2015. We didn't think she was done. Clearly, King County didn't think so, either. Kohl-Welles has solidly defeated her challenger, up-and-coming transit advocate Abigail Doerr, 73 percent to about 26 percent. Kohl-Welles will keep her seat.
Jim Pugel and Andrew Lewis are so close in votes that they are practically making out, in the electoral sense. Pugel the Cop is slightly ahead with 8,632 votes at the first drop but Lewis the lawyer is very close with 8,429 votes. That’s only [checks math] 203 votes between them. We’re going to have to wait till every last vote is counted to know the winner in downtown’s District 7.
It looks like Council Member Debora Jaurez will easily win her reelection, with 57.24 percent of the first drop of votes going to her while her opponent, Safe Seattle-backed Ann Davison Sattler, secured only 42.28 percent of the first round of votes. Breathe easy Seattle, Juarez may not be a champion for progressive business taxation but at least Sattler and her “lock em up” homelessness policies won’t be representing North Seattle on the council.
King County's one drop for the night can be found here. Pedersen is up. Strauss is up. Sawant is down. Statewide initiatives are slowly reporting here.
Wow, remarkably JAY INSLEE came by the pro-affirmative action party JUST before results started to drop. He remarked on the natural beauty of Washington, but said it’s also beautiful because “we believe in equity and justice in our state.” He continued that he was happy to be here with the pro-AA campaign, saying that “I’m most hopeful that voters will agree with us on this. We are a part of a historic moment.” He thanked the group on behalf of his grandkids, and after shaking a couple of hands, he disappeared in a puff of smoke.
We made it through the cold to the PACKED Westy in Roosevelt, where Shaun Scott was hosting a lively shindig. The age difference is STARK between Pedersen's Most-of-the-People-I-See-on-NextDoor Party and here, where there are a lot of leather jackets and Blundstones and people who seem to actually read The Stranger. Shaun was feeling good. "It's been intense," he told us.
Initial results may not show his way tonight since progressive voters vote late. However, he'll feel good if he's at 41 points. Or, over 50, he smirked. Also, his 35th birthday is on Friday so he would like 5,000 extra votes then, please, and thank you. Other than that, Scott is rocking his trademark look, a cable knit sweater, and Toms. These Toms are a bit louder, less conservative, and invoke an "urban environment" with "graffiti." Scott is also drinking a Montucky Cold Snack beer. Our interview also may be featured in a documentary about Scott and Kshama Sawant that some independent filmmakers have been making since February, so maybe we should hold off on sharing the rest of the details here? Either way. Results soon. We're sweating. It is very crowded and hot in here. But Jeopardy! was just on and that is a positive omen as far as we’re considered.
The Ezell’s chicken at Orion’s party is gone, but the crudités remain practically untouched. More importantly, we have no idea whose black bag this is. We were told if you see something then say something. So we’re saying something.
Despite the fact that the SECB has provided nothing but negative coverage of Phil Tavel throughout the election, his supporters are surprisingly friendly. While one woman is giving us definite death stares the entire time we type this transmission, another man puts Phil Tavel's unpaid parking tickets in perspective. “That's like saying you've never bounced a check. Or if you're a guy, you've never accidentally pissed on the rim of a toilet. Who can honestly say they've never done that?"
There is A LOT more going on at the Morales party at the Royal Room than there was just steps away at Solomon’s Royal Esquire Club gathering—although the SECB will say that Solomon might have been correct about having better food.
Things are little more on the salad and hummus side here, though we will be introducing ourselves to the remaining sliders shortly—just as soon as we’re done watching the second of two performances in front the packed crowd. The Mak Fai drill team came and went before we got here but now it’s Northwest Tap Connection and they are
Oh, and as for how Morales is feeling: “Mostly good,” she told the SECB.
PS: If you need another indication of how much better the Morales party is, the candidate just made an announcement from the stage saying she lost one of her gold hoop earrings dancing and if anyone finds it please let her know. The SECB will look!
We’re here at Egan Orion’s election trying to hide the chocolate in our teeth while we talk to a lot of very nice people who have come out in support of Orion because of his very niceness.
The place is festooned with green and yellow balloons and about three-quarters full of supporters at 7:50 p.m. The catering is good but skimpy for the crowd, and the cash bar depressing. Senator Jamie Pedersen and his kids ate all the Ezell’s, and someone (not his kids, and not us, but someone) made an absolute fucking mess of the fudge pops from Cupcake Royale. The woman giving out free drink tickets at the door refused to give them to the SECB, claiming that we couldn’t drink if they couldn’t drink.
When we saw a guy in a cowboy hat leaning against a table drinking a whiskey, we had to say hi. Turned out, it was Orion’s brother, Carew Papritz. Papritz called Orion a “helluva guy,” and said he thinks the world of what he does. “Inclusivity and bringing people together and talking and working toward common goals, that’s everything he talks about, everything we believe in as a family, and so why wouldn’t you want that?”
Maurice Cooper, who’s been “president of the Madison Park Community Council more often than anyone else for a long way,” was chatty and British. He described himself as “socially liberal and fiscally conservative,” and complained about spending on homeless service providers. “The trickle-down theory seems to have broken down, it seems to have produced very little in terms of results.” When asked why he was pumped to vote for Orion, he said, “I think he is a little more fiscally con...cerned with these issues, more than just, well—the choice was between Kshama and Egan. And Kshama’s focus seems to be leading the country towards socialism.”
Kathleen, a D3 voter who lives in Leschi, likes him because “he listens to people more than he talks...He’s very positive.”
The last time the SECB walked into Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, we caught Knife Knights boogieing down and getting weird on the main stage. When we entered tonight, the first words we heard were a chant of “Rent control / rent control / Keep Seattle affordable.” Not the smoothest rhyme.
While Kshama Sawant, who is in the political fight of her life, is less musically avant-garde than the performers who’ve graced this hallowed public theatre, she is still very much on the political vanguard.
It looks like the Red Sea up in here with all the campaign volunteers sporting their Sawant shirts. Will Amazon part the Red Sea with their $1.5 million donation? Wait, in that metaphor, Jeff Bezos is Moses. Scratch that.
But red is clearly the operative color here tonight. Red wine is the most popular drink according to bartender Nicholas Caig. Also LaCroix—of all colors. What does that say about tonight's crowd? Are they too nervous to drink? Throwing back the vino to take the edge off? Any bartender worth their salt knows the mood in the room.
"Hopeful," Caig, a campaign volunteer, said. "Also tired. We've all worked very hard."
We stepped aside to let another red shirter snag a cup. "Merlot makes me feel fancy," they said. Like a bourgeois fat cat?
Moving into the kitchen, there were heaping trays of saag aloo, chana masala, rice, and naan. Indian food, all vegan because meat worsens climate change—way to live your values Team Sawant! There was also an incongruous spread of California rolls. We guess Indian food and sushi are complementary. Still, respect for feeding the people. This is a proper meal, not finger food.
In between rabble rousing speeches, we caught up with Hassan Diis, East African liaison for the 37th District Democrats, who did not endorse any candidate in District 3. But Diis is here to support Sawant for her signature campaign issue: rent control.
“The East African community is being priced out of the Central District in the city they call home,” he lamented. As for the Amazon donation? “They are trying to make Seattle unaffordable,” he said. “You can’t run a city where the people who clean offices, drive taxis, work in restaurants, pick up the garbage, can’t live here.”
The SECB arrived right on time for the Approve I-1000 party at Marjorie on Capitol Hill. We’d heard that there was a 50-person cap at the party due to space and wanted to make sure we’d be first in line for free margaritas. Besides reporters from the other news organizations around the city, the pro-AA group is the most diverse gathering of political campaigners we’ve ever seen. In fact, suspiciously so. Remembering the anti-AA’s hysterical main line of attack on the initiative (“There will be QUOTAS!”), this SECB member of color decided to put it to the co-chair of the campaign, Hyeok Kim, to see if there really WAS a quota.
“There was no quota,” Kim laughed. “This room simply reflects the broad diverse coalition that’s always supported I-100, unlike the narrow-minded race-baiting opposition.”
She told us that she’s “cautiously optimistic,” though she knew from the start it’d be a close campaign. “I hope that we’ll have a strong turn out tonight despite some of the early numbers showing that the turnout isn’t as high,” especially since the wording on the ballot is a little convoluted. So we’re going with cautious optimism over here at Marjorie. We’ve settled in with our marg and meat skewers to wait for the results, and hope no one notices the pimple we accidentally popped in the bathroom five minutes ago....
The SECB was cowering in the corner of the Red Door, trying to avoid eye contact with Heidi Wills supporters and more Speak Out Seattle zealots (of course Speak Out Seattle i.e., Safe Seattle, is at the Wills party), when a curly-haired server delivered music to our ears: “The first drink is on Heidi.” Uhhh, hell yes. Amazon might be buying our election, but at least The Stranger is getting free beer.
One pint of Chuckanut Pilsner later and the SECB was schmoozing with a guy named Rudy who claimed to be a former Stranger-endorsed state representative candidate and was talking about covering bus stops with Seattle Weekly covers, getting scolded by Sara Nelson of Fremont Brewing (who told the SECB not to make fun of people), and listening to Pete, the owner of Red Door, talk about how Democracy Vouchers are good for the city. Fuck yeah, Pete!
After eating a vegetarian black bean burger (thanks for the plant-based protein, Heidi!), the SECB finally talked to the woman of the hour, who said she didn't like the fact that over $700,000 in Super PAC money was spent on her.
"I think it’s grassroots politics that will heal the polarization in the community and it feels like the candidates become pawns in this bigger narrative, bigger game that they are playing," Wills said.
The Pedersen party started at 7 pm! HAH. We knew it. Alex’s fans are very punctual. We slipped into the very warm and very cozy Arriba Cantina, and it smelled intoxicatingly good. Alex showed up at about 7:13 pm, well before that 7:30 start time. He told us to let him know if we had a deadline or needed to get somewhere else, like Shaun’s party. We had to ask him to hold on a second, though, because our main priority was documenting the spread. Which, as you all are dying to know, is a buffet of Mexican food. The carnitas look to-die-for and the guac—Oh, the guac. Anyway, Alex said he was excited about the night and has no idea how it will go, but hopes the “voters decide [he’s] the most qualified for the job.” His takeaway from the campaign?
“Listening really matters,” Alex said, “and listening to a wide variety of voices both in your own district as well as different organizations.” Alex, notably, was absent from a wide array of debates and forums throughout the process.
We’ve got to skedaddle, since we do indeed need to get to Shaun’s party. We’re happy to leave behind the people here in Speak Out Seattle shirts for the 65th Avenue protected bike lane, which former District 4 city council member Rob Johnson fought for before he sold his soul to the private sector.
The SECB is pumped that the District 2 bashes for Mark Solomon and Tammy Morales are literally right next door to each other, in neighboring clubs along Rainier Avenue as it passes through Columbia City. (And better still, both of these parties are right across the street from Girmay Zahilay’s party!)
First stop: Solomon’s very chill—so far—event at the Royal Esquire Club, a storied black gathering place.
Standing in front of a still un-touched buffet of catfish, chicken wings, hush puppies, Caesar salad, and cake from Borracchini’s, Solomon sounded... a little uncertain, despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars in business PAC money that’s trying to pull him across the finish line in first place.
“I’m feeling alright,” Solomon told us.
Does he think he’ll win?
“Always a possibility, but I’m prepared for whatever comes,” Solomon said.
Good to be prepared! So is Mark a Royal Esquire member himself? No, he told the SECB, because he missed an application cutoff this year. But his grandfather was a club president at one time.
Outside, the Mak Fai drill team is loudly warming up on the sidewalk as it prepares for a grand entrance into the Morales party. “They’ve got better entertainment,” Solomon told the SECB, “but we’ve got better food.”
The SECB has just enough manners to know better than to be first through an un-touched buffet at the Royal Esquire Club, but people here are finally starting to grab some food as we finish typing this so WE’LL SEE if Solomon’s right...
The SECB’s paws are downright chilly. We decided it would be a good idea to Limebike since no one going to this Alex Pedersen at Arriba Cantina in Ravenna is going to take it from us when we need to high tail it out of here—whether that's to make it to our next party or to avoid the pitchforks, you decide. You know we’re really in Ravenna because a passerby just remarked, “Have you heard of June Baby? Everyone in California is talking about it.”
For the primary, Alex neglected to even tell us about his party. So, when we got the memo that it started at 7:30 tonight for an ~8:00 pm ballot drop, we were suspicious. We will be waiting to see when the real party starts, Alex. But, in the meantime, the balloon set-up is going great.
Over at the Seattle Times, Dan Beekman has the turnout numbers so far, per King County elections: “D1 30%, D2 24%, D3 33%, D4 31%, D5 28%, D6 30%, D7 29%.” Those are lower than expected. But maybe Bernie can help.