As the results of the last elections are analyzed, some familiar patterns appear. One is the Seattle donut – the city’s outer ring of waterfront neighborhoods vote one way, the interior sections go another. In 2013, the outer ring went for Ed Murray and Richard Conlin, the inland city for Mike McGinn and Kshama Sawant.
It's simplistic, but the donut can reveal a candidate's base and be the difference maker in whether a politician can make inroads on their opponent's turf or maximize the vote on their own ground. Murray, for example, was aided in the mayor's race by splitting off some of McGinn's Capitol Hill constituency, and Sawant received intense support in neighborhoods from Rainier Valley to inner Ballard.
The 2013 election also changed the election map, giving us an emerging picture of the city's new power structure: districts. The voters chose to create seven new districts for city council elections. Dick Morrill, the distinguished retired University of Washington geographer (and sometime Crosscut contributor), drew the new district boundaries, looking less at demographics and more at neighborhood divisions and maintaining approximately equal populations (within one percent). Each has about 80,000 residents.
The districts will be crucial in reshaping the political landscape in Seattle. They will likely encourage more people to run for office (theoretically, you can run grassroots, doorbell campaigns more easily) and will make council members specifically more accountable to the neighborhoods and district constituencies. You'll have someone to vote out if the potholes on your street aren't fixed.
If the districts are similar in population, they are different in terms of politics and demographics. I asked Seattle political consultant Benjamin Anderstone for his take on the political character of districts 1-7 based on recent voting patterns. Morrill provided key demographic information.
What emerges is a first-cut sense of the character of these newcomers. Some of the stats and patterns are surprising. While they may be equal in population, the districts’ political clout, wealth and race are not. Even politically liberal Seattle reveals some interesting strains of tax-skepticism and caution that could play an interesting role in future city council campaigns.
District Profiles by Benjamin Anderstone, demographic data provided by Richard Morrill.
District 1 (West Seattle, South Park)
Seattle's most suburban district, with relatively conservative election results to match. It was Barack Obama's worst district ("only" 82 percent), and dragged down the Seattle average for same-sex marriage (78 percent were in favor, compared with 82 percent citywide.)
On municipal races, it competes with District 7, and occasionally District 5, for highest support of Seattle's relatively conservative candidates: Ed Murray got 58 percent, city council candidates Richard Conlin 54 percent and Albert Shen 37 percent. This was Prop. 1’s (public financing's) worst district, with over 60 percent in opposition.
District 1 generally competes with District 2 for being the least supportive of tax advisory measures. This year's advisory vote on pediatric dentistry received only 61 percent in District 1 – its worst result in the city, and far below Seattle’s 69 percent average. The Democrats in West Seattle are hardly conservative, but a good chunk of them will rebel against a tax measure they see as questionable.
Demographic highlights: Second-most families with children (39 percent) after the 2nd District (50 percent), a third singles (35 percent), minority (28 percent), fewest poor (9 percent), second highest median income ($67K).
District 2 (Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill, Georgetown)
District 2 is easily Seattle's most demographically distinct neighborhood: It's majority-minority, and has the lowest incomes in the city. Obama had his second-best showing here (89 percent), while same-sex marriage had its worst (69 percent). As with many heavily working-class areas, District 2 skews conservatively on taxes, often being the most supportive of Tim Eyman initiatives.
The district also tends to return 65-75 percent approvals on advisory votes, compared to 75-85 percent in the more doctrinaire progressive districts (3, 4 and 6.) District 2 was the only district not to hit 50 percent turnout this year; only 45 percent of voters returned their ballots.
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