Meet the Districts

The shape of city council politics to come is written into our new council districts. Here’s a look at the political personality of each.

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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Posted Mon, Dec 9, 8:52 a.m. Inappropriate

You lead us down a slippery grassroots path at least in District 7. You can't doorbell apartment dwellers and condo owners who at 63% of residents constitute a huge proportion of the population. Looks like Sally or Tim will have to do street parties or picnics in the parks.


Posted Mon, Dec 9, 9:04 a.m. Inappropriate

Some renters live in single-family houses; not all live in locked buildings. There are effective grass-roots strategies to reach voters in locked buildings. Send them a postcard inviting them to a coffee hour down the street, or have someone in the building host an event in their unit or in the building's party room.

Strategies that don't make sense in a citywide campaign suddenly become effective when the target audience has been reduced by 85 percent.

Posted Mon, Dec 9, 12:20 p.m. Inappropriate

This article does little but highlight the statistically minor political differences among the districts and confirm how homogenously liberal and narrow Seattle politics has become....

Posted Mon, Dec 9, 9:45 p.m. Inappropriate

I disagree; I think the districts are clearly distinct in their political (and other) cultures. It's going to be a very interesting run up to 2015 election watching how the differences manifest themselves.


Posted Mon, Dec 9, 3:47 p.m. Inappropriate

Most surprising thing here for me: Sawant actually got 10% of the vote in Broadmoor.

Posted Mon, Dec 9, 4:05 p.m. Inappropriate

Ben: My thought was that perhaps some of the "downstairs" help mailed in ballots, or that there are some people still angry at Conlin about the 520 plan. If there are Socialists in Broadmoor, please step forward for your interview!

Posted Wed, Dec 11, 9:46 a.m. Inappropriate

I doubt it was political. Conlin probably spilled wine on someone's Persian rug during a party/fundraiser and refused to pay to have it cleaned. A couple of the Broadmoor wives thought it was boorish and voted against him.


Posted Thu, Dec 12, 4:37 p.m. Inappropriate

Reread: The Princess Casamassima, by Henry James;
Radical Chic & Mau Mauing the Flak Catchers, by Tom Wolfe.


Posted Mon, Dec 9, 9:25 p.m. Inappropriate

Can you indicate where each of the current city councilmembers live? Thank you!


Posted Mon, Dec 9, 9:42 p.m. Inappropriate
has a decent map.

You can find that map at any of the seven district facebook pages as well. In fact, everyone who uses facebook is invited:


Posted Mon, Dec 9, 9:31 p.m. Inappropriate

District 2 is "conservative" on tax issues because our regressive tax system penalizes the poorer members of this district disproportionately. They don't trust that Seattle, King County, or Washington State would even consider a tax if it weren't massively regressive - so they vote no.


Posted Wed, Dec 11, 4:38 p.m. Inappropriate

Regarding "North Seattle's remaining working-class neighborhoods, Lake City and Northgate," I mentioned this in another thread: I'm not sure those neighborhoods can be characterized that way. Maybe working-class people can still find places to live there, but the people I know who live there have household incomes of over $100,000 (two working adults). Their living situations are not particularly luxurious. Someone who is truly working class, I'm not sure what kind of place they're going to be able to find, even there.

As for my new district, 7, even though it's true that "Magnolia [and] Queen Anne... are full of wealthy residential areas," it shouldn't be forgotten that there's a sizable population of people living in rentals... and even their cars and RVs (along Commodore Way). The area is hardly a slum, but Thorndyke and Gilman are hardly the lap of luxury, and there are a number of large apartment buildings clustered on the northeast side of Magnolia's eastern ridge (Magnolia Manor). You can tell this when looking at election returns: Sawant and McGinn might not have won any of the neighborhood (I can't remember at the moment), but they did best in the valleys and in the Manor.

Posted Sat, Dec 14, 5:37 p.m. Inappropriate

The 5th covers a lot of turf, from shoreline to shoreline to Shoreline, a a couple lakes.
The age of when many of the houses were built, when it was annexed, and then how it was zoned says as much about any district as sifting through recent voting patterns.

While shopping for a house about a decade ago the choices were, generally, newer condos, or post WWII single family housing.
This is what it looks like to me: There are a lot of older residents owning houses or transitioning to assisted living, and the generation after them owning houses, and the generation after them owning a house if they bought before they were priced out of being able to buy one and/or buying/renting condos.

There is a broad range of housing options. There are a lot of cars, bus service is limited (unless you work downtown), the job options locally are just not very good (so, you might have to own a car to drive to a job that pays enough to support these housing prices).
What's the dominant industry and economic driver in CD5?
Housing? Hospitals? Northgate Mall? Used car lots?

It's not going to be easy for anybody to communicate a vision for CD5 as a city council candidate.
This "other" Seattle will have to be tied into the economic growth of the city in some way in order for this part of Seattle to participate in the city's broader goals.

Mr Baker

Posted Sun, Dec 15, 8:26 a.m. Inappropriate

on the whole cd5 has been ignored by the city as stated for 20 or more years..that has led to a disconnect with the city that I believe will bare fruit in the gerrymandering that is inherent in all these type political in point the hard line between cd6 and cd5..large amounts of property crimes occur blue ridge and north beach cd6..yet the criminals use carkeek park their conduit question to the this reason for conflict or cooperation..i will not speak to the rest of the map but, these conflicts will become far more obvious with time..and given the small ball attitude of local politicians smart moneys on conflict..after all wouldn't the greenwood arsonist have fit this same outline..

Posted Sun, Dec 15, 12:15 p.m. Inappropriate

I don't think that is a district question but a police precinct and coverage question.
The new North Precinct is going in at 130th and Aurora Ave North (taking over a car lot and full service garage). It is currently located near North Seattle CC.

Mr Baker

Posted Sat, Dec 14, 9:35 a.m. Inappropriate

the best part of the voting districts will be the ability to follow the money..since sales tax represents large amounts of the budgetary needs of the city, it's my contention that allot of the climate change and green measures forced upon our city do have a direct effect on gross areas like my #5 district..large number of my neighbors as well as myself no longer shop in seattle at all, we unlike the core disticts are not trapped.. we will be able track and pressure applied to someone with skin in the if only something can be done about judges running unopposed..

Posted Mon, Dec 16, 9:10 p.m. Inappropriate

my ability to explain the future must not be confused with my ability to see the future..only a progressive can not know that the ALLOTMENT OF SERVICES will be the end result of least we in the north may have a voice..larry mind your step

Posted Wed, Dec 18, 3:57 p.m. Inappropriate

Does anyone know if we are stuck with this division? It is perplexing to see Wallingford and SE Fremont (really??? cut off the east end of Fremont from the rest???) lumped in with the U-District and Laurelhurst. We can pretty much write off getting much representation against those two heavy hitters! Does not make any sense to me.


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