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The neighborhood numbers shaping Seattle’s council races

Casting a vote. Credit: Allyce Andrew

Seattle’s very first City Council primary under a new district-based election system is under our belt. Although the ballots are still being counted, early precinct results give a fascinating look at the divisions we can expect in November.

Let’s take a look at how the results broke down – with an eye toward the electoral divisions they show, and what implications those might have for the two finalists (names in bold) in each race in November.

District 1 (West Seattle, South Park)

In a crowded race that initially focused heavily on candidate biographies, old ideological divisions took a while to show up in the District 1 race. I projected that Seattle’s well-established political dualism would ultimately show up, pitting the left-leaning voter bloc (Lisa Herbold and Brianna Thomas) against the more moderate-leaning bloc (Shannon Braddock and Phillip Tavel).

This appears to have happened, and it’s a close contest. On Election Night, Braddock narrowly led Herbold, and the moderate bloc (Braddock/Tavel) led the liberal bloc (Herbold/Thomas), 48 percent to 38 percent. With late-arriving ballots tilting left, Herbold now narrowly leads, and the moderate bloc’s margin has fallen to 46-40 percent.

Anyone who doubts this division need only look at the precinct results. Braddock’s Election Night showing was quite strong in the more affluent, water-view communities. She led Herbold 37-21 percent in the Fauntleroy neighborhood, and 34-18 in Alki. These were also areas where Tavel ran strong (22 and 24 percent, respectively). On the other end, the working-class Delridge area was fantastic for Herbold. Even among Election Night ballots, she was breaking 40 percent in the North Delridge and Fairmount Park neighborhoods.

The eliminated: Tavel’s Seattle Times endorsement seems to have landed him less liberal voters otherwise likely to end up in Braddock’s column in November. Brianna Thomas performed well in Delridge; those voters seem likely to mostly flow to Herbold. Of special concern to Braddock is the South Park neighborhood, where early returns have her below 10 percent. The other candidates mostly had even levels of low support, except local hot-spots for Chas Redmond (Gatewood) and Jody Rushmer (Roxhill Park). These votes are up for grabs.

District 2 (Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill, Georgetown)

Early results had incumbent Bruce Harrell defeating upstart challenger Tammy Morales 62-25 percent. This result is essentially unchanged since election night. Harrell’s support is fairly broad, although deeper some places than others. He broke 70 percent at Rainier Beach and Seward Park, and did comparably well in several South Beacon Hill precincts with high Asian populations. These were also strongholds in his 2013 mayoral run. Harrell struggled in Columbia City (55 percent) and North Beacon Hill (56 percent). Of course, in a three-way primary, “struggled” is a very relative term. Morales won only one precinct, her home turf in the Lakewood neighborhood.

The eliminated: Lefty renters’ rights activist Josh Farris finished at only 13 percent. Unsurprisingly, his votes were concentrated in working-class areas; he nearly tied Morales in NewHolly. It’s unclear where his votes are likely to flow, but Morales is not guaranteed them; Harrell won broadly across demographics and geographies.

District 3 (Capitol Hill, Central Area, Montlake)

First things first: when Kshama Sawant received 49.9 percent of the vote on Election Night, a lot of observers considered it a disappointment in light of her previous 58 percent General Election win in D3. That’s not the case. In fact, Sawant won the 2013 Primary in what became D3 by only seven votes. Especially considering late returns have boosted her to 51.9 percent, Sawant’s showing is strong. Arguments that Sawant’s vote was inflated by strong supporter turnout are not persuasive, either. It’s true that D3 had the highest turnout in the City, and the Sawant race likely drove this. However, key Sawant neighborhoods made up only 54 percent of the Primary electorate; they were 58 percent of the 2013 General electorate.

With that said, Sawant remains a polarizing figure. She did well this time around in urban Capitol Hill (61 percent) and the Central District (64 percent). Support is much thinner on the ground in the affluent neighborhoods of Madison Park and Washington Park, where Sawant placed third with 16 percent each. At the Broadmoor Golf Club, Seattle’s only Republican precinct, she polled at only 6 percent.

Sawant’s main opponent, Pamela Banks, unsurprisingly fared best in these neighborhoods – 60 percent at Madison Park and 63 percent at Washington Park. These are unequivocal results. Primary results suggest Sawant could be on track for a strong showing, but it certainly won’t be a unanimous one.

The eliminated: Rod Hearne, an LGBT rights activist, received 10.3 percent in early ballots and has since fallen to 9.7. As an anti-Sawant alternative to Banks, Hearne’s support tended to correlate with hers. Banks outpolled Hearne easily in every neighborhood, though. The closest division was around Broadway on Capitol Hill, where Banks votes outnumbered Hearne votes only 2-to-1 (vs. nearly 4-to1 districtwide). There may be some LGBT-minded Hearne voters Sawant could pick up there. However, her bigger advantage is certainly the friendlier General Election voter base.

District 4 (Wallingford, U District, Eastlake)

District 4 is another place where that classic left-center Seattle division seemed like it might rear its head. But Election Night results had urbanists Rob Johnson and Michael Maddux leading Jean Godden and Tony Provine, both candidates with profiles that tend to appeal to more moderate, suburban voters. This gap has only increased. Together, Godden and Provine received only 35 percent.

Election Night saw frontrunner Johnson at 34 percent, a figure which has fallen a little since as competitor Maddux has surged. Johnson’s support is fairly broad, running from a low of 26 percent (Eastlake) to a high of 41 percent (Laurelhurst). Despite his background in public transit advocacy, he was the leading candidate in most of the moderate, suburban neighborhoods.

Maddux, on the other hand, is clearly pulling a voter base that’s younger, more liberal and more urban. Early results had him leading solidly in his home neighborhood of Eastlake (36-26 percent), with narrower leads over Johnson in he University District (33-28), and Wallingford (by one vote). Maddux is struggling in the more wealthy, suburban neighborhoods of Hawthorne Hills (12 percent), View Ridge (12 percent), and Laurelhurst (10 percent).

The eliminated: Although she has fallen since Election Night, incumbent Jean Godden received fairly consistent support across the district, ranging from 16 percent (the U District) to 28 percent (her neighborhood, View Ridge). Her voters are slightly more likely to be older homeowners, but it is clear that she lost a good chunk of her base to Rob Johnson and Tony Provine.

The other two candidates had more interesting patterns. Provine, who sent out a vehemently anti-Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda campaign featuring bulldozers set upon single-family homes, had rather uneven support. He was at 14 percent districtwide, with showings ranging wildly from 6 (Fremont) to 25 percent (Hawthorne Hills). Provine’s votes were much more likely to come from single-family neighborhoods – no surprise, considering his messaging. Finally, Abel Pacheco, a young renter and UW grad, earned some votes in the U-District (9 percent), but made the biggest impacts in his native Wallingford (15 percent) and, curiously, suburban Wedgwood (14 percent).

District 5 (Lake City, Northgate, Northwest Seattle)

District 5 has consistently been this cycle’s hardest race to describe. It’s been heavily biography-driven, with ideological divisions over issues like growth only occasionally lighting up the race. One clear narrative emerged on Tuesday, though: a strong performance by attorney Debora Juarez. Juarez, who secured the endorsement of both The Stranger and The Seattle Times, outpolled minister Sandy Brown, 39 to 20 percent.

Juarez’s win was broad. Her closest showing was 34 to Brown’s 28 percent in Cedar Park; her largest margin was 41-14 at Bitter Lake. Brown won a scattering of precincts. Only one of them was anything but noise; he defeated Juarez 61-24 percent at a precinct near the 130th Street Park he worked to recover for public use. That’s not much comfort. Juarez’s win extended to every voter demographic and almost all geographies.

The eliminated: District 5 had six other candidates, who received a range of support. Young Planned Parenthood activist Halei Watkins, who received 14 percent districtwide, mainly received high support in areas with liberal renters, with a high of 19 percent at Greenwood. Realtor Kris Lethin, who received significant independent expediture support from the Realtors PAC, ended up with weak performances outside of his native Haller Lake (16 percent there versus 8 percent districtwide). The other candidates received a total of 19 percent, but did not have particular hotspots. The lack of ideological or geographical division in this race means these votes are likely up for grabs.

District 6 (Green Lake, Fremont, Ballard, Crown Hill)

In my pre-primary roundup, I called D6 “sleepy.” It turns out D6 was a little less sleepy than D2, with Mike O’Brien coming in under 60 percent. Nonetheless, this was not a close contest. O’Brien’s strong majority was built on excellent showings in progressive strongholds like Fremont (71 percent) and the Meridian/Tangletown(68 percent).

His November opponent, Catherine Weatbrook, received 22 percent to O’Brien’s 58 percent, winning a scattering of precincts, many on the suburban periphery of Ballard. She also did decently in Ballard proper, an area that has seen the very growing pains that Weatbrook has emphasized. That’s not enough to build a General Election victory, but she can take heart that she’s very popular with at least one group: her neighbors. She shellacked O’Brien in her Olympic Manor neighborhood, 72 to 16 percent.

The eliminated: Jon Lisbin seems to have seen the benefit of some of the more conservative vote. His lowest showing was in liberal Fremont (8 percent) and his best at Sunset Hill (23 percent), and is likely to mostly flow to Weatbrook.

District 7  (Magnolia, Queen Anne, South Lake Union, Downtown)

Sally Bagashaw is this year’s most untouchable incumbent, receiving 76 percent in Election Night returns, with nearest runner-up Deborah Zech-Artis at 14 percent. Bagshaw’s showings varied mostly by how transient the neighborhood is. Her lowest performances were mainly in areas heavy on rental apartments and homeless shelters. On the other extreme, she received 92 percent at the precinct containing the Horizon House retirement home and surrounding areas. Opponent Zech-Artis did do better in more suburban areas, with all of her top neighborhoods being in Magnolia. Still, Bagshaw had a landslide in nearly every precinct, and was losing none in early returns.

The eliminated: Techie Gus Hartmann performed much better Downtown (14 percent) than he did in Queen Anne or Magnolia (8 percent overall there).

Position 8 (citywide)

The first of Seattle’s two at-large seats is easily its more interesting. Incumbent Tim Burgess started Election Night with 49 percent. That would normally be a relatively safe showing for an incumbent, but Burgess is a moderate running against more overtly lefty candidates. That means a declining showing in subsequent counts (Burgess is now several points lower), and also a harsher time come the General Election. In other words, Burgess is in some trouble.

What’s causing him trouble? Liberal and working-class neighborhoods, mostly. Burgess is polling poorly in Georgetown (19 percent), around Broadway on Cap Hill (32 percent), the Central District (33), and Columbia City (34). These are very similar results to Richard Conlin’s 2013 primary showing, before he ultimately lost to Sawant. Compared to Conlin, Burgess is a bit stronger in middle-class neighborhoods, and a bit weaker in blue-collar and minority areas. However, older, wealthier voters boosted Burgess back up near 50 percent. His best showings were Madison Park (70 percent), View Ridge (72), and ultra-wealthy Washington Park (76).

Tenant Union head Jon Grant largely saw the mirror results of Burgess. His best results were Georgetown (52 percent), Broadway (45 percent), and the Central District (43 percent), all areas where he was boosted by the endorsement of The Stranger. He didn’t even break 10 percent in Washington Park. This is set up to be a classic lefty vs. moderate race in November, and all signs indicate it will be a competitive one.

The eliminated: Indie rock raconteur John Roderick had truly curious results. His worst neighborhoods tended, like Grant, to be Burgess strongholds. However, his best results were surprisingly diverse – the International District (25 percent), Bitter Lake (23), and North Delridge (23), Roxhill/Westwood Village (21). In general, Roderick’s high points were in areas with lots of working-class whites. Union man John Persak did best in his home ‘hood of Georgetown (12 percent), but otherwise did best in outlying suburban neighborhoods. These are curious constituencies, and suggest Burgess may have at least some voters to pick off here. The question is whether he can pick off enough to hit 50 percent, swimming against the tide of a less friendly, more liberal General Election electorate.

Position 9 (citywide)

In Position 9, civil rights attorney Lorena Gonzalez dominated the field, winning 64 percent to a distant second-place showing by neighborhood activist Bill Bradburd, who secured 15 percent. Gonzalez’s margin has only increased with subsequent ballots. Gonzalez secured a broad constituency and broke 50 percent in every neighborhood.

Gonzalez’s top showing was Capitol Hill, where she dominated both the urban portion and the wealthy northern portion; she hit 75 percent in both cases, an impressive feat with so many candidates. She did especially well in wealthy neighborhoods; areas with lots of young urbanists; and in especially liberal areas. Her weakest showings were well-heeled suburban areas, especially in West Seattle, like Alki (52 percent) and Arbor Heights (54 percent).

Bradburd’s top placings were in an interesting mix of neighborhoods, ranging from staunchly suburban areas (Laurelhurst), to poorer neighborhoods (International District and Rainier View), and areas with growth-related growing pains that Bradburd made a major campaign issue (Eastlake and Ballard). Still, Bradburd’s best performance – Hawthorne Hills, a suburban area near Magnuson Park – was only 22 percent. On the other end, Bradburd had little support from urban areas (Denny Triangle and Broadway) and the super-wealthy (Washington Park), placing under 10 percent in many areas.

The eliminated: Thomas Tobin’s voter statement criticized taxation; that was enough to make his top neighborhoods tax-skeptical suburban places like Alki (18 percent), Magnolia (17), and Bitter Lake (17). Tobin may have won a decent chunk of the Republican vote. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t help him in progressive bastions like the Central District, where he placed under 4 percent.

The other candidates had little pattern to their results. Alon Bassok’s results varied a lot, from 4 percent at Georgetown to 15 percent at Westlake. However, there was little internal consistency. Omari Tahir-Garrett, whose all-caps statement railed against racism and colonialism, broke 10 percent in a few heavily black precincts. Gadfly Alex Tsimerman received no support to speak of, but just for the record, the curious distinction of top Tsimerman support goes to South Park (5.6 percent). It’s a fresh reminder that, looking forward to November, some voters do defy all analysis.

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