With the surprising tunnel vote finally behind us, the question must be asked: What will they talk about during the city council campaign for the November election?
The most contested race was against incumbent Jean Godden. Bobby Forch and newcomer Maurice Classen ran strong campaigns for her seat. Forch has emerged as her challenger for November. Everyone in the race was pro-tunnel with the exception of Michael Taylor-Judd,who finished last. To win in November, Forch will have to draw distinctions between him and Godden.
In an unusual move, Councilmember Nick Licata has endorsed Godden’s challenger. Unusual, that is, unless one remembers Godden endorsing Jesse Israel in 2009, who challenged Licata. Because there doesn’t appear to be much substantive difference ideologically between Godden and Forch, look for the race to get personal.
Incumbent Sally Clark looks to have an easy re-election, gaining over 70 percent of the early returns. She will face Dian Ferguson in November. Clark will have a substantial advantage in fundraising and it remains to be seen what issues Ferguson will develop as her campaign theme.
Of the other races, only one still has an anti-tunnel candidate. This is the seat currently held by Bruce Harrell. Brad Meacham is challenging Harrell and is no fan of the tunnel. However, Meacham must now pivot away from that issue and find something else to talk about. Will he take a page out of former Councilmember David Della’s playbook when he attacked incumbent Heidi Wills as “Rate Hike Heidi”? Harrell chairs the committee overseeing City Light. Or will Meacham portray Harrell as a go-along-to-get-along councilmember? Harrell, like Clark, will have a significant advantage in both fundraising and organization.
In the remaining race, Tim Burgess faces only nominal opposition from David Schraer, who joined the contest to have the opportunity to get his name out there and will not run an anti-Burgess campaign.
Only a year ago there was talk of a slate of anti-tunnel candidates holding the council to account for their support of the project. Now it appears the incumbents have the advantage and the popular wind at their backs. Challengers will need to find an issue that resonates with voters. Will it be the vehicle license-fee increase, utility rates, or will public safety and police accountability come back as an issue? One thing is clear: It will not be about a tunnel.