First things first: Ballots were mailed Oct. 16. If yours hasn't arrived by Wednesday, Oct. 23 — and you are a registered voter — call your county elections office (King County is 206-296-8683).
If you're wondering (literally) how to vote, visit the Secretary of State's website, which provides ballot box drop locations and details about how to register (you've got until Oct. 28 if you do it in person). In addition, each Washington county maintains its own website. They’re all available here.
Now for the good part: Help in deciding whom and what to vote for. As a nonprofit, Crosscut can't endorse candidates or ballot measures. But here's our brief (not really) overview of the 2013 initiatives, charter amendments, propositions and candidates in some of the bigger races.
Other voting guides
Ours is not the only guide out there. Some serve up unbiased info; others, shameless advocacy. Here are some of the better ones we found. (Please share your suggestions in the reader comments section):
- The Living Voter’s Guide: Allows conversations about initiatives
- FUSE Washington’s Progressive Voter’s Guide: Exactly what it looks like
- King County’s Voter’s Guide: Candidate-submitted information
- The Seattle Times editorial board endorsements: Local and state races.
- The News Tribune editorial board endorsements: Ditto.
- The Stranger’s Voting Guide: Always entertaining.
- Washington Policy Center 2013 Election Resources: Conservative think tank tips
- The Municipal League of King County: A navigational challenge; find candidate ratings here.
Seattle City Races
Mayor: Murray v. McGinn
Both candidates are proud liberals, and the campaign has focused on leadership style rather than substantive issues.
McGinn likes to drive a wedge, then use the leverage to get policies into place. It helped him implement reforms in the police department (post-Department of Justice investigation), improve parks and continue to work for bike-, enviro- and mass transit-friendly policies. He is, at his core, a combative activist. Murray is all about compromise and bringing people together. His website advertises his belief that “leadership is not about picking fights with your opponents, it is about building bridges.” This approach has helped him pass legislation around marriage equality, maintain funding for social services and get a state transportation package.
The outcome will come down to whether people like how McGinn operates, or don’t.
Seattle City Council Seat No. 2: Sawant v. Conlin
Kshama Sawant is listed as a Socialist Alternative candidate, although most of her positions stay well within Seattle’s liberal boundaries. She wants to restrict coal trains and quickly implement a $15 per hour minimum wage, arguing that the bump could serve as a local stimulus package. She'd like public schools to get more funding and attention, and would address the Seattle Police Department’s excessive use of force.
Veteran Councilmember Richard Conlin sits right in the center, assuming the "center" in Seattle is liberal. He voted no on paid sick leave — citing concerns over unequal worker treatment — and yes on the plastic bag ban. He tried to defund McGinn's transit master plan, but has worked on bike lane safety and received the endorsement of the Cascade Bicycle Club, Sierra Club and Washington Conservation Voters. He has served on the council 16 years, and can boast both expertise, especially in transit and urban affairs, and connections.
This is one of the most closely watched races because Conlin failed to get 50 percent in the primary election voting.
Seattle City Council Seat No. 4: Bagshaw v. Bellomio
Sally Bagshaw has served on the Seattle City Council for the past four years, and has advocated successfully for better shelters, safer streets and MOHAI. Her opponent, Sam Bellomio, wants to put a stop to rapid apartment rent increases, red light cameras and the proposed SoDo sports arena.
Seattle City Council Sea No. 6: Licata v. Fruit
The most liberal voice on the Seattle City Council for years, Nick Licata would like to continue serving by building more low-income-housing, forcing lobbyists to register and working to end homelessness. His opponent Edwin B. Fruit wants voters to break away from the two-party capitalist system and build a class revolution.
Seattle City Council Seat No. 8: O’Brien v. Shen
As a member of the Seattle City Council's liberal wing, Mike O'Brien (left) worked on both the plastic bag ban and a directory to opt out of big yellow behemoth deliveries. He came in four years ago as Mayor McGinn's one close council ally but, without abandoning his own views, developed effective working relationships with his mostly anti-McGinn colleaguesl.
Albert Shen is pro-business. He wants to pull back on bike lanes and legalized pot and bring his expertise as a storm-water manager to the Duwamish cleanup. He would also support an aggressive pan-handling ordinance as one step towards solving what he sees as a citywide crime problem. McGinn vetoed the panhandling bill last time around, and O’Brien’s vote allowed the veto to stand.
Seattle School District Position No. 4: Peters v. Dale Estey
In her statement to the King County elections guide, Sue Peters points to her previous experience working directly with schools and education organizations, and indicates that she will support teachers and classrooms over standardized testing. She has received a host of endorsements, including from the Seattle Education Association and Democratic groups. This is Seattle, after all. Suzanne Dale Estey focuses on a career building partnerships and bridges to solve problems effectively, and wants to push for more state funding and STEM education. She, too, has received a variety of endorsements, and is well funded by education reform advocates.
Seattle School District Position No. 5: Blanford v. Green
Consultant Stephan Blanford has dedicated much of his adult life to education. He holds a PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy, and brings a significant amount of experience working with schools in various roles. His opponent, LaCrese Green, is a longtime tutor to immigrant children from Ethiopia, who seeks to improve math curricula and make arts and STEM programs available at all schools.
Stephan Blanford Campagn Site
LaCrese Green Campaign Site
Seattle Times Endorses Blanford
We didn't find endorsements for Green; she reportedly declined to attend some endorsement interviews
Initiatives and amendments
I-522: GMO Labeling
It has already broken the record for statewide campaign spending, and the campaign’s still going. Driven largely (on both sides) by out of state funding (Dr. Bronners vs. Monsanto, etc.), the campaign has produced significant amounts of misinformation (stories here and here).
The bill basics: If at least 0.9 percent of a food's biomass was produced by genetically engineered organisms then that food must carry a front-of-package label notifying consumers that it is genetically modified. Exceptions include restaurant food, ready-to-eat food and alcohol). After 2019, the 0.9 percent threshold will drop to 0 percent. More information here.
The Yes on 522 side contends that consumers should know more about what goes into their food so they can make more informed decisions about what they want to buy. The No on 522 side argues that labels cost money, which will drive up grocery prices and hurt Washington food producers; that labels can’t provide enough information to give consumers a good view of what’s in their food; and that GMOs aren't harmful anyway.
Several cost studies produced slightly mixed results: The Alliance for Natural Health study concluded that costs would stay the same, or see a negligible increase; A Washington Research Council report (sponsored by No on 522) said prices would rise significantly; a Washington Academy of Sciences report predicted a rise, but weren't sure how big it would be. The literature is worth skimming, especially the Washington Academy of Sciences study.
I-517: Protect the Initiative
The Protect the Initiative Act is an initiative about — initiatives. It would change the initiative process by allowing more time to gather signatures, preventing constitutional challenges to the initiative before a vote and loosening restrictions on signature gathering. For example, 517 would condone signature gathering in all public buildings, and on all public thoroughfares (sidewalks, etc.). It would also ban any harassment or harsh words directed at signature gatherers and require police to prioritize stopping any such harassment.
Proponents say 517 would bring the time requirements for signature gathering in line with the rest of the country, prevent harassment of signature gatherers and keep opponents from challenging the legality of initiatives until voters have had their say.
Opponents envision signature gatherers invading waiting rooms, stadiums, school soccer fields and storefronts, while citizens risk arrest for scolding or pushing past them. They call 517 an unnecessary hindrance to civil liberties.
Seattle Proposition 1: Public Financing of City Elections
This measure would allow public financing of city elections. (See Crosscut's report.) Candidates can opt in. Once they collect 600 donations above $10, those funds are matched 6-to-1 up to $210,000. In exchange, candidates are barred from spending more than $245,000 on the campaign — unless their opponent does. An average Seattle campaign currently costs around $275,000. The city would levy a property tax (about 50 cents per month per household) to pay for the public financing.
Among other things, critics argue that large campaigns can still contribute via independent expenditures on advertising for or against candidates or issues, and that some studies show public financing doesn't increase the diversity of candidates or the number of challengers. Proponents counter that public financing shifts the emphasis of the campaign from raising money to meeting constituents, and dampens the political influence of corporations and other big spenders.
Seattle Charter Amendment 19: Districts
Seattle’s Charter Amendment 19 would divide Seattle into districts — each with a designated city council representative — to allow for more neighborhood-specific representation. Two seats would remain as “at large” positions, elected by the city as a whole. The map for districts is here.
Backers say Amendment 19 will decrease the amount of money in races by scaling down operations, and increase the amount of pull people have with their elected officials. They also point out that most major cities have districts. Opponents say the current system encourages council members to consider the good of the entire city without sacrificing neighborhood accountability, particularly since every city resident has access to every council committee chair.
Yes on Amendment 19 Site
There's no site for No on Amendment 19
The Stranger: Some problems with the district approach
SeaTac Proposition 1: $15 per hour
This would mandate a minimum wage of $15 per hour for workers at Sea-Tac International Airport and at airport-related businesses in two categories: transportation and hospitality. The former includes cargo handlers and workers at rental car companies and parking lots. Airline employees are not included. The hospitality category includes hotel and motel employees. For these workers, Proposition 1 raises the hourly minimum to $15, requires paid sick time and regulates how tips are split: Management may not take a cut.
Supporters of the bill argue that it will bring significant money to the city at a negligible cost to travelers, and thus help to address income inequality. Opponents believe the wage requirements will drive businesses away, incentivize workforce cuts and lead to fewer jobs, less tax revenue and less spending in other areas.
King County Council Seat No. 1: Dembowski v. Wilson
Rod Dembowski, appointed to the King County Council earlier this year, campaigns as someone who has proven himself a successful advocate for transportation and sustainable commuting. Naomi Wilson, who wants to bring a public health perspective to the seat, has been an advocate for low-income housing and underserved communities.
District 1 represents voters from parts of NE Seattle, to Shoreline, and east to Bothell and Woodinville.
King County Council Seat No. 5: Upthegrove v. Massagli
Dave Upthegrove (at left) brings 12 years of legislative experience to the race, and a focus on transit and the environment. Challenger Andy Massagli believes the focus should be on job stability and crime, and will bring his military and law enforcement experience to those issues.
District 5 represents much of Renton and Kent, and west through SeaTac, Des Moines and Normandy Park.
King County Council Seat No. 9: Dunn v. Song
Reagan Dunn lives in a Republican district, and his voting record is conservative. Against property and sales tax increases, and putting the parks levy on the primary ballot. He was re-elected in 2009 with 78 percent of the vote, but faces a significant challenger this year.
Shari Song, managing broker for a real-estate group, has served on a number of community organizations and advisory councils. She wants to raise revenue for a variety of services, including reliable transportation, smart growt, a domestic violence response team and expanding the Sheriff’s office patrols.
District 9 represents much of the area of King County east of Kent and south of Bellevue/Issaquah.
Bellevue City Council Seat No. 2: Lee v. Heywood
In his five terms on the Bellevue City Council, Conrad Lee has advocated for sound financial management, well-funded and high-quality public schools and lower taxes. He has also worked to make the city a magnet for international investment.
His opponent, Lyndon Heywood, believes Bellevue is falling behind. He says he wants to bring changes to the city council and help Bellevue harness a broader spectrum of its citizens' ideas.
Bellevue City Council Seat No. 4: Wallace v. Kasner
The Seattle Times switched its general election endorsement to Kevin Wallace (it supported Steve Kasner in the primary) after video footage showing Kasner supporting a liberal “tsunami.” But the reasons for the Times' initial support of Kasner may remain relevant: He has been significantly involved in the city for years, and wants to focus on passing a more comprehensive ethics bill and better light rail.
Kevin Wallace initially stood against one light rail alignment and wants to shift lines and maintenance stations in order to minimize light rail's impact on nearby neighborhoods. He continues to fight for lower taxes.
Bellevue City Council Seat No. 6: Slatter v. Robinson
Vandana Slatter claims significant biotech experience, having worked as a medical services liaison and on the state pharmacy board. She has also been heavily involved in NARAL, serving on its board, and wants to see Bellevue improve transit, public education and emergency services.
Lynne Robinson has been very involved the Bellevue Parks and Community Services board and other community organizations. She helped get the parks levy funds back in last year’s budget. She is focused on safe neighborhoods and a strong local economy.
Robinson had the lion's share of the vote in a three-candidate primary that defeated a longtime council conservative.
Port of Seattle
Seattle Port Commission Position No. 1: Lewis v. Creighton
Pete Lewis, the current mayor of Auburn, brings a wealth of experience with managing infrastructure and development and has earned a host of endorsements from those who see him bringing a more collaborative tone to the commission. John Creighton has served on the Port Commission for the past eight years, and has worked on improving freight movement and encouraging more oversight, as well as environmental preservation.
Seattle Port Commission Position No. 2: Gregoire (No, not that one) v. Naubert
Courtney Gregoire was appointed port commissioner in February, and has trade management experience in both public and private sectors. She wants to bring more jobs to Seattle, but balance growth with environmental concerns.
John Naubert’s statement to the King County Elections Commission calls for the U.S. to emulate Cuba’s classless society.
Seattle Port Commission Position No. 3: Wolfe v. Bowman
Stephanie Bowman, who was appointed to the port commission in April, served in a variety of trade-management posts. She advocates environmental stewardship and supports exporting Washington products to enhance the region's prosperity, while avoiding the export of coal. Michael Wolffe wants higher wages and better benefits for workers in and around the port, and will continue to lobby for additional federal and state financial support.
Seattle Port Commission Position No. 4: Albro v. Pope
Tom Albro has served on the commission since 2010, and was rated outstanding by the municipal league. He helped pass the Century Plan and has worked for better auditing standards. Opponent Richard Pope wants to repeal the Port Levy. He has run for public offices perennially since 1999.
26th District: Angel v. Schlicher
Lots of money flowing to both sides in this race, with Republicans wanting to ensure their majority in the state senate and Democrats looking to challenge GOP control.
State Senator Nathan Schlicher was appointed as a replacement for Derek Kilmer, who was recently elected to Congress. A 30-year-old emergency-room physician, he has pushed through mental health reform, advocated for better healthcare and helped control tolls around the Tacoma narrows bridge. Opposing him is Republican Rep. Jan Angel. She believes she can create jobs and keep the district moving forward. She has an extensive resume as a small business owner, banker and state legislator.
Jan Angel Campaign Site
Nathan Schlicher Campaign Site
Seattle Times Endorses Schlicher
National Federation of Independent Business/Washington endorses Angel
Crosscut's article on the race
This story has been updated since it first appeared to correct a spelling error.