Seattle's new political glossary

What's a CHAFUR? Hint: You won't find any in Broadmoor.
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Lots of MADREPS in Seattle's Broadmoor enclave

What's a CHAFUR? Hint: You won't find any in Broadmoor.

The outcome of the 2013 elections suggests that viewing Seattle as one, blue, lefty blob — politically speaking, of course — isn't very useful as a political model of the city. Sure, we're pretty progressive here, but that doesn't mean we don't have our differences, despite what FOX's Bill O'Reilly might think.

With the seven new city council districts, those differences may prove more important when it comes to electing our representatives. So, Crosscut has been poking into the details, examining what last fall's election results meant, and discerning what the city's actual demographics and voting patterns might bode.

For example, there are Democratic precincts that voted for a Socialist (Kshama Sawant), and those that voted against. There are liberals who voted for change in the form of City Council districts and public financing, and those that supported the status quo. There are parts of town where otherwise progressive voters are skeptical about legalized pot, gay marriage or grocery bag fees.

In trying to sort through and name these newfound differences, it's evident that we have a vocabulary problem. For example, we have voters who may be risk-averse or hold cautious positions on taxation, social issues and local government, but who are not necessarily conservatives in any conventional sense. Seattleites are more complex than that. We're liberal, but what kind of liberals are we? How do we characterize or categorize thinking and voting patterns that don't fall easily left or right, Red or Blue, liberal or conservative? How do we describe the Fifty Shades of Blue (and a few Pink precincts) that color our city?

People have tried coining expressions to capture these strange leanings before. "Dinocrats" was the term for Democratic voters who crossed the aisle for Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi or later Rob McKenna. "Scoop Jackson Democrats" once described liberals who were hardliners on foreign policy, after the Washington state Senator who became a neo-con favorite. "Dan Evans Republican" once labeled the pro-conservation, moderate wing of the state Republican party, an homage to the former governor who exemplified that species, a critter now as old and rare as a Lake Union woolly mammoth.

Those bygone labels were useful in capturing nuance or creating voter messaging. In that spirit, and after studying the latest voting patterns, we're putting forth a new political bestiary. Think of it as a field guide to Seattle politics that's more useful than the broad labels of the past.

Herewith, some nominees:

CHARFORMs, Change Resisters for Murray
Not fans of the BIG change supported by CHAFURS, this subset of liberals voted for longtime city council member Richard Conlin over newcomer Sawant; were skeptical of district elections (many preferred the old at-large system); and supported Ed Murray for mayor over Mike McGinn, a change vote that could also be seen as a vote against a change-agent — or one in favor of a less combative personality. CHARFORMS tend to live in bedroom communities such as Laurelhurst, Magnolia and Fauntleroy.

CHAFURs, Change Friendly Urban Renters
Pronounced like "chafe," as in people who chafe at the status quo, these voters live in places such as Capitol Hill and Fremont. They said yes to district elections, Kshama Sawant, and public financing of council elections, and generally have yet to meet a tax they didn't like. Basically, they're progressives who want to shake things up. The blue areas in this map are voting precincts that boast unusually high populations of CHAFURS type voters.

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About the Authors & Contributors

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.