Seattle City Councilmember Jean Godden appeared unfazed as she dangled 184 votes away from the end of her political career.
Godden placed third Tuesday evening in the best-of-two primary for Seattle’s new Fourth District council seat. She tallied 2,224 vote to second-place finisher Michael Maddux’s 2,408.
Rob Johnson, a former head of a transit advocacy group, easily took first with 3,558 votes.
He said his campaign connected with voters from the start. "When you knock on doors you have about 30 seconds and I had a lot of people reflecting back to me on public transit and public transportation — bus service in Wallingford, little parking in Seattle. ... People want better education and it to be easier to get around."
Godden, 83, is running for her fourth term on the city council. The first time in 2003, she won by 47 votes. After winning with 72 percent in 2007, she barely won in the November 2011, after easily leading in the primary. All of those were citywide races, unlike her contest to represent Northeast Seattle this year.
Godden voiced optimism that late ballots could make up the 184-vote gap between her and Maddux. Campaign adviser Cathy Allen said, "It's very early. It's a very low vote count. ... It's too close to call."
Video by SeattleTopStory.com
The three leaders in the race expressed respect for one another. Godden took a bit of a shot at Johnson's support from business, saying that the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s political arm donated $44,000 to Johnson, and a restaurant-and-hotel political action committee gave Johnson another $20,000. But Godden’s campaign raised $98,698 in donations, according to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission.
Maddux, who is headed to the primary if his slim lead holds up, raised only $30,265, a distant third. He called himself the underdog and said that his second place showing feels "surreal."
Reflecting on the possibility that he has ousted Godden from a shot in the general election campaign, Maddux praised her. "I thank Jean Godden for all her years of service to this community," he said. "She has done some great stuff on the City Council. She has been an ardent supporter of our parks, which is something that has been near and dear to my heart for many years. She led the way on ensuring that there are no minor children in the city of Seattle that are going to have water shut off to their homes."
If Godden is defeated in the primary, her current term would run through the end of the year.
In addition to her three four-year terms on the council, Godden had a distinguished career in journalism, overcoming overt sexism to rise to editorial page editor at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. She then went to the Seattle Times, where her column was widely read.
Johnson said the fall campaign is likely to feature a lot of talk about land-use issues, largely because of Mayor Ed Murray's Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda recommendations that provoked a firestorm over proposed changes in single-family zoning rules. Murray has since backed away from proposals.