Seattle City Council election results: Good for most incumbents

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A voter drops off a ballot in Ballard.

The field of 47 candidates for Seattle City Council was thinned Tuesday night with few surprises, save one: Sitting Councilmember Jean Godden is trailing badly in her race, running third and 180 votes shy of Michael Maddux for second place. If she can't make up the difference with late arriving ballots in coming days, her 12-year tenure on the council will be headed toward a conclusion at the end of the year.

City Council incumbents Tim Burgess, Kshama Sawant, Mike O'Brien, Bruce Harrell and Sally Bagshaw all ran strongly, assuring themselves places in November's general election. Bagshaw, O'Brien and Harrell all appear to be well-positioned for re-election. And one political newcomer, Lorena Gonzalez, also appears to have run so well as to be hard to catch in the fall campaign.

Initial voter turnout for the first neighborhood-by-neighborhood elections in 100 years was anemic -- only 21 percent returned Tuesday night. Communication Manager for King County Kim van Ekstrom said a large number of votes will arrive in the mail tomorrow morning, but it's unlikely to reach the 30 percent predicted by the county.

Only two candidates advance to the fall elections in the two citywide council races and the seven district contests.

Transportation wonk Rob Johnson easily took first in Godden's District 4, which runs from Wallingford to Lake Washington, with 33 percent of the vote, or 3,558 votes. Maddux, a left-leaning political newcomer, took 22 percent, or 2,400 votes. Godden came in with 21 percent, or 2,224 votes.

Godden remained upbeat, pointing to her previous narrow victories in 2003 and 2011. She's used to nail biters. But with no more than a couple thousand ballots on the way, things will be tight for the longtime council member. "That independent expenditure was a little hard to overcome," she said, pointing to the fundraising strategies of Johnson.

Johnson, however, swung the focus to his own outreach efforts, wasting no time to begin campaigning for the general election. "When you knock on doors you have about 30 seconds," he said, "and I had a lot of people reflecting back to me on public transit and public transportation."

Maddux, for his part, was in a happy shock. "This is definitely a surreal feeling," he said. "We went into this campaign knowing we were going to be the underdog the entire time through and managed to come out and it looks like we're in a good position to get a ticket to November."

And his race against Johnson? "It's going to be potentially one of the most boring races you've ever seen. Rob and I get along great — in fact, we've been texting throughout the campaign quite a bit and we carpool to events together."

Council President Tim Burgess coasted to victory with 48 percent of the vote for one of two citywide seats. The real question had been who would take second, but housing activist Jon Grant did so easily, beating out rock musician John Roderick by 13 percentage points. While Burgess appears to be sitting well, he did not receive 50 percent, something Grant pointed out. "Last night we saw 52% of Seattle vote against an incumbent," said Grant. "Typically primaries skew toward the incumbent. I think this will be Tim Burgess' last year in office."

Lorena Gonzalez, former legal counsel to Mayor Ed Murray, easily trumped her opponents in the race for the other citywide seat, nearly doubling the totals of the other contenders in that race combined. Neighborhood advocate Bill Bradburd took second with 15 percent of the vote. While Gonzalez was always the favorite, the poor showing from Bradburd -- as well as from neighborhood activist Tony Provine in District 4 -- suggest that district elections have not refocused voters on neighborhood level issues, at least not initially.

In District 3 (Capitol Hill, Central District and Madison Park) Socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant mobilized her devout base to run up the score on challenger Pamela Banks of the Metropolitan Urban League by 14 percentage points — 49 percent to 35 percent. But while Banks may be down, she’s not out. "We're excited," said campaign manager Joanna Paul. "We think it's a great result." Sawant overcame a 13-point deficit to unseat Councilmember Richard Conlin in 2013, so Banks has a shot. That, to be sure, took a tremendous amount of work by Sawant and her supporters.

In West Seattle and South Park's District 1, Lisa Herbold and Shannon Braddock are in solid positions with 27 and 28 percent, respectively. Philip Tavel, who had dark horse potential thanks to a Seattle Times endorsement, is third with 19 percent.

Debora Juarez easily took the North Seattle's District 5 with 38 percent of the vote, followed by Sandy Brown with 20 percent.

Incumbent Councilmember Bruce Harrell came away with 62 percent of the votes to dominate Southeast Seattle's District 2, which includes the Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill and Mount Baker. Tammy Morales, with just under 25 percent of the vote, came in second and will challenge Harrell in November.

In District 6, which includes Ballard and Fremont, Councilmember Mike O’Brien took a substantial majority, nearly 58 percent, which comes as no surprise. Catherine Weatbrook got 22 percent of the vote to survive the four-person primary field and run again in the general election.

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, who faced the least resistance of any incumbent, easily swept downtown and Queen Anne’s District 7 with 75 percent of the vote. That's the highest margin of victory of the night. Deborah Zech-Artis is second.

In other elections, Port of Seattle commissioner, Courtney Gregoire cruised through her primary; she will take on Goodspaceguy. Marion Yoshina and Fred Fellemen will compete to take the place of commissioner Bill Bryant after he leaves his seat to run for governor.

For all the talk of this being a historic election, Tuesday night saw few surprises. With the exception of Grant and Maddux, the top two fundraisers for every race will advance. Even Godden's troubles have been foreshadowed since 2011 when she won with a tight 50.1 percent. Supporters of neighborhood elections wanted to lessen the impact of money on elections and elect candidates who focus on neighborhood issues. So far, that doesn't seem to be the case, but we'll see come November.

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About the Authors & Contributors

David Kroman

David Kroman

David Kroman is formerly a reporter at Crosscut, where he covered city politics.