Survivor City Council: Election will chop down a big field

Crosscut archive image.

The first district-based primary in more than 100 years could be something of a spectator sport. As of Monday night, only 16.5 percent of Seattle’s 414,000 registered voters had returned their ballots. Lackluster numbers aside, the election is significant.

As debates over growth, affordability, transportation and public safety simmer and bubble, all nine positions are up for grabs. The potential for change is enormous.

Until this year, positions for the Seattle City Council have all been chosen citywide. But, largely through the efforts of Faye Garneau of the Aurora Avenue Merchants Association, voters decided in 2013 to divide the city into seven districts roughly correlating with existing Seattle neighborhoods. Two seats will remain citywide.

Garneau, who lives in what she believes to be the neglected north end of Seattle, wanted to see candidates reach out to the community on a more micro-level. So far, she likes what she’s seen. “I’m thrilled. I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Garneau on Monday. “The candidates have gone out to the people. And that’s what I was trying to achieve. The government belongs to the people.”

Tonight, 47 wannabe council members will be whittled to 18.

Crosscut archive image.
Credit: City Clerk

Tuesday's primary may fall short of being a memorandum from voters on Seattle's big issues like growth and safety. But it may suggest a direction. Will voters favor those focused on neighborhood issues, as Garneau hopes? Or will they look to candidates who address the issues of Seattle as a whole?

Amid all of the back and forth over the fate of Seattle's single-family neighborhoods, will voters favor density or tradition?

There are also new political factors to weigh. Can candidates make up financial deficits on doorbelling alone? Or have district elections made it easier to buy a race?

Amid change, some races will prove predictable. Incumbents Bruce Harrell in 2, Mike O’Brien in District 6, Sally Bagshaw in 7 will likely take the majority in their races. In District 3, Councilmember Kshama Sawant and challenger Pamela Banks seem to be the most likely to advance, at least based on money and an unofficial poll from the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog.

That said, in a new system with low turnout, nothing is for sure.

The Wild West races are District 1 in West Seattle and District 5 up north. District 1 is unpredictable by sheer number, with nine candidates vying for a spot in the final two. District 5 has the second most with eight. No sitting council members call that North Seattle district their home, so it’s difficult to say what the mood will be come election day.

While Bill Bradburd and Alon Bassok are serious candidates for one of the two citywide seats, Lorena Gonzalez seems to be the frontrunner, thanks to endorsements from both the Stranger and the Seattle Times. The other citywide contest is between Council President Tim Burgess and the Jo(h)ns — housing activist Jon Grant, self-described generalist (and musician) John Roderick and longshoreman John Persak. Burgess and Roderick have dominated the fundraising in that race, although Grant has been making a name for himself as a dissenter on the HALA committee and an outspoken housing advocate.

And finally there’s Councilmember Jean Godden. Facing strong challenges for the District 4 seat in northwest Seattle from Rob Johnson, Micheal Maddux, Tony Provine and Abel Pacheco, Godden may be the most in danger of losing her seat, according to some political speculation. While transportation-focused Johnson and leftist Maddux appear to be the closest to unseating Godden, neighborhood activist Provine and recent Evans School grad Pacheco also appear to be running viable campaigns.

Look for updates on the number of ballot returns around mid-morning and early evening. Results will begin to come in at 8:15 p.m.

For information on voting, a quick refresher on candidates and links to other sites, check out Crosscut's guide to the candidates. Details on mailing deadlines, ballot drop boxes and in-person voting, check out King County Elections.


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors

David Kroman

David Kroman

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