District 2 candidate for Seattle City Council Tammy Morales officially conceded to longtime Councilmember Bruce Harrell Tuesday, following a race that was far closer than most pundits and media expected. With his win, Harrell is likely to be the first minority Council President since Sam Smith in the 80s.
Morales, a longtime advocate for food rights issue, challenged Harrell on the premise that he was not a true representative of South Seattle. However, in her announcement near Hing Hay Park in the International District, Morales said she’d called Harrell to congratulate him and asked her supporters to “join me in supporting Councilmember Harrell” to advocate for the workers of Seattle.
Morales was clearly emotional, her voice cracking several time at the podium. After losing by nearly 40 percentage points the in the primary, the race for District 2 came down to a mere 354 votes. As any sports fan can understand, for Morales to make up that amount of ground in time for the general election, only to fall just short of victory, is a tough blow.
Because it was such a blowout in August, press coverage of the race between Harrell and Morales was scarce prior to Election Night. The Seattle Weekly called Harrell a shoo-in (a title not bestowed to citywide candidate Lorena Gonzaelez, who won by nearly 60 percent). On several occasions, Morales blamed the media for being apathetic toward South Seattle.
“It underscores what’s wrong with media when it comes to this area, period,” she told the South Seattle Emerald. “They don’t care unless there’s either something negative they can report on, or in this case, if there’s a horse race. Providing this area’s constituency with substantive political coverage so they can make informed decisions never appeared to be a priority for them.”
Even when the first ballots dropped on November 3, District 2 received less coverage than other, less close races, such as the citywide contest between incumbent Tim Burgess and Jon Grant. But as late ballots were tallied, the gap between the two narrowed to a near tie.
When asked what changed between August and November, Morales said a number of things. She blamed low turnout and the lack of media coverage in August, but also shouldered some of the responsibility herself. “I was struggling to communicate my message,” she told Crosscut Tuesday. “I became a much better candidate.” She said she knocked on over 8,000 doors herself. She also grew her campaign staff, adding a manager and a social media arm.
But arguably the biggest bump, as Crosscut reported previously, came with her endorsement from The Stranger newspaper. The editorial board endorsed Harrell in the primary, but switched to Morales for the general. “It really turned the race around,” Morales told Crosscut in October. “It triggered this wave of momentum. Fundraising is up; support on the doors is up.”
With Harrell’s re-election, the Seattle City Council has eight of its nine members settled. The race between Lisa Herbold and Shannon Braddock in West Seattle is separated by a mere 35 votes, which easily qualifies it for an automatic recount.
Regardless of how that race turns out, the next council will be majority women and younger. In theory, Morales would have been an ally for the more left leaning block of the council. But instead, Harrell, seen as a closer ally to Mayor Ed Murray, is likely to take the seat of Council President. Committee assignments will ultimately be up to him and he has the power to discipline councilmembers for disruptions.
At press time, Harrell had not returned a call for comment.
When asked what’s next, Morales hemmed a bit, saying she was just planning to relax over Thanksgiving with her family in Spokane. She would not say if she would run again, but pledged to continue advocating for South Seattle, namely for issues of housing affordability and police accountability. “I’m going to take the time to be a value add,” she said.