Races and ballot measures | Election Guide 2017

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Who controls the state Legislature? How left should the Seattle City Council go? And should King County continue expanding a levy for helping veterans, senior citizens and vulnerable populations? Those questions could all be decided in the Nov. 7 general election.

This year’s election features races for several county posts, council and mayoral positions in numerous cities, school boards and fire and water districts around the county. In addition to its mayoral and council contests, Seattle also has an election for city attorney.

Countywide, there are contests for sheriff, King County executive and two county council positions — three other council positions are up for election but incumbents are running unopposed in those (and the executive race is almost as much of a yawner if primary results are any indication).

Here’s our roundup of the biggest local races for Seattle, King County, the Legislature, the Port of Seattle, Court of Appeals, and Seattle School Board.

Seattle City Races

Under a new system adopted by voters just four years ago, most of the council — seven of the nine members — are elected by district voting. But there are still two council members elected in citywide elections. And four-year terms for those positions are, for the first time, the only ones on the ballot this year. (The district positions come up again in 2019).

Seattle City Council Position 8

This is the hot race for the council, partly because it has plenty of recent history. Way back when — well, two years ago — Jon Grant, former head of the Tenants Union, made a decent run against an incumbent, Tim Burgess, but ended up nearly 10 percentage points behind. Burgess decided against seeking re-election this year, and now, with Burgess filling the final months of resigned Mayor Ed Murray (if you missed that … check here), Grant is facing labor leader Teresa Mosqueda. It’s a race pitting against each other two versions of the city’s progressive identity.

Grant has the avid support of Socialist Alternative City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, and he’s made homelessness and housing a big issue, proposing a tax on businesses set up to make larger companies build 5,000 new residential units. Mosqueda, who has endorsements from a host of Democratic and labor leaders, promises collaborative leadership on housing, homeless services, transit and family and women’s issues. Because Burgess took the mayor’s position, whoever wins will take office Nov. 28, when election results are certified, rather than the normal Jan. 1 start of the new term.


Seattle City Council Position 9

Longtime community leader and business person Pat Murakami is challenging incumbent Lorena González, who was elected two years ago. Murakami promises that she will use her business background, including an MBA degree, to ensure tax dollars are used effectively. She emphasizes addressing the homelessness crisis; charging developers impact fees; and curbing gun violence (she’s president of the South Seattle Crime Prevention Council).

With the city upzoning neighborhoods across Seattle, Murakami proposes rezoning all residential properties to their current usage, arguing that “global upzones of single-family neighborhoods” has made property taxes unaffordable for many. González, who chairs a council committee dealing with public safety, says she has secured new resources for combating domestic violence, neighborhood crime and gun violence.

A former civil rights attorney and legal counsel to the mayor early in Murray’s term, she warns about the effects of the Trump administration on immigrants, for whom she championed a legal defense fund. It might take a miracle for Murakami to win: Two years ago, González became the first Latina member of the council by rolling up 78 percent of the vote against another neighborhood activist, and she received 64 percent of the vote in the primary against Murakami and five other challengers.


City Attorney

In Seattle, the city attorney runs the law department, which advises city officials on legal issues, handles litigation for the city and prosecutes people for some criminal violations. And, as an elected official, the city attorney sometimes asserts his ability to advocate for the public on policy issues, such as the handling of police reform. Among Washington cities, Seattle is the only one that elects a city attorney. Pete Holmes, first elected in 2009, is seeking a third term, but faces a challenge from Scott Lindsay, who served as the mayor’s public safety adviser until recently.

Lindsay has criticized Holmes for not doing enough to address the effects of crime, drug addiction and homelessness on neighborhoods. Lindsay also points to his experience creating so-called navigation teams of police and outreach officers to connect the homeless with services, along with his role in launching a city-county task force on opiates addiction. Holmes says it’s important to keep him in office to continue police reform and fight to protect immigrants in the city. He boasts that his office has brought more focus to domestic violence while prosecuting customers of prostitutes for the misdemeanor charge of sexual exploitation. Typically a quiet, down-ballot race, this one is shaping up to be tense.


State Legislative Races

State legislative elections are normally held in even years, but there are a number of special election races to fill unexpired terms where an official left office or died.

45th Legislative District

With Republicans holding a 25-to-24 advantage in the Senate, it’s their misfortune that one of the special elections happens to be in one of the most evenly divided of the state’s 49 legislative districts — the 45th, which includes Duvall, Woodinville and parts of Kirkland, Sammamish and Redmond. Manka Dhingra is a long-time senior deputy prosecutor for King County who oversees a mental health court. Jinyoung Lee Englund has worked with the electronic currency firm Bitcoin, in nonprofits and on the leadership staff of U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the prominent Spokane Republican.

Control of the Senate has given Republicans a big say in Olympia, despite Democratic control of the state House and the governor’s office. But their sway could be greatly reduced by a Dhingra win, and she finished the primary with just under 51.5 percent of the votes, a surprising 10 percentage-point lead. Some $4 million had flowed into the campaigns by the end of last month, according to the Associated Press.


31st Legislative District

This district — which includes Auburn, Enumclaw, Sumner and other south King County and Pierce County communities — is one of just two in King County where both a House and Senate seat are on the ballot. In the state House race, Democrat Nate Lowry, a member of the Edgewood City Council, is running against Republican state Rep. Morgan Irwin, appointed to fill a vacancy in January. In the Senate race, Republican Sen. Phil Fortunato is trying to hold onto a seat he was appointed to earlier this year, but he faces a Democratic challenge from Michelle Rylands, a former military police officer and small business owner who currently serves as a 911 dispatcher.


37th Legislative District

Democratic state Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, appointed to fill a vacancy created by the election of Pramila Jayapal to the U.S. Congress, is running unopposed to finish out the remaining year on the term. The district includes most of southeast Seattle and parts of Tukwila, Renton and Kent.


48th Legislative District

Like the 31st, the Eastside’s 48th District offers up races for both a Senate and House seat. The Senate race sees Libertarian Michelle Darnell, a legal assistant and small business owner, challenging Democratic Sen. Patty Kuderer, a former state representative appointed to fill a vacancy left by the election of Cyrus Habib as lieutenant governor of Washington. The House race pits Democratic Rep. Vandana Slatter, appointed to fill Kuderer’s seat, against Libertarian Ciaran Dougherty, a software engineer. In the August primary, Kuderer and Slatter led by large margins. The district includes parts of Bellevue and Redmond, as well as all of Medina, Clyde Hill, Yarrow Point and Hunts Point.

Read more:

Slatter endorsementseattle times

Kuderer endorsementseattle times


King County Races

It’s a year when some of the biggest county positions are up for election: county executive, sheriff and a majority of the county council seats. But, aside from the sheriff’s race where the incumbent faces a challenge from a ranking officer, the most interesting ballot item may be a property tax measure to support services for needy veterans, seniors and vulnerable populations. Its main novelty is that the levy, first enacted in 2005, only comes up every six years. No one filed a voter’s guide statement to oppose the measure, Proposition 1.

King County Proposition 1

The measure would provide revenue for services like Meals on Wheels, mental health and addiction services and facilities, including about $24 million for housing. Passage of the measure would authorize a property tax increase of 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or about $50 per year on a house assessed at $500,000, for six years. Increases of up to 3.5 percent in the tax collection would be allowed after the first year.

Read more:

Approvedthe stranger

ApprovedSeattle Times


County Executive

County Executive Dow Constantine, first elected to the post in 2009, is seeking his third term, after earlier stints on the county council and in the Legislature. He faces a challenge from Bill Hirt, an engineer who retired from Boeing after 36 years. Hirt criticizes Constantine and the rest of the Sound Transit Board for the planning of light rail expansions — part of a $54 billion measure approved by voters last year — which he says “will do absolutely nothing to ease the area’s congestion.” Constantine points to his leadership on transportation projects and emphasizes his efforts to provide services for young families and build inclusive communities.

Read more:

Constantine endorsementthe stranger



John Urquhart, a longtime deputy, has served as sheriff since winning in a 2012 election, but this year he faces a challenge from another longtime deputy, Mitzi Johanknecht, a major who has held various leadership roles in the office. Urquhart has emphasized accountability for officers and his moves to diversify the force. Johanknecht stresses her commitment to a force more reflective of the communities it serves, and to providing deputies training to prevent excessive use of force. She promises to “restore integrity,” alluding to complaints about Urquhart from a number of people in the department; Urquhart has dismissed the complaints as unfounded.


County Council

Five of the council’s nine positions are up for election, but there won’t be much change: The incumbents are all seeking re-election and only two of them face an opponent on the ballot.

Longtime Councilmember Kathy Lambert faces a challenge from John Murphy, an attorney and retired Eastside Fire and Rescue deputy chief, in District 3, which includes Sammamish, North Bend, Carnation and parts of Redmond. Murphy, who has endorsements from many Democratic groups, says the council is doing too little to address transportation needs in the growing northeast part of the county. Lambert stresses her work on budget issues, children’s programs and court efficiencies, and boasts the support of mayors in her district.

In District 9 — which includes part of Bellevue and then runs south through Renton and Newcastle before taking in the southeast corner of the county — Denice Carnahan, an investment adviser and former Boeing manager, is challenging incumbent Reagan Dunn. Carnahan, who has a host of Democratic endorsements, says the district needs better representation to address a host of issues, including transportation, the environment and help for the mentally ill and homeless. Dunn, who is endorsed by the mayors in the district, emphasizes public safety and low taxes while working on solutions to homelessness and substance abuse problems.

Read more:

Lambert endorsementseattle times

Dunn endorsementseattle times


Port of Seattle

Three of the five positions on the Port Commission are up for election. In addition to overseeing a joint Seattle-Tacoma port in conjunction with the Port of Tacoma, the port operates Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and covers all of King County.

Commissioner Position 1

John Creighton, who has served on the commission since 2006, says the port has managed to spur economic growth and create jobs while reducing air and water pollution. Ryan Calkins, who led an import and manufacturing business that won praise for its environmental record, says that the port can do much better on the environment and transparency.

Read more:

Calkins endorsementthe stranger

Creighton endorsementseattle times


Commissioner Position 3

Incumbent Stephanie Bowman, who runs a nonprofit to help disadvantaged families, says her work has helped make the port an asset for all the communities in the area and made it more transparent. Challenger Ahmed Abdi, an outreach manager at a nonprofit who came to America as a refugee, says port commissioners have resisted better conditions and higher minimum wages for workers while failing to provide close oversight on management.

Read more:

Abdi endorsementthe stranger

Bowman endorsementseattle times


Commission Position 4

The race for an open seat pits Preeti Shridhar, Renton’s deputy public affairs administrator, against Peter Steinbrueck, a former Seattle City Councilmember. Sridhar says she will focus on creating wider, more inclusive opportunities while protecting the environment and holding the port leadership accountable. Steinbrueck says he will use his experience to fight for the environment while also ensuring a vibrant economic contribution from the port.

Read more:

Steinbrueck endorsementseattle times

Shridhar endorsementTHE STRANGER


Seattle School Board

School Board members represent seven geographical districts, but are on the ballot citywide in the November general election. Three of the seven school director positions are up for election this year.

Director District 4 (Queen Anne, Ballard, Magnolia)

Eden Mack, a former sustainability management consultant, has served on various educational committees, including as legislative chair of the Seattle Council of Parent, Teacher and Student Associations. Herbert J. Camet Jr. has had a lengthy career in education, including internationally; he served as a principal in four countries, and has worked in many more.

Read more:

Mack endorsement seattle times

Mack endorsementthe stranger


Director District 5 (Downtown, Chinatown-ID, Leschi, part of Capitol Hill)

Zachary Pullin DeWolf is a program manager for All Home, the effort to end homelessness in King County. He is also a volunteer commissioner with the Seattle Housing Authority and an LGBTQ community advocate. Omar Vasquez is a business and tax attorney, a former teacher and a member of the mayor’s 2016 Education Summit advisory panel.

Read more:

Vasquez endorsementseattle times

DeWolf endorsementthe stranger


Director District 7 (Southeast Seattle)

Betty Patu, a former program manager for Seattle Public Schools, has served two terms on the School Board. Chelsea Byers, a former teacher, is an executive for a company that prepares adult students for career changes into the tech sector.

Read more:

Byers endorsementseattle times

Patu endorsementthe stranger


State Court of Appeals

The state Court of Appeals hears cases appealed from superior courts. There are three divisions based in Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane. Judges are elected from districts within the three divisions. There is one contest this year on the ballot for King County voters, pitting incumbent Michael S. Spearman, a judge on the court since 2010, against challenger Nathan Choi, a Bellevue-based attorney.

Read more:

Spearman endorsementthe stranger


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