WA's midterm round-up: What went down around town
Washington voters turned out in remarkable numbers to decide some of the big issues facing the country. Crosscut’s reporters, photojournalists and editors were on the scene covering congressional races, legislative contests, statewide ballot measures and the City of Seattle’s levy to support preschool expansion, school programs, student health and the first two years at the Seattle Colleges.
Here are our dispatches on what happened on election night.
Looking for election results? Click here for a full list as ballot counts come in.
Sarah Smith, a Democratic socialist newcomer hoping to steal the 9th Congressional District from longtime Democratic Congressman Adam Smith, appears to be coming up short on Election Day.
With over 155,000 votes counted, Sarah Smith was sitting just below 30 percent after the first round of results came in.
“This is not the end… election night is the beginning of change,” Smith said at an Election Night party at The Royal Room in Columbia City, as polls closed across Washington. “We are creating a machine that can tackle monsters in 2020,” she added.
“We are the weak, and yet today we still stand,” a volunteer with her campaign said.
Her husband and campaign manager Jay teared up, speaking of the “labor of love” that spawned this campaign.
Her campaign now looks toward the future, the candidate said.
At the watch party, Hans Hogan-Kruschka, a German national, and his wife, Dawn, sat at a booth in the dimly lit bar decrying corporate money in politics, a top talking point of Brand New Congress, which Smith volunteered for before being recruited to run for Congress. The couple spoke about wanting a political and health care system like the one in Germany.
“The media only talks about two parties, that’s not democratic,” Dawn Hogan-Kruschka said. And then as the results started coming in in the Smith v. Smith race: “Oh drag, I don’t believe it,” she grumbled.
The Election Night watch party was streamed on YouTube and two documentary film crews were at the scene. One hailed from Japan and the other interviewed inebriated supporters throughout the evening.
Despite being disappointed in the 9th Congressional District results, attendees were heartened by the preliminary vote totals for Kim Schrier and I-1639, the gun control measure.
Although initial results were met with loud applause, the energy here at Arctic Club Hotel quickly dwindled as more Washington counties reported their vote counts. Most show a majority of voters against the carbon fee initiative. At 15 minutes before 9 o'clock, with support for the fee lagging by about 10 percent, prospects for the initiative don’t look good.
Regardless, supporters of the initiative expressed interest in continuing the work of the coalition that formed behind the carbon fee, known as the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy. Jill Mangaliman, executive director of the environmental justice organization Got Green, said that it’s the first time that they’ve seen a such a wide diversity of groups come together behind a carbon-cutting issue.
“No matter what the results are, we will keep fighting,” Mangaliman said, adding that the groups involved are fighting “not just for our lives but each other’s communities.”
With national control of the two chambers decided, boozy voters at The Runaway turned away from the TVs. The “Is that all there is?” feeling radiated from MSNBC and left a funk in the beer. John Alsop, who was sporting a hyper-patriotic stars 'n’ stripes polo with eagles all over it stood around listlessly, sipping from his matching PBR can.
“I’m not so good ... but I’m OK,” he said. In the corner, a husky pup tussled with the doorman, and the bar filled with the usual mixed-nuts group of Barbozan dance partiers.
I then had to confront the most crucial binary dilemma facing everyone in our fragile Republic: beer or taco?
I chose taco. We should all choose taco. On to Neon Taco.
Orange is the color of the night at the Edgewater Hotel in Seattle. Women are wearing orange dresses and sweaters. A few high schoolers have dyed their hair orange. A podium is backdropped by orange balloons arranged to spell out “1639.”
Orange is the color of the gun violence prevention movement; Initiative 1639 would add a new suite of gun control regulations.
The room is filled with plenty of the usual Seattle politicos — donor Nick Hanauer, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. But there is also an unusual sight for an Election Night party: lots and lots of teens. Motivated by a fear of school shootings and the disproportionate impact of gun violence in communities of color, I-1639 drew lots of support from high schoolers who knocked on doors, called voters and helped run the campaign.
“Gun violence created a culture of fear that’s ravaging my community,” says Niko Battle, a senior at Kamiak High School in Mukilteo. “That’s why I think it’s so important for students to get involved.”
The night started out slow at the Republican election night watch party. As it rained outside, a few dozen supporters and a gaggle of reporters and photographers gathered at the Hilton Garden Inn in Issaquah, waiting for the results. Those gathered snacked and drank as they watched Fox News on two large TV screens placed in front of the room, clapping every time a TV announcer pointed to a Republican win.
Several supporters wore Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” hats, including John Wayne Lee, 37, an immigrant from Korea. Lee said he was once a Democrat but switched to the Republican Party because “I don’t like socialism, and I don’t like gun control.”
“I don’t like the government telling me how to live my life,” Lee said. “I stand with Trump on everything. I don’t like career politicians.”
Lee said he supports Dino Rossi over Dr. Kim Schrier in the 8th Congressional District because he disagreed with her views on universal health care and immigration.
“The border problem we got is human trafficking,” Lee said. “You go through the legal process.”
“I don’t blame Trump. He’s enforcing the law,” he added.
Lee said he stands by Rossi because, like Trump, “he’s a businessman who knows how to get the job done.”
At the Arctic Club Hotel in downtown Seattle, over a hundred people are awaiting the highly anticipated results for Initiative 1631, which would help the state regulate carbon emissions.
Dozens of groups that have supported the initiative since the beginning are here, including the Sierra Club, Latino Community Fund and Got Green. Also showing support are Councilmember Lorena González, Quinault Indian Nation Vice President Tyson Johnston and King County Executive Dow Constantine.
Constantine says he’s supported carbon-cutting legislation for decades. He was also in favor of 2016’s revenue-neutral carbon tax.
“I’m not waiting for the perfect solution,” Constantine says. “This is a crisis beyond anything we’ve ever seen and we need to respond accordingly.” Whether or not the fee passes, he says, the Washington state Legislature should follow up with climate action as well.
Meanwhile, further south, at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, the Puyallup Tribe is hosting a gathering for the First American Project, a coalition of tribes that formed this past year to highlight Native voices in politics. In Tacoma, they’re showing support both for 1631 and Initiative 940, which would strengthen state gun laws.
Looking at the national races tonight, it may not rise to the peak of a big Blue Wave. The Democrats have come close in the Florida Senate and Governor’s races, but some other key indicators have gone to the GOP — losing a Senate seat in Indiana and Tennessee, for example.
These were races that conservatives, like John Carlson, had mentioned in our “what to watch for” story as indicating a major wave had they gone blue. An apparent loss by Beto O’Rourke in Texas is a mixed result. That so many Texans voted Democratic is pretty amazing, but to come so close and having another six years of Ted Cruz in the Senate might be painful for some, as well as the GOP’s continued control of the Senate.
Still, Democrats taking control of U.S. House is looking increasingly likely — Nate Silver had it back up to 90 percent with Democrat pick-ups in all kinds of places: Wisconsin, Florida, Virginia, Kansas and more. One surprising result: A Democrat was elected governor of Kansas.
Much more to come. The West has not yet weighed in, with plenty more tight races and potential Congressional seats to flip. Not a tsunami, but perhaps a wavelet?
The Democratic candidate for Washington’s 8th Congressional District, Dr. Kim Schrier, offered a cliche about her odds for victory tonight over Republican Dino Rossi: “I feel cautiously optimistic.”
It remains to be seen how important this suburban/rural district will be in determining control of the U.S. House of Representatives. But neither side wanted to leave it to chance: Nearly $30 million has been sunk into this race, making it the country’s second most expensive.
Schrier joined her Democratic colleagues — Rep. Adam Smith, State Sen. Manka Dhingra and more — in the Bellevue Hilton, a swanky setting on the western edge of the oddly shaped district.
Schrier has some reason to feel hopeful: She’s running a tight race in this long Republican district. “I’ve been preparing for this moment for about 15 months,” she said. “This has been a whole movement around flipping the 8th. There’s never been a Democrat in this seat. [Retiring Republican incumbent] Dave Reichert won this seat by 20 points in 2016. So to even be neck-and-neck in the polls, that is a huge accomplishment.”
But she doesn’t expect to declare victory tonight in Washington’s vote-by-mail system. “My expectation is that we will not know anything tonight," she said. "We might not know anything for a week.”
Jody Smith has been working in support of Initiative 940, which would require that law enforcement receive de-escalation, mental-health and first-aid training, as well as change standards for use of “deadly force” by police officers.
“Things need to change,” said Smith at an Election Night party at Southside Commons in Columbia City. As DJ Topspin aka Blendiana Jones curated music, guests cheered as CNN reported Democrats gaining seats in the U.S. House of Representative.
Flora Ybarra has been praying for the passage of I-940. She was optimistic, as were organizers, that it was going to pass.
“I think it’s a blessing for our people,” Ybarra said, emphasizing that police are more likely to target people of color with excessive force.
Many in the crowd arrived dressed in clothing that honored Daniel Covarrubias, an unarmed Native-American man who was shot and killed by Lakewood police in 2015, and Charleena Lyles, the African-American mother who was killed by Seattle police in 2017.
Even if it passes, I-940 could face a long road ahead in the state Legislature, which could decide to amend it in the upcoming session.
A friend of mine from New York calls Seattle “the city that always sleeps.” (Full disclosure: That friend is me.) By that measure, this is an especially buzzy-for-Seattle Tuesday, with crowds gathering on Cap Hill street corners in numbers to my eyes slightly bigger than the “whoops, happy hour’s over gotta let the dog out” numbers that you usually see.
At the cleaned-up Comet Tavern, a yuppie-ish crowd whoops when liberal bassist Beto O’Rourke sticks his nose out past everyone’s favorite blobfish, Ted Cruz. Several too-close-to-call races and what looks like a blue whimper in the Senate seem to be keeping the mood at a simmer.
“The Blue Wave is more of a purple rain right now — I’m feeling a little sketchy,” said Shawn Harstad of West Seattle.
“I’m here to drink away my sorrows or celebrate victory, either way,” said Shane Drexler, waggling the dregs of his beer glass at me.
“I’m hoping Anthony Weiner comes back to life to breathe some life into this limp-dick party,” said Ki Kopkau of Kirkland, the lone Eastside interloper in this crew of West Seattleites.
Harstad’s drink of choice? Whiskey, soda and several dashes of bitters. “The bitters are essential,” he said.
Soon, Cruz squeaked past Beto, to a bar-wide chorus of “fuck!”
Watching tonight’s election returns is a little like watching a Seahawks game. You expect a win, but get a gut full of tension.
The key, closely watched Florida governor’s race and Senate race are neck and neck. Who will pull it out in the fourth quarter?
Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com is swinging back and forth in its odds over who will have control of the House of Representatives. It plunged from a 95 percent chance that the Democrats would take control to a 57 percent chance. Still good, but again, like a Seahawks game, a sure lead has slipped away to make it more of a nail-biter.
And it just might increase the odds that the fate of Washington’s three districts that could potentially swing from the GOP to the Democrats (the 8th, 5th and 3rd Districts) could be essential in determining who controls the U.S. House of Representatives. Although with mail-in voting, the state and the nation might have to wait for weeks to learn a final result.
So, it’s hard to take one’s eyes off the TV and the returns. It could be a pretty long night. The final decision might be made with a Russell Wilson scramble on the last play of the game.
Former Washington State Republican Party chair and U.S. Senate candidate Susan Hutchison spent this afternoon at the Seattle Ferry Terminal. "It's interesting to visit spots like this where you don't know what the outcome will be," says Hutchison, after greeting someone headed to catch a late afternoon ferry. "Defeating an incumbent is a long shot, but after we got [Maria] Cantwell to debate us I started feeling better about our chances."
Crosscut photographer Dorothy Edwards spent the day with Democratic candidate Kim Schrier, who is up against longtime Republican politician Dino Rossi in the 8th Congressional District.
"Heading into election night, I'm feeling grateful, determined and full of hope," Schrier said. "We are seeing a wave of enthusiasm to flip this seat, and even though it will be close, I think we're right on track."
Here are some scenes of Schrier's Election Day, which she spent thanking campaign staff and knocking on doors.
Crosscut's arts reporter Brangien Davis shared this photo of her mom's dog Cooper in Virginia this morning. We thought we'd share it as we wait for things to get rolling.
According to Kendall LeVan Hodson with King County Elections, staff are likely to empty drop boxes four times throughout the day: Once this morning, twice in the afternoon and, finally, at 8 p.m. today.
According to LeVan Hodson, King County Elections gathered about 50,000 ballots from the boxes yesterday. She expects between 170,000 and 200,000 today.
Starting about 4 or 5 p.m., staff will take their places near each drop box, ensuring the final hours go smoothly. They’ll lock the boxes promptly at 8 p.m. and empty them one more time. For procrastinators: As long as you’re in line by 8 p.m., your ballot will be accepted.
Thanks to the constituent who reached out about a Capitol Hill ballot box being full! My staff contacted King County Elections, and they're sending someone immediately to empty it! If there are any issues with ballot boxes you see, let my office know! Let's keep the boxes running— Kshama Sawant (@cmkshama) November 6, 2018
This list is complete with links to their twitter accounts so you can follow along.
- 8th District Democratic candidate Dr. Kim Schrier (Hilton Bellevue Hotel): Reporter David Kroman and photographer Dorothy Edwards
- 8th District Republican candidate Dino Rossi (Issaquah's Hilton Garden Inn): Reporter Lilly Fowler and photographer Matt M. McKnight.
- I-1631, or Carbon Fee (Arctic Club Hotel in Seattle): Reporter Manola Secaira and photographer Sarah Hoffman.
- I-1639, or Gun Initiative: Reporter Josh Cohen and photographer David Ryder.
- Sarah Smith Party for 9th Congressional District (The Royal Room in Seattle) and I-940's party: Reporter Jake Goldstein.
- Roaming around Capitol Hill: Editor Ted Alvarez and photographer Caean Couto.
For a full list of Election Night parties, check out The Stranger's guide.
If you've felt that the Democrats' ceaseless rallying cry this election season — vote! — seems faint or somewhat unmatched for the stakes of the moment, you're probably not alone. The political press has leaned heavily on the possibility of a blue wave, but God knows liberals and progressives, still reeling from the Trumpian shock of 2016, are wary of any kind of confident proclamations. This weekend, "Saturday Night Live" could sense the dread and uncertainty haunting Democrats. With pitch-perfect resonance, the show captured the anxiety the way only Kate McKinnon can: by drinking a flower vase full of bourbon. Watch the video below.
Look at all of those beautiful ballot drop boxes! Return your ballot to any of them before 8 p.m. today. King County Elections has this handy tool to help you locate the closest drop box to you.
You might be thinking, but where do I get a last-minute ballot? You can easily go online and print a replacement ballot here.
And if you'd like to mail your ballot, Washington state has made it even easier: prepaid postage. So simply fill it out and drop it in a mail box near you — no postage required.
King County Elections spokesperson Kendall LeVan Hodson says King County is shattering voter turnout projections. The number of ballots the county has in hand is nearly double what it had at this point in the 2014 midterms.
“We had around 620,000 ballots [Monday] and at this point in 2010 we had 426,000 and in 2014 we had just 338,000,” LeVan Hodson says.
Based on previous midterms — plus accounting for enthusiasm and prepaid postage — King County Elections projected 60 percent turnout, but as of Tuesday 56 percent of ballots had already been returned. “We are on track to hit 70 percent turnout, if not higher,” LeVan Hodson says.
In the entire state of Washington, turnout is already at 53.4 percent and there are just six counties who haven't already hit 50 percent or more.
On Monday, reporters in Clark County were reporting an unprecedented 50 percent voter turnout, double the turnout at that point in the 2014 midterms. Just under 52 percent turnout is being reported so far in neighboring Cowlitz County, which could spell trouble for incumbent Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler. Her Democratic challenger, Carolyn Long, identified Cowlitz as crucial to winning Washington’s 3rd Congressional District. Read Molly Solomon's full Twitter thread here.
Part of the reason this is such a big deal is because Clark County historically has had abysmal turnout. General consensus from my years covering this area is that because so many people commute to Portland, they're less inclined to be politically engaged here in Clark County. https://t.co/56JIVrUJCc— Katie Gillespie (@newsladykatie) November 5, 2018