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Seattle’s mayoral and city council races, by the numbers

Seattle holds city elections on Nov. 2 for mayor, two at-large city council seats, and other local offices. Recent polling, campaign finance data, and satellite spending provide insight into these races just over one week out.

Polls

City Council President Lorena González and former City Council President Bruce Harrell face each other in the mayoral election. A recent Change Research poll showed Harrell with 48% support to González’s 32%, and 18% of respondents were undecided. The margin of error was 4.1%.

In the Change Research poll for city council position 9—the seat González currently holds—Sara Nelson received 41% support to Nikkita Oliver’s 37%. Twenty-one percent were undecided.

The council position 8 poll showed Mosqueda with 39%, Wilson with 31%, and “Not sure” with 26%.

Campaign finance

In the mayoral race, Harrell has raised $1.2 million, and González has raised $900,000. My Northwest reported that the combined $2.1 million is the highest amount raised by two general election candidates of any mayoral contest since at least 2005. The second-highest was in 2017, when Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon raised $1.6 million combined.

For position 9 on the council, Nelson has raised $510,000 to Oliver’s $400,000. Mosqueda has raised $255,000 and Wilson, $80,000, in the position 8 race.

Satellite spending

The two highest-spending groups in the mayoral race are Bruce Harrell for Seattle’s Future, which has spent around $1 million supporting Harrell and opposing González, and Essential Workers for Lorena, which has spent around $900,000 supporting González and opposing Harrell.

The National Association of Realtors has spent around $100,000 and the Seattle Fire Fighters PAC has spent around $50,000 supporting Harrell.

Those two groups have also spent in the position 9 council race—a combined $130,000 supporting Nelson. Civic Alliance for a Prosperous Economy has spent almost $50,000 supporting Oliver. This group was active in the 2019 council elections—see our coverage, linked below, for more details on that activity.

Satellite spending in the position 8 council race has not reached $1,000.

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Seattle city attorney candidates’ platforms highlight divide over issues of crime, public safety

In the November 2, 2021, general election for city attorney of Seattle, Washington, Nicole Thomas-Kennedy leads Ann Davison in total fundraising and both candidates have gained endorsements since they advanced from the primary election on August 3, 2021. In that race, Thomas-Kennedy received 36.4% of the vote and Davison received 32.7%, ousting three-term incumbent Pete Holmes, who received 30.6% of the vote and conceded before results were certified.

As of the most recent filings reported by the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission on August 30, Thomas-Kennedy has raised $206,965, while Davison has raised $63,336. Seattle newspapers The Stranger and The Urbanist have endorsed Thomas-Kennedy, along with Former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn (D), Washington’s 32nd, 34th, and 46th District Democrats, and the Seattle Transit Rider’s Union. Davison received endorsements from The Seattle Times, Former King County Prosecutor Chris Bayley, Former Gov. Dan Evans (R), and the Concerned Taxpayers of Washington.

Crosscut, a nonprofit Seattle news site, said the race “will be one of clear contrasts and highlights just how divided the city is over issues of crime, public safety and criminal justice.” Davison, who ran as a Republican for lieutenant governor of Washington in 2020, said she was a moderate Democrat who ran as a Republican because “some parts of the Democratic Party in Seattle didn’t have room anymore for a pragmatist like me, with liberal values, wanting to make our city a better place.” She said Thomas-Kennedy “advocates the most extreme viewpoints: defund the police and abolish the city’s criminal justice system” and “believes such an approach would magically make crime disappear.” Davison said she would “build upon and offer alternative, non-criminal solutions, and interventions with measurable outcomes for those willing to seek help for their underlying problems,” but “there also must be accountability for actions that hurt other people.”

Thomas-Kennedy said “policing and prison do not meet their alleged goals” but instead accomplish “what they were actually designed to do: control and disappear the poor, the disabled, and BIPOC.” She said she would “address the root causes of poverty, homelessness, and despair” with a platform that includes ending prosecutions for drug crimes, defunding the Seattle Police Department, decriminalizing sex work, and ending homeless sweeps. Thomas-Kennedy said, “Every year the City Attorney chooses to prosecute petty offenses born out of poverty, addiction and disability. These prosecutions are destabilizing, ineffective, and cost the City millions each year. We must dismantle this wasteful system of criminal punishment.”

In Seattle, the city attorney heads the city’s Law Department and supervises all litigation in which the city is involved. The city attorney supervises a team of assistant city attorneys who provide legal advice and assistance to the City’s management and prosecute violations of City ordinances.

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Seattle local primary results certified

King County Elections in Washington certified results of the Aug. 3 primary elections Tuesday. Former City Council President Bruce Harrell and current City Council President Lorena González advanced in the mayoral primary with 34.0% and 32.1% of the vote, respectively. Fifteen candidates ran in the primary. Current Mayor Jenny Durkan didn’t seek re-election.

González had endorsements from four current council members and two former members, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and The Stranger. Harrell was endorsed by two former Seattle mayors and four former councilmembers, as well as Rep. Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.) and The Seattle Times.On Aug. 16, two current council members who did not endorse in the primary endorsed Harrell.

For the position 9 council seat, which González currently holds, Creative Justice executive director Nikkita Oliver and Fremont Brewing co-owner Sara Nelson advanced with 40.2% and 39.5% of the vote, respectively.

Two council members, one former member, and The Stranger endorsed Oliver. The Seattle Times and five former council members endorsed Nelson. Four current council members endorsed Brianna Thomas, González’s chief of staff. Thomas came in third with 13.4%.

Incumbent Teresa Mosqueda is running for re-election to the position 8 seat. She advanced from the primary with 59.4% of the vote and faces Kenneth Wilson in the general election. Wilson received 16.2% of the vote.

In the city attorney election, Nicole Thomas-Kennedy and Ann Davison advanced after incumbent Pete Holmes conceded on August 6, 2021. Thomas-Kennedy received 36.4% of the vote followed by Davison with 32.7% and Holmes with 30.6%

The general election is on Nov. 2.

Seattle holds mayoral and city attorney elections every four years. Elections for its two at-large city council seats are held in the same years as mayoral elections. The other seven city council seats are elected by district every four years, with the last elections held in 2019.

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Incumbent Pete Holmes concedes Seattle city attorney election

Pete Holmes, the incumbent Seattle city attorney, conceded to challengers Ann Davison and Nicole Thomas-Kennedy on August 6, 2021, in the top-two primary election held August 3. As of August 10, the latest election results showed Thomas-Kennedy with 35.5% of the vote followed by Davison with 33% and Holmes with 31.2%. Davison and Thomas-Kennedy will advance to the general election on November 2, 2021.

Davison is an attorney and arbitrator and attended Willamette University College of Law and Baylor University. She ran for lieutenant governor as a Republican in 2020. Davison said the city needs “balanced leadership that makes us smart on crime: proactive not reactive” and that she would “focus on improving efficiencies within division in regards to zoning” and “transform existing Mental Health Court to specialized Behavioral Health Court for cases that involve mental health, substance use disorder or dual diagnosis.” Former Gov. Dan Evans (R), former King County Prosecutor Chris Bayley (R), former Seattle Municipal Judge Ed McKenna, and the Seattle Times endorsed Davison.

Thomas-Kennedy is a former public defender and criminal and eviction attorney and attended Seattle Community College, the University of Washington, and Seattle University School of Law. She described her policy priorities as decriminalizing poverty, community self-determination, green infrastructure, and ending homeless sweeps. Her campaign website said, “Every year the City Attorney chooses to prosecute petty offenses born out of poverty, addiction and disability. These prosecutions are destabilizing, ineffective, and cost the City millions each year.” The Seattle newspaper The Stranger endorsed Thomas-Kennedy.

Holmes won re-election in 2017 against challenger Scott Lindsay with 75% of the vote to Lindsay’s 25% and ran unopposed in the 2013 general election. Although he led in fundraising leading up to the primary election, The Cascadia Advocate‘s Andrew Villeneuve said that Davison and Thomas-Kennedy were “right behind Holmes as voting begins in the August 2021 Top Two election, with 53% of likely voters not sure who they’re voting for.” In a poll conducted by Change Research for the Northwest Progressive Institute from July 12 through July 15, 2021, 16% of respondents chose Holmes, 14% chose Davison, and 14% chose Thomas-Kennedy. David Kroman of Crosscut called Holmes’ concession “a tectonic political upset that sets the stage for a stark and divisive race to succeed him as the city’s top lawyer.”

In Seattle, the city attorney heads the city’s Law Department and supervises all litigation in which the city is involved. The city attorney supervises a team of assistant city attorneys who provide legal advice and assistance to the City’s management and prosecute violations of City ordinances.

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Update on Seattle’s mayor and council primary election results

Seattle, Washington, held top-two primary elections on Tuesday, Aug. 3. Results of the races are pending. Elections in Washington are conducted primarily by mail (ballots may also be deposited in drop boxes or returned in person). Ballots postmarked by Aug. 3 will be counted. King County Elections plans to release updated vote totals each weekday until results are certified on Aug. 17. 

Below are the top five candidates in each race as of preliminary results released Aug. 3. 

Mayoral primary

Fifteen candidates ran in this election. Incumbent Jenny Durkan did not seek re-election. 

  • Bruce Harrell – 38.2%
  • Lorena González – 28.5%
  • Colleen Echohawk – 8.3%
  • Jessyn Farrell – 7.5%
  • Arthur Langlie – 5.8%

City Council position 9

Seven candidates ran in the primary for the seat González currently holds. 

  • Sara Nelson – 42.4%
  • Nikkita Oliver – 35.0%
  • Brianna Thomas – 14.3%
  • Cory Eichner – 4.2%
  • Lindsay McHaffie – 1.8%

City Council position 8

Incumbent Teresa Mosqueda is seeking re-election. The primary featured 11 candidates. 

  • Mosqueda – 54.6%
  • Kenneth Wilson – 18.3%
  • Kate Martin – 12.5%
  • Paul Glumaz – 5.7%
  • Alexander White – 1.6%

Seattle holds elections for mayor and two at-large city council seats every four years. The seven other council seats are elected by district every four years. The last election for those seats was in 2019.



Seattle city attorney primary undecided

The nonpartisan primary election for city attorney of Seattle, Washington, was undecided as of 8:00 p.m. on August 3, 2021. Elections in Washington are conducted primarily by mail (ballots may also be deposited in drop boxes or returned in person). Ballots postmarked by Aug. 3 will be counted. King County Elections plans to release updated vote totals each weekday until results are certified on Aug. 17. 

The top two candidates will advance to the general election on Nov. 2, 2021. Ann Davison led with 34.6% of the vote followed by incumbent Pete Holmes with 32.8% and Nicole Thomas-Kennedy with 32.2%.

According to a survey conducted by Crosscut, a nonprofit news site, the top issues for voters were housing and homelessness, police and public safety, taxes and the economy, and urban planning and transportation.

The Fuse Progressive Voters Guide, which endorsed Holmes, said his priorities were “passing stronger gun laws, reducing excessive force on the part of the Seattle Police Department, vacating marijuana charges, and keeping people housed post-pandemic, among other policies.”

Davison said the city needs “balanced leadership that makes us smart on crime: proactive not reactive” and said she would “focus on improving efficiencies within division in regards to zoning” and “transform existing Mental Health Court to specialized Behavioral Health Court for cases that involve mental health, substance use disorder or dual diagnosis.”

Thomas-Kennedy ran on a platform of decriminalizing poverty, community self-determination, green infrastructure, and ending homeless sweeps. Her website said, “Every year the City Attorney chooses to prosecute petty offenses born out of poverty, addiction and disability. These prosecutions are destabilizing, ineffective, and cost the City millions each year.”

Holmes won re-election in 2017 against Scott Lindsay with 75% of the vote. In Seattle, the city attorney heads the city’s Law Department and supervises all litigation in which the city is involved. The city attorney supervises a team of assistant city attorneys who provide legal advice and assistance to the City’s management and prosecute violations of City ordinances.

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Voters to decide mayor, city council primaries in Seattle on Aug. 3

Seattle holds top-two, nonpartisan primaries for mayor, two at-large city council seats, and city attorney on Aug. 3. Races for the mayor’s office and one city council seat are open. Incumbent City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda and City Attorney Pete Holmes are seeking re-election.

Mayoral primary

Fifteen candidates are on the mayoral primary ballot, with six leading in endorsements, fundraising, or media attention. Four of the six have served in city or state government. Casey Sixkiller was Seattle’s deputy mayor from 2020 until his mayoral campaign. Lorena González is the city council president. Bruce Harrell was city council president from 2016 to 2017 and from 2018 to 2019. Jessyn Farrell was a state representative from 2013 to 2017.

Colleen Echohawk is the executive director of Chief Seattle Club, an organization providing services to American Indian and Alaska Native people. Andrew Grant Houston, an architect, owns a business and served as Mosqueda’s interim policy manager.

City Council primaries

Seattle has nine city council seats, seven of which are elected by district and two, citywide. The seven district seats were last up for election in 2019. The two at-large seats are up this year.

Position 9 is open as González, the incumbent, is running for mayor. Three of seven candidates have led in endorsements, fundraising, and media attention: Fremont Brewing co-owner Sara Nelson, attorney and Creative Justice executive director Nikkita Oliver, and Brianna Thomas, who serves as González’s chief of staff.

Local media outlets have said the position 8 seat is uncompetitive, with Mosqueda, the incumbent, favored to win.

City councilmembers’ endorsees

Five current city councilmembers endorsed in the mayoral race. Mosqueda, Tammy Morales, Lisa Herbold, and Andrew Lewis endorsed González. Dan Strauss endorsed both Echohawk and Farrell. Harrell has the most endorsements from former councilmembers (four).

In the city council position 9 election, Thomas received endorsements from González, Herbold, Strauss, and Lewis. Mosqueda and Morales endorsed Oliver. Five former councilmembers endorsed Nelson.

Two of the three council members who have not endorsed in either race—Debora Juarez and Alex Pedersen—were the two candidates who won in 2019 with backing from the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE), the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee. They also were the two council members to oppose Seattle’s 2020 ordinance instituting a tax on companies with payrolls of $7 million or more a year. CASE is not active in the 2021 election cycle.

Kshama Sawant, the third council member who has not endorsed, is a member of Socialist Alternative and is the target of a current recall effort.

City attorney election

Incumbent Pete Holmes, Ann Davison, and Nicole Thomas-Kennedy are running. Holmes first took office in 2009. Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz (D) and state Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti (D) are among his endorsers. Davison, an attorney and arbitrator, received endorsements from The Seattle Times and former Gov. Dan Evans (R). She ran for lieutenant governor in 2020 and city council in 2019. Thomas-Kennedy is a former public defender and criminal and eviction attorney. The Stranger endorsed her.



Local papers issue endorsements in Seattle’s Aug. 3 primary elections

In the last two weeks, The Seattle Times and The Stranger have issued endorsements in Seattle’s top-two primary elections taking place on Aug. 3. 

In the mayoral primary, featuring 15 candidates, the Seattle Times endorsed Bruce Harrell. Harrell was on the city council from 2008 to 2019, serving as council president from 2016 to 2017 and from 2018 to 2019. The Stranger endorsed current council president Lorena González, who first joined the council in 2016 and became president last year. Incumbent Mayor Jenny Durkan is not seeking re-election.

In the city council position 9 primary, The Seattle Times endorsed Fremont Brewing co-owner and former council legislative advisor Sara Nelson. The Stranger endorsed Nikkita Oliver, attorney and executive director of Creative Justice. González is the current incumbent. Seven candidates are running to succeed her. 

The position 8 council seat is also up for election this year. Incumbent Teresa Mosqueda is seeking re-election. Local media outlets have described the race as uncompetitive. The other seven city council seats, which are elected by district, were up for election in 2019.

City elections in Seattle are nonpartisan. In both the mayoral and council position 9 election, all candidates leading in campaign finances, endorsements, and media attention have endorsements from elected officials and groups affiliated with the Democratic Party. 

Primary election ballots were mailed to voters on July 14. Ballot drop boxes opened July 15.

Additional reading:

City elections in Seattle, Washington (2021)

Mayoral election in Seattle, Washington (2021)



Recall charges against Seattle school board members dismissed

A King County Superior Court judge on April 19 dismissed recall charges against six of the seven members of the Seattle Public Schools school board in Washington. The hearing on the petitions was held on April 16.

The recall charges were filed against Liza Rankin, Lisa Rivera Smith, Chandra Hampson, Zachary DeWolf, Leslie Harris, and Brandon Hersey in March 2021. District IV representative Erin Dury was not included in the recall effort as she was not a member of the board at the time charges were filed. She was appointed to the position on March 24.

Recall supporters said the board had failed to transition to in-person instruction in a timely manner. Seattle Public Schools started out the 2020-2021 school year in remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The board voted on March 24 to move Pre-K through fifth-grade students into in-person instruction starting in April 2021. The school board members did not publicly respond to the recall effort.

When dismissing the petition, Judge Mafé Rajul said the decision to close schools was a “discretionary act and members of a school board cannot be recalled unless they arbitrarily or unreasonably exercised such discretion.” She said the school board members had not acted arbitrarily or unreasonably when they voted to close the schools.

If the recall charges had been approved, recall supporters would have had to collect signatures equal to 25% of the votes cast in the last election for each official.

Rankin, Rivera Smith, and Hampson were first elected to four-year terms on the board on November 5, 2019. Harris was re-elected to the board in the same election. DeWolf was re-elected to the board on November 7, 2017, and Hersey was appointed to the board on September 18, 2019. The school district is holding a regular election on November 2 for the seats held by DeWolf, Hersey, and Dury.

In 2020, Ballotpedia covered a total of 226 recall efforts against 272 elected officials. Of the 49 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 29 were recalled for a rate of 59%. That was higher than the 52% rate for 2019 recalls but lower than the 63% rate for 2018 recalls.

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Washington Supreme Court sets timeline for appeal of recall petition against Seattle councilmember

The Washington Supreme Court will consider the appeal of a recall petition against Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant before the end of the year. Sawant filed an appeal in October after a superior court judge certified that four of the six grounds in the recall petition against her were legally sufficient to move the recall forward to the signature-gathering phase. On November 12, the Washington Supreme Court issued a timeline for the appeal: Sawant’s opening brief is due to the court by November 23, petitioners’ response is due on December 3, and Sawant’s reply is due by December 10. The court expects to rule on the appeal by January 7, 2021.

Sawant represents District 3 on the Seattle City Council. Though the office is officially nonpartisan, Sawant is a member of the Socialist Alternative Party and upon her election in 2013 was the first socialist elected to Seattle city government in 97 years. She was first elected to the council as an at-large member in 2013, when she beat four-term Democratic incumbent Richard Conlin 50.9% to 49.1%. When the council transitioned to district-based voting at the 2015 election, Sawant was re-elected to the council as the member for District 3. She won re-election to the District 3 seat in 2019 by 4.1 percentage points—51.8% to challenger Egan Orion’s 47.7%. A total of 42,956 votes were cast in the 2019 District 3 election, with Sawant receiving 22,263 votes, Orion receiving 20,488, and the remainder being cast for write-in candidates.

The recall against Sawant was initiated on August 18, 2020, when lead petitioner Ernie Lou submitted a formal recall petition to the King County Elections Office. Before a recall petition can move to the signature-gathering phase, Washington law dictates that a judicial review must find legally sufficient grounds for recall under the Washington Constitution. On September 16, King County Superior Court Judge Jim Rogers certified four of the six grounds for recall contained in the petition. Sawant subsequently appealed the decision to the Washington Supreme Court. If Sawant’s appeal is unsuccessful, petitioners would be required to gather over 10,700 signatures from registered voters to get the recall on the ballot, which equals 25% of the total votes cast in the last District 3 election held in 2019.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

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