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Stories about Washington

Recent polls, satellite spending in Seattle’s mayoral and council races

Seattle voters have just over one week to cast their ballots in the Aug. 3 top-two primaries. A poll released July 16 showed a plurality of voters unsure who they’d choose for mayor and the two at-large city council seats. The Northwest Progressive Institute poll, conducted by Change Research, showed 32% undecided for the mayoral race, 50% undecided for the position 9 council seat, and 55% undecided for the position 8 seat. The poll’s margin of error was +/- 4.3 percentage points.

In the mayoral primary, 20% of respondents said they supported former council president Bruce Harrell, 12% said they supported current council president Lorena González, and 10% backed Chief Seattle Club executive director Colleen Echohawk. The 12 other candidates running received less than 10% support among poll respondents.

For the position 9 council seat, attorney and Creative Justice executive director Nikkita Oliver received 26% support, Fremont Brewing co-owner Sara Nelson received 11%, and González’s chief of staff Brianna Thomas received 6%, with the four other candidates polling at 3% or less.

For the position 8 council seat, incumbent Teresa Mosqueda polled at 26%, with Kate Martin at 6%, nine other candidates below that percentage, and 55% unsure.

The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission reported more than $600,000 in satellite spending toward the mayoral race as of July 21:

  • Essential Workers for Lorena had spent $430,000 supporting González; 
  • Bruce Harrell for Seattle’s Future had spent $120,000 supporting Harrell; and 
  • Seattle United for Progressive Change had spent $70,000 supporting Farrell. 

The Progressive Equity PAC had spent $21,000 supporting Thomas in the position 9 council election.

Total satellite spending for the 2017 election cycle—the last time the city held elections for the two at-large council seats and for mayor—was around $1.3 million. In 2019, when the seven district council seats were up for election, satellite spending topped $4 million.



Seattle city attorney primary to take place August 3, 2021

Incumbent Pete Holmes, Ann Davison, and Nicole Thomas-Kennedy are running in a nonpartisan primary election for city attorney of Seattle, Washington, on August 3, 2021. The top two candidates will advance to the general election on November 2, 2021. According to a survey conducted by Crosscut, a nonprofit news site, the top issues for voters are housing and homelessness, police and public safety, taxes and the economy, and urban planning and transportation.

Holmes won re-election in 2017 against challenger Scott Lindsay with 75% of the vote. In a poll conducted by Change Research for the Northwest Progressive Institute from July 12 through July 15, 53% of voters were undecided in the race. Sixteen percent of respondents backed Holmes, 14% back Davison, and 14% back Thomas-Kennedy. The poll’s margin of error was 4.3%.

As of July 19, Holmes led in fundraising with $92,691, followed by Thomas-Kennedy with $16,102 and Davison with $7,014.

After attending Yale College and the University of Virginia School of Law, Holmes worked for the Natural Resources Defense Council and was a business litigation attorney before being elected city attorney in 2009. According to the Fuse Progressive Voters Guide, which endorsed Holmes, his priorities are “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.” Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D), Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz (D), State Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti (D), King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, and a number of state senators and representatives also endorsed Holmes.

Davison is a Seattle attorney and arbitrator and attended Willamette University College of Law and Baylor University. 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.” Former governor 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 is running on a platform of decriminalizing poverty, community self-determination, green infrastructure, and ending homeless sweeps. Her campaign website says “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.

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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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)



Washington initiative signature deadline passes with no campaigns submitting signatures

The signature submission deadline for Initiatives to the People (ITP)—which is the name of direct ballot initiatives in Washington—passed on July 2, 2021. No campaigns submitted signatures. To qualify for the ballot, proponents would have needed to submit 324,516 valid signatures. A total of 136 ITPs were filed by five sponsors. The filed initiatives concerned a range of topics, including taxes, affirmative action, drug policy, marijuana, civil rights, and time standards.

Citizens of Washington may initiate legislation as either a direct state statute—called Initiative to the People (ITP) in Washington—or indirect state statute—called Initiative to the Legislature (ITL) in Washington. In Washington, citizens also have the power to repeal legislation through veto referendums. Citizens may not initiate constitutional amendments.

This year will be the third consecutive year that no ITPs appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington. The 2020 election was the first presidential election year since 1928 in which the Washington ballot did not feature an Initiative to the People (ITP).

The last ITPs on the ballot were decided in the 2018 general election. In the ten-year period from 2009 to 2019, six ITPs were on the ballot in odd-numbered years: one in 2009, three in 2011, and two in 2015.

The signature deadline for 2021 Washington Initiatives to the Legislature (ITL) was December 31, 2020. A total of 216 ITLs were filed by 14 sponsors. None of the campaigns submitted signatures by the deadline. Thirty-four Initiatives to the Legislature have been on the ballot since the first ITL in 1916; 18 were approved. The most recent ITL, Initiative 976, was on the ballot in 2019 where it was approved and later invalidated by the Washington State Supreme Court.

Two veto referendum measures filed by Tim Eyman have a signature deadline of July 24, 2021. A veto referendum is a type of citizen-initiated ballot measure that asks voters whether to uphold or repeal a law recently passed by the state legislature. Opponents of the law collect signatures for the veto referendum petition hoping that voters will repeal it at the ballot. Referendum 92 would ask voters to approve or repeal House Bill 1091, which would create the Clean Fuels Program overseen by the Department of Ecology to limit transportation fuel energy greenhouse gas emissions. Referendum 93 would ask voters to approve or repeal Senate Bill 5126, which was designed to create a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions overseen by the Department. of Ecology. Ballotpedia is not aware of an active signature-gathering campaign for either measure.

The Washington State Legislature may refer constitutional amendments to the ballot with a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote. No constitutional amendments or other referrals were passed in the legislature before it adjourned its 2021 session on April 25, 2021. Advisory questions on bills increasing tax revenue could appear on the 2021 ballot.

A total of 61 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington during odd years from the 20-year period between 1999 and 2019. 56% (34) were approved, and 44% (27) were defeated.



Petition signatures submitted for Washington sheriff recall

An effort to recall Jerry Hatcher from his position as Benton County Sheriff in Washington submitted signatures on April 23. If the Benton County Auditor verifies at least 13,937 of the signatures, a recall election will be scheduled.

The recall effort began in July 2020 and was led by the Benton County Sheriff’s Guild. Members of the guild said Hatcher had performed his duties in an improper manner, committed illegal acts, and violated his oath of office. Hatcher said the guild was refusing to hold deputies accountable. He said the guild would not let him take disciplinary action against employees who committed wrongdoing. Hatcher first took office in May 2017.

Walla Walla County Superior Court Judge Scott Wolfram approved the recall petition on Aug. 20. Hatcher filed an appeal against that decision with the Washington Supreme Court. The supreme court ruled against Hatcher on Nov. 6, allowing the recall effort to move forward and begin collecting signatures. Recall supporters had six months to collect signatures equal to 25% of the votes cast in the last sheriff election.

In 2020, Ballotpedia covered a total of 227 recall efforts against 279 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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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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Arizona is 7th state to order in-person school instruction, others schedule openings

On March 15, Arizona became the seventh state to require at least part-time instruction for certain grade levels. Oregon will join the list in two weeks, and Washington will join in three.

Gov. Doug Ducey’s (R-Ariz.) March 3 executive order requiring public schools to offer in-person instruction took effect March 15. High schools and middle schools in high-transmission counties are exempt from the order. Parents can still keep their children in virtual classes.

On March 12, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) issued an executive order requiring public elementary schools to reopen no later than March 29 for hybrid or full-time in-person instruction. The order also requires public schools to open for grades 6-12 by April 19. Parents can still keep their children in fully remote instruction.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) also said on March 12 he will soon issue an emergency proclamation requiring elementary schools to provide students at least two partial days of in-person instruction by April 5. Schools must provide older students the same by April 19. As of March 15, Inslee had not signed the proclamation.  

All three states had previously left reopening decisions to school districts.

Nationwide:

  • Four states (Calif., Del., Hawaii, N.M.) and Washington, D.C. had state-ordered regional school closures, required closures for certain grade levels, or allowed hybrid instruction only.
  • Five states (Ark., Fla., Iowa, N.H., Texas) had state-ordered in-person instruction
  • Two states (Ariz., W.Va.) had state-ordered in-person instruction for certain grades.
  • Thirty-nine states left decisions to schools or districts


Washington Supreme Court rejects recall petition of county sheriff

A petition seeking to recall John Snaza from his position as sheriff of Thurston County, Washington, was ruled to be legally and factually insufficient by the Washington Supreme Court on February 11, 2021. This court ruling ended the recall effort.

The recall effort started after the sheriff’s office released a statement on June 24, 2020, saying “it would be inappropriate for deputies to criminally enforce” the state’s mandate to wear a mask in public places. Recall supporters said the sheriff’s statement was impeding the efforts of state and city governments as well as emergency and hospital officials to protect the public. Snaza said it was his intent to educate people about the law rather than arrest them.

The recall petition was initially approved for circulation on July 29, 2020, by Superior Court Judge Jeanette Dalton. Snaza filed an appeal against that ruling with the state supreme court. If Snaza’s appeal had been rejected, recall supporters would have had 180 days to collect 23,027 signatures to get the recall on the ballot.

Two other sheriff recall efforts were appealed with the Washington Supreme Court in 2020. Both appeals were rejected, and the recall efforts were allowed to circulate petitions.

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 initiative signature deadline passes with no campaigns submitting signatures

Citizens of Washington may initiate legislation as either a direct state statute—called Initiative to the People (ITP) in Washington—or indirect state statute—called Initiative to the Legislature (ITL) in Washington. In Washington, citizens also have the power to repeal legislation via veto referendum. Citizens may not initiate constitutional amendments.

The signature deadline for 2021 Washington Initiatives to the Legislature (ITL) was December 31, 2020. For an ITL to be taken up by the Washington State Legislature and potentially put on the ballot in 2021, proponents needed to submit 259,622 valid signatures to the Secretary of State by December 31.

A total of 216 ITLs were filed by 14 sponsors, of which, 135 were withdrawn. None of the campaigns submitted signatures by the deadline. The filed initiatives concerned a range of topics including taxes, sex education, sports betting, and affirmative action.

If campaigns submit enough valid signatures for an ITL, the initiative goes before the Washington Legislature at the next regular legislative session in January. The legislature must take one of three actions.

1. The legislature can adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law without a vote of the people.

2. The legislature can reject or refuse to act on the proposed initiative, in which case the initiative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.

3. The legislature can approve an alternative to the proposed initiative, in which case both the original proposal and the legislature’s alternative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.

Thirty-four Initiatives to the Legislature have been on the ballot since the first ITL in 1916; 18 were approved. The most recent ITL, Initiative 976, was on the ballot in 2019 where it was approved and later invalidated by the Washington State Supreme Court.

Besides Initiatives to the Legislature, Washington citizens may initiate Initiatives to the People. These initiatives are direct initiatives, meaning that groups collect signatures and once enough valid signatures are collected, election officials place the measure directly on the next general election ballot for a vote. Initiatives to the People (ITP) may be filed targeting the 2021 ballot beginning on January 4, 2021.

In Washington, the signature requirement for citizen initiatives is based on the total number of votes cast for the office of governor at the last regular gubernatorial election. Initiatives to the People and Initiatives to the Legislature require signatures equal to 8% of the votes cast for the office of governor in the last election. Veto referendum petitions require signatures equal to 4% of the votes cast for the office of governor.

The signature requirement for Initiatives to the Legislature lags behind by one year. For example, based on the gubernatorial election of 2020, the signature requirement for Initiatives to the People and veto referendums will change in 2021 while the requirements for Initiatives to the Legislature will remain unchanged until 2022.

Ballotpedia projects that the signature requirements for 2021 ITPs and 2022 ITLs will increase from 259,622 valid signatures to 324,516 and signature requirements for veto referendums will increase from 129,811 to 162,258 based on votes cast for the office of governor in the 2020 election (4,056,454).

A total of 61 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington during odd years from the 20-year period between 1999 and 2019. 56% (34) were approved and 44% (27) were defeated.



Signature deadline for 2021 Initiatives to the Legislature in Washington is Dec. 31

The signature deadline for 2021 Washington Initiatives to the Legislature (ITL) is December 31, 2020. Initiative to the Legislature is the name of indirect initiated state statutes in the state of Washington. For an ITL to be taken up by the Washington State Legislature and potentially put on the ballot in 2021, proponents must submit 259,622 valid signatures to the Secretary of State by December 31.

Upon signature verification, these initiatives go before the Washington Legislature at the regular session set to begin on January 11, 2021. The legislature must take one of three actions.

  1. The legislature can adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law without a vote of the people.
  2. The legislature can reject or refuse to act on the proposed initiative, in which case the initiative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.
  3. The legislature can approve an alternative to the proposed initiative, in which case both the original proposal and the legislature’s alternative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.

Thirty-four Initiatives to the Legislature have been on the ballot since the first ITL in 1916, of which, 18 were approved. The most recent ITL, Initiative 976, was on the ballot in 2019 where it was approved and later invalidated by the Washington State Supreme court.

As of December 4, 2020, 183 ITLs had been filed by 13 sponsors, of which 117 had been withdrawn. The proposed initiatives concern topics including taxes, sex education, sports betting, and affirmative action.

Besides Initiatives to the Legislature, Washington citizens may initiate Initiatives to the People. These initiatives are direct initiatives, meaning that groups collect signatures and once enough valid signatures are collected, election officials place the measure on the next general election ballot for a vote. Initiatives to the People (ITP) may be filed targeting the 2021 ballot beginning on January 4, 2021.

In Washington, the signature requirement for citizen initiatives is based on the total number of votes cast for the office of governor at the last regular gubernatorial election. Initiatives to the People and Initiatives to the Legislature require signatures equal to 8% of the votes cast for the office of governor in the last election. Veto referendum petitions require signatures equal to 4% of the votes cast for the office of governor.

The signature requirement for Initiatives to the Legislature lags behind by one year. For example, based on the gubernatorial election of 2020, the signature requirement for Initiatives to the People and veto referendums will change in 2021 while the requirements for Initiatives to the Legislature will remain unchanged until 2022.

Ballotpedia projects that the signature requirements for 2021 ITPs and 2022 ITLs will increase from 259,622 valid signatures to 324,516 and signature requirements for veto referendums will increase from 129,811 to 162,258 based on votes cast for the office of governor in the 2020 election (4,056,454).

A total of 61 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington during odd years from the 20-year period between 1999 and 2019. 56% (34) were approved and 44% (27) were defeated.