Voter guide: I hate the mayoral primary edition!

The last few years I’ve been writing somewhat snarky but serious “how should you vote” blog posts. Why stop now, even if I hate the mayor’s race? Also I spend about a third of my free time doing politics or thinking about it these days (why that is will wait for another post) so clearly I should offend people! So here, really late, a breezy guide to your primary ballot, if you live in Seattle, in the district I live in! If you haven’t voted yet, GET YOUR BALLOT IN. Off year primaries have abysmal turnout. You have till August 1st to mail or find a dropbox. But don’t wait till August 1st. Go get yours right now and get ready to fill in those bubbles. I’m waiting. Do you want me to side-eye you?! Get your ballot in and forestall my wrath.

Full disclosure: I’m currently a member of my legislative district Democratic party executive board but this of course this post does not represent anyone but me. Also I dropped my ballot off last Saturday, so there’s no point in trying to argue me to take a different position.

King County Proposition No 1  – Sales Tax for Cultural Access Program

This is a teeny-tiny sales tax increase. I obviously can afford it. But I’m kind of just done with regressive taxes and if the wealthier citizens don’t stop voting for the regressive taxes, we’ll never have the political will to make the system progressive. Also, we supposedly have a housing affordability and homelessness crisis. If we’re going to be taxing folks more, especially regressive ones, we should be spending it on that. Plus, of course, it’s yet another bit of revenue that is dedicated to one particular program. I greatly prefer the county just have a bunch of revenue that they budget out, rather than directing 0.X% to this and that. It’s the same reason why I give to Oxfam’s general fund rather than for a particular crisis, even if I happen to give more money when a particular crisis happens.

But I’m not really fussed either way you vote. I voted no (sorry folks I’ve just offended) but I expect it to pass anyway.

King County Executive

Just look at your candidate list. We have Dow Constantine and a handful of non-serious candidates. This one is pretty easy. I disagree with Constantine plenty often, but he’s serious and thoughtful and I believe he cares about what he’s doing. Plus his name is Constantine. Can’t go wrong with fighting demons … uh, sorry, joke about a comic book I haven’t read but a silly movie I like quite a bit.

Port of Seattle Commissioners

Three commissioner positions are up this year! Positions 1 and 3 have their incumbents running and 4 is a wide open seat. Let’s start with number 4. I don’t have a huge loyalty in this race. I’ve looked at the more viable candidates and decided that I’d fairly arbitrarily go with Preeti Shridhar since she seems to have relevant experience and policies I agree with. It’s a big field of candidates and she certainly fits one of my meta-reasons for voting for particular candidates.

The incumbent, Stephanie Bowman, is running again in Position 3. You may be unaware about some of the controversies at the port, including the port’s CEO who resigned after misconduct was discovered including handing out bonuses in a not exactly proper fashion and the permitting of Shell to dock despite huge community concern. There are other things, of course, but I don’t totally trust the incumbent commissioners. In any case, Ahmed Abdi is challenging. He’s a Somali immigrant who was involved in the fight for increased minimum wage in Seatac. He spoke at our LD meeting and one of his representatives at a King County Dems meeting and were pretty inspiring about why he wanted to be there. Done and done.

The final seat is Position 1 with incumbent John Creighton running again. Eight (!) years ago he was credibly accused of harassing an ex-girlfriend. Plus, of course, he’s part of the commission that somehow hired a CEO who handed out millions of dollars of illegal bonuses (approved by those same commissioners). In any case, this is my token white dude vote. Ryan Calkins spoke at our LD meeting and has a platform I am all for: environmental sustainability (including electrifying the port!), anticipating future change (how do we prepare for and retrain hundreds of drivers?) and family wage jobs while including more people in the operation of the port. In any case, it turns out he’s a good friend of one of my friends and I feel like you have to have one vote that is at least partly “friend of my friend must be great!”

Seattle School Board, Directory District 5

School board is funny. It’s a thankless job. It’s nearly unpaid (I think they get per diem for days with meetings?), but takes at least 20-30 hours a week to perform minimally well. You’re managing a billion dollar corporation (no, really) with parents often very upset about their most precious child, teachers and administrators who are regularly maligned and often over-worked and with chronic under-funding issues due to McCleary. Anyway, there are two candidates who I think are pretty decent: Zachary DeWolf and Andre Helmstetter. I’m not too worried about which wins, but I do want these two to make it out of the primary. Note that while the primary vote for school board is by district, the general election ballot lets everyone in Seattle vote on all school board races.

City of Seattle, Council Position 9

You may or may not be aware that the city council moved to a district system for most seats on the council (seven of nine positions total). That only went into effect two years ago in 2015 when every seat was up for election. Position 9, however, is one of the “at-large” districts which are voted on by all city voters. The current incumbent Lorena González has only been in her seat for two years. You might have heard something about a police consent decree and brutal negotiations about what has to change to get Seattle on a good path – she’s been one of the prime drivers of making that happen. She’s bad-ass, she gets things done and is all around awesome. I don’t think any of the challengers come even close to being worth turning her out and not giving her four more years to do good. Vote González!

City of Seattle, Council Position 8

The other at-large city council position is up and it’s an open seat. Tim Burgess chose not to run again. There are at least four candidates in this race that, if it was them versus ‘generic conservative-is [for Seattle] candidate’, I’d be totally fine voting for them. But for this primary, I’d narrowed it down to Sheley Secrest or Teresa Mosqueda many many weeks ago, so I’d recommend either of them. I personally ended up going with Mosqueda. It helps that she got to me early: she spent a few minutes talking to me at the King County Democrats Re-org meeting in December and she already knew she was running. She’s worked on a ridiculous number of important causes, including helping to draft I-1433 last year that provided sick leave and raised the minimum wage in Washington. Numerous of the folks I know who’ve been through many campaigns say that Mosqueda has been there for them. Also she always says “kiddos” when she’s talking about policies around children and families. 😍

State Senate, Legislative District 37

The original version of this post did not even have this race. I didn’t put it up here because Senator Saldaña, who was appointed in December, is running unopposed. She’s awesome, and it’s not exactly a hard choice, so I completely forgot! 🙂

Mayor of Seattle

Let’s pour one out for the mayor’s race next Tuesday. It’s been clouded by Mayor Murray possibly sexually abusing teenage boys in the 80s, along with his sometimes bizarre, but usually aggressive and victim-blaming public statements. Before he decided not to run for re-election, there were only two other candidates of any significance: Cary Moon and Nikkita Oliver. Pretty much all the other viable candidates get a huge ding from me because they jumped in after Murray, a power-house fundraiser, withdrew. When it was just the three of them (well, and a bunch of folks who were never viable), I was most likely going to vote for Moon.

But in the end, I voted for Oliver. If you’ve ever heard me rant about politics, I probably ranted about experience and competence. So this probably comes as a surprise. But one thing I learned this time is that I don’t think anyone I’ve seen viably run for mayor really had the demonstrated experience to run a 10,000 person and 5.5 BILLION dollar organization. Let’s leave aside policy alignment. We are spoiled this election for mayoral candidates whose policies are “close enough” to my own (and probably yours). Even Durkan, who has put her foot in her mouth painfully a few times and who I disagree with on a few key areas, is not really bad. So leave policy aside. I don’t think any of the candidates, aside from McGinn, can be said to have demonstrated ability to run an organization that big (and McGinn only because he was mayor, though a polarizing one who angered a lot of folks in city government). I’m thus left with a balance of questions. Who do I think moves the needle on policy the most in the areas I care about most for Seattle government? Who do I think has the most runway? That is, who seems like they have the most room to grow?

I’ve been to way too many mayoral forums or debates (or watched them online). They quickly ruled some candidates out for me (a mayor has to be able to talk coherently about a range of topics, even if not a policy expert on everything). One candidate consistently overshot my expectations and has continued to grow and improve. Other candidates have basically stayed about where they started (or in some cases worsened). Strangely, that candidate that kept doing better was Oliver. She speaks fluently on a range of topics, but more importantly she connects emotionally in a way that I think has a chance of convincing stakeholders to come to the table. For a candidate who is running as a member of the newly created People’s Party, her rhetoric at forums and debates has been not hostile to the “establishment”. She talks about what she wants to do and what she prioritizes, not blaming how Democrats have been running things. This tells me she’s interested in getting things done and not staking out positions for the purposes of winning arguments.

I was still completely unsure who I was ultimately going to vote for until after I got my ballot (and then I kept it for a week filled in but not dropped off). There didn’t seem to be any point in tactical voting. With six credible candidates, it seemed like if I voted for A as “more likely” to get out of the primary, then someone else would be voting for B for the same reason. The tipping point in my decision was, strangely, this Seattle Bike Blog post. It was being passed around the pro-bike and urbanist crowd with snark about how Oliver doesn’t believe in bike lanes, don’t vote for her, etc. The post itself is actually very thoughtful (also see Michael Maddux’s post that talks about it) and seems to be genuinely grappling with some of the conflicts and competing priorities we face.

Where Oliver has stood out to me is that she is not afraid to talk about there being hard decisions. Seattle already has a huge budget (and it has gone up about 20% per city resident from 2013 to 2017). We have no revenue sources that aren’t fairly regressive that could be used soon (in the next couple years). We have, as many candidates say by rote, a homelessness and housing affordability crises. And, yet, few candidates are willing to say what they’d cut or re-allocate to deal with it. Instead, everyone talks about new revenue sources. Or make generic noises about efficiency and fiscal discipline.

Nikkita Oliver “put her foot in her mouth” and said bike lanes were something she’d consider slowing down to pay for other priorities. She’s already on record saying she thinks we’re spending too much on the North Precinct. That aligns pretty well with my view: I wrote the mayor and my city council members ages ago saying I’d rather we spend that $150 million on public housing. And she is saying it publicly and openly and without hemming and hawing. She sees particular priorities as the highest and knows she will not have an endless budget to make everyone’s various interests happy while also addressing what she (and many of us) see as the highest priorities. She knows that if she goes along with existing spending priorities (that is, not giving anything up), she’ll just maintain the status quo. But she can talk about it in a way that even a strongly “special interested” constituent — whose special interest she explicitly de-prioritizes — will listen to. That’s inspiring.

In any case, it’s time for a woman mayor. And it’s definitely time for another non-white mayor (there’s only ever been one of either). I don’t know who will make it out of the primary. I expect the vote split to be fairly even after the top vote getter. I often have told people to vote like only your vote matters. Don’t try to guess how everyone else will vote. Vote for who you would really want to win (well, that has a reasonable chance of winning). I like plenty of the candidates. I’d vote for a lot of them in a heart beat if given no other options. But only Oliver has made me not hate the mayor’s race this year. I don’t usually expect a mayor to do more than keep the city going the way it has been. Oliver has made me hope for better.