Seattle Voter Guide, General Election 2017

You can safely skip this post if you don't care about Seattle politics, don't care about voting, don't live in Seattle, just no politics please no no no no no, etc. But if that doesn't scare you off, read on!

Primary to General!

First up, let's just include everything from the primary post as all those candidates made it through to the general and are all still folks I am voting for. To summarize:

New Races!

The way state law works for elections in (technically) non-partisan races, if there are only two or fewer candidates who file, then they skip the primary and are only on the general election ballot. So there are a few of those, plus a ballot measure and the other two school board races.

School Board

For the other two races I'm voting for:

City Attorney

For reasons I can't exactly fathom, we elect a city attorney who has an office devoted to legal stuff ("legal services") for the mayor and the city. I support Pete Holmes because he's doing a good job and it doesn't seem like the kind of role where I believe in throwing someone out of office except for gross failures (much how I feel about judges). But I also have a little story. My ability and desire to be politically involved has varied a lot. At once point I thought I could help with petition signing and went to some training for the marijuana legalization effort. Pete Holmes was there and spoke about why it was so important that we get marijuana legalized. My mind was blown that a city attorney who presumably is very law and order would be supporting an effort to properly legalize it (which has long seemed obvious what with it being far less harmful than alcohol). It turns out I find gathering signatures for petitions intolerably awkward and never gathered all that many (I almost broke down crying at one point at the U district farmers market), but I'm still glad I tried if only because Pete Holmes helped make me less cynical.


We elect judges. They have to campaign, a little bit, and I think it's kind of weird. Anyway, I really liked California's system where judges were appointed and we merely voted to retain a judge which seems like if a judge really was messing up, you could mount what is essentially a recall election. But we don't have that, so we vote on judges. These ones are pretty simple. In one position on my ballot, "Court of Appeals, Division 1, District 1, Judge Position 5", there's only David Mann. I've only had brief conversations with him, but he seems fine. The other judge race is "Court of Appeals, Division 1, District 1, Judge Position 2". Michael Spearman is who I voted for here. I've actually met him and have some idea what he's done ... the other guy not so much.

King County Sheriff

This one has been an ugghhhhhh for me. The incumbent John Urquhart has a pile of allegations and rumors (of sexual assault, him covering up or ignoring workplace sexual harassment and gendered discrimination) and "maybe this was mishandled on his part, maybe it wasn't, sure is hard to say". At some point, it feels like ultimately something is there. Moreover, in this climate I feel like it's reasonable to just not vote for someone you think might have mistreated women or non-white people, despite his otherwise fairly awesome record (he has actually fired cops who violated people's rights). But the straw, for me, is that he joked about arresting our socialist city council member Kshama Sawant at a Republican party event. Now it's fine that he was at a Republican party event — county sheriff is non-partisan and anyway he should be talking to everyone — and I even understand making jokes about the "Seattle socialist" to separate himself from her to such an audience, though it's still kind of gross. What I don't hold with is joking about arresting people. When the police arrest a person, even if they are quickly released and no charges filed, that is still the State using its power to constrain an individual's liberty with force (even if the arrest is relatively calm and non-violent). It is a failure of society as a whole whenever the police are "forced" to arrest someone. It means whatever conflict was happening, the only immediate solution to keep it from getting out of hand, was to force individuals to do something they didn't want to do, with the threat of force. Now a lot of the time when the police arrest people it really is probably necessary, such as a person who is suspected of committing violent crime (or in the middle of it!) But it's never a joking matter. It means we failed as a society, even if it was a failure that happened twenty years before the arrest when a kid was born into poverty and abuse and didn't get the same start that many of us get. Arresting folks isn't a joking matter. The sheriff joking about it shows a cavalier attitude towards the underlying meaning of his office.

So, I just can't bring myself to vote for him. His opponent, Mitzi Johanknecht, has good experience within the office so I don't feel she's a bad choice in terms of competence and preparedness for the role. I am concerned that she's wishy-washy on sanctuary cities and has come out against community health engagement locations (aka "safe consumption sites" or in the inflammatory language "safe injection sites" or worse). My feeling is that her positions on those subjects is more about gaining support from people who, unfortunately, are worried about those things (we have a lot of work to do to help there be fewer folks who are against these policies), but in any case, the county sheriff doesn't get to decide those policies and thus will be constrained by circumstance. I trust the King County Council and Executive to make sure their policies are carried out properly.

King County Proposition 1, Levy Lid Lift for Veterans, Seniors and Vulnerable Populations

This is a smallish property tax levy, replacing an expiring levy with a slight increase. I'm kind of tired of property taxes being all we have for this stuff, and people, even in my "liberal" district are justifiably tired of how we fund things, but I can't just bring myself to vote against something that is currently helping some of the most vulnerable people in the county. It's like $37 a year for my family's home which is actually above the average for a property in King County.

Some Quick Pleas

I've been paying a lot of much more detailed attention to the mechanics of politics the last year. How are campaigns run? How do candidates and elected officials gain support to make it easier to enact policy? What are the major fault lines in our region (both on actual policy and personalities and coalitions)? How do endorsements work (when are they bullshit? why do they matter?) My fascination with the mechanics has only made me proxy-exhausted for the candidates and campaign workers.

Campaigns run on contributions in time and money. If you like some candidate (even ones I didn't vote for — boo, hiss!), please consider supporting that candidate with more than just your vote. Even a few dollars is one less fundraising call they have to make so they can do something else which might just be yet another fundraising call, but might mean more time to talk to voters.

Seattle Mayor

So many words. You may have noticed I left off mayor till now. I put it in here at the end to make you read the paragraphs above. But I'm a tease. I'm not going to say which candidate to vote for. It will be fine either way. I have my reasons for my vote, but it's such a mixed bag and it takes too many words to explain and there's just so much tension around this race with inflammatory and exaggerated nonsense. Plus jeez, there are so many forums where they talk about the same policy positions over and over that aren't really that far apart (by outside Seattle standards) that you'd think that one or both would have evaporated in frustration. Anyway, here's a couple "pick your candidate" policy quizzes from Crosscut and the Seattle Times if you haven't been paying stupid amounts of attention (like me). I basically got half each candidate on both quizzes which is about what I expected. The Evergrey will be publishing some interviews from them both for their Leadership Lab and, while I didn't participate in those interviews, I suspect they will be very interesting.

Anyway, vote. If you want me to talk too long at you about the mayor's race or anything else, find me in person. But better yet, don't waste your time on silliness and go help take back the state senate by volunteering for Michelle Rylands or Manka Dhingra. :)

Additional Comment (posted October 29th)

Frustratingly, a few days ago I happened to read a profile of the position 8 candidates in Real Change News. It was mostly nothing I hadn't read before. But one answer from Grant, combined with other nonsense going on (that's a great piece from Hanna Olsen), made me just viscerally react. Grant was asked why him, given he's white, straight, etc. and he answered:

“When I sat down with my opponent very early on and I put it out there on the table that I could drop out of this race. If we were going to be the exact same on issues I care most about, in particular housing and police accountability, I don’t have a reason to be here. What became clear through the course of those conversations and through the course of the ensuing debates prior to the filing deadline was that my opponent was not willing to adopt strong positions on housing and a lot of it has to do with her connections to a lot of these powerful players. So I don’t think we need another lobbyist on City Council."

He answered primarily by minimizing Mosqueda's work and non-specifically attacking her housing positions as not strong because of her "connections". He could have mentioned specific policies without impugning Mosqueda's reasons for having them. Or specific examples of why his way of working is more effective. But instead, he chose to dismiss his opponent's achievements. If Mosqueda has been a lobbyist, then so has Grant ("in Olympia" even!) But of course most voters don't read "lobbyist" and think "advocate for children and workers". Most folks when they hear "lobbyist" are thinking corporate suits who convince legislators to pass laws that help the richest and most powerful. That would be exactly opposite what Mosqueda is. Grant knows that. Now, of course, if Mosqueda were a "he", Grant might still have made this attack. No doubt he doesn't think this answer comes off as sexist, but to me it just reflects yet another case of a woman having to prove it over and over. Grant knows that gender roles and perceptions are relevant in this race. He could have made this point without making it an attack on a woman's achievements. But he did.

I don't think Seattle will somehow degenerate if Mosqueda loses: I think the people and groups who asked her to run will continue to push for what's good for everyone. Ultimately that matters more than who wins one election. But I'm not sure I won't be bitter about it because it seems like no matter what, even in a city that's willing to elect women to public office over and over, even a male candidate who claims he's trying to do better either can't resist making an attack on a woman's experience or doesn't even realize he's making one. Fortunately, I've become very competent at channeling bitterness into action: I just came back from my 16th time knocking on doors since May. Yes, I'm keeping score. Well, actually a calendar. Bitterness will do that. I've had nearly a year of the most incompetent president whose ever been in the office. And he got there, at least in part, because downplaying and questioning women's accomplishments is routine and unremarkable.