Primary: Center Takes the Night

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Frontrunner showings by Bruce Harrell in the race for Seattle Mayor and City Council candidate Sara Nelson, as primary election results came in Tuesday evening, carry a message:  A center-left challenge has emerged to the far-left, interest group-dominated politics of the Emerald City.

The initial vote count here carries forward a trend that began in New York earlier this summer and carried over to Cleveland. As The Hill noted in Washington, D.C., last night, the left wing of the Democratic Party is having trouble winning elections.  Voters want public safety and competent public services.

Harrell took a 10-point lead over City Council President Lorena Gonzalez, the candidate backed with big bucks from unions, endorsed by The Stranger, and boosted by Bernie Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal. In the contest for the open Position 9 seat on the City Council, Nelson, a co-founder of Fremont Brewing, took an unexpected eight-point lead over Nikkita Oliver, shown as a heavy favorite in pre-election polls.

Easily reelected with more than 74 percent of the vote in 2017, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes is under attack right and left and fighting for his political life. Holmes trailed challenger Ann Davison, a Republican convert, and is barely ahead of Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, a political neophyte who pledges to curtail criminal prosecutions.

A primary election is a snapshot in time.  Big batches of ballots mailed on election eve or put in drop boxes on election day are yet to be counted.  In the 2013, 2017 and 2019 Seattle elections, these have favored activist-backed candidates.

Still, Tuesday was a gloomy day for Sanders, Jayapal, democratic socialists, the woke left, and bashers of business.

Ex-State Sen. Nina Turner, one of Sanders’ chief surrogates in the 2016 and 2020 presidential races, was defeated Tuesday in her U.S. House primary in Ohio. She had been heavily favored to win.  The upset victor was Shontel Brown, a local official who won support from the Congressional Black Caucus.

Turner has been a fiery advocate:  Last year, she likened supporting Joe Biden to voting for excrement, using a more vulgar word.  She brought Bernie to rally her supporters last weekend, while South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn appeared at African-American churches with Brown.

Turner outspent Brown and took $10,000 out of this state in a fundraiser earlier this summer.  She did not go gracefully last night, saying: “I am going to work hard to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen to another progressive candidate again. We didn’t lose this election, evil money manipulated and maligned this election.

In New York, where nearly a million votes were cast in the Democratic primary, the winner was Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.  Adams is a former police captain.  He ran on a public safety platform, arguing that more cops and added emphasis on public safety can coexist with police accountability. The runner up was Kathryn Garcia, a former city sanitation commissioner running on a platform of managerial competence.  Candidates of the left trailed.

Politics in Seattle have veered sharply left in recent years, yielding a City Council which last year cut the police budget, undermined and prompted the resignation of popular Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best.  Gonzalez has been running pretty much on the record of the Council.

Harrell retired from the City Council two years ago but reentered the mayor’s race with a canny campaign.  He is avuncular and supremely self-confident.  He has run a campaign stressing his biracial roots, background as a Garfield High School graduate and UW Husky football player, and service on a more rational Council.

Two other front-rank candidates for Mayor, Colleen Echohawk and Jessyn Farrell, were taking a combined 16 percent of the vote.  Harrell was ahead with 38.23 percent, with Gonzales trailing at 28.55 percent.

Three-term King County Executive Dow Constantine enjoyed a 53.49 percent to 29.69 percent lead over fellow Democrat and challenger State Sen. Joe Nguyen.  Constantine has waited years for the chance to run for Governor.  Whatever strength Nguyen shows, he is giving an entrenched incumbent a much-needed workout.

In a poll last month, Seattle consultant Bill Broadhead found an extremely discontented Seattle electorate, with homelessness topping voter concerns, and the City Council getting a strongly negative rating.  The survey found much anger among older voters, particularly women.

Years of punditry on the Seattle Times editorial page has predicted that this election (name the year) will see an uprising of middle-class voters who work hard, play by the rules, and don’t like the city’s sharp left turn.  It never seems to come about, but there were signs in last night’s returns that the prediction may actually come to pass.

In the meantime, Lorena Gonzalez and her labor PAC must figure out how to close a big gap. Sara Nelson must keep her lead over Oliver, an attorney-poet-educator who closed fast in the 2017 mayoral primary.  Pete Holmes just needs to make the general election ballot for an office he has held for a dozen years.

Does anyone dare predict that a sensible progressive center may be taking hold here?  It sure has in New York City and Cleveland.

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I worked for Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1973 until it ceased print publication in 2009, and SeattlePI.com from 2009 to 6/30/2020. During that time, I wrote about 9 presidential races, 11 Canadian and British Columbia elections‎, four doomed WPPSS nuclear plants, six Washington wilderness battles, creation of two national Monuments (Hanford Reach and San Juan Islands), a 104 million acre Alaska Lands Act, plus the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.

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