Bruce Harrell has moved out to a 16-point lead over Lorena Gonzalez in a hard-fought, consequential contest for Mayor of Seattle, according to a new poll conducted for the Northwest Progressive Institute by California-based Change Research.
Harrell is the choice of 48 percent of those surveyed, with Gonzalez trailing at 32 percent, 18 percent undecided and 2 percent not voting. The poll, with a margin of error of plus/minus 4.1 percent, contacted 617 Seattle voters, almost all of whom intend to mail in ballots. A pre-primary poll by Change Research in July showed Harrell with a 20-12 percent lead over Gonzalez, accurately predicting the November finalists but not how close they finished.
The poll showed that attorney Anne Davison has moved out to a substantial lead over Nicole Thomas-Kennedy in the contest for Seattle City Attorney. It found Davison at 43 percent, with Thomas-Kennedy trailing at 24 percent. NTK has apparently suffered a backlash over her incendiary Tweets containing such phrases as “my rabid hatred of the police.”
In a hot citywide contest for the Seattle City Council seat being vacated by Gonzalez, former Council aide and Fremont Brewing co-owner Sara Nelson is at 41 percent of the vote, with attorney-poet-activist Nikkita Oliver narrowly behind at 37 percent. Twenty-one percent of voters have not decided who to support.
Incumbent Teresa Mosqueda leads in the second at-large Council race, but only by a 39-31 percent margin over structural engineer Kenneth Wilson, a surprise primary runner-up who spent almost no money on his campaign. Mosqueda has been considered an overwhelming favorite to win reelection, and someone seen as a future candidate for Congress.
The NPI poll has a track record. Change Research was early to report, almost three months ago, that incumbent City Attorney Pete Holmes was in danger of being squeezed out in the primary. So it came to be, in an election that saw The Seattle Times endorse Davison with a furious blast at Holmes, while The Stranger backed Thomas-Kennedy. The earlier NPI poll also predicted a tight race between Nelson and Oliver. Change Research did not poll on countywide contests for King County Executive and the Seattle Port Commission.
The poll’s breakdowns are striking, said Andrew Villeneuve of the Northwest Progressive Institute. A nonprofit known for its opposition to initiative mercenary Tim Eyman, NPI has taken to sponsoring quality polls. Its statewide survey last year predicted that the sex education program in Washington’s public schools would easily beat back a referendum challenge. It found that Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal was in political trouble, but then Democrats gave him a boost.
In the new poll’s matchup between two veterans of the Seattle City Council, two-thirds of voters over 65 pick Harrell, while Gonzalez holds a 49-30 percent advantage among under-30 voters. Gonzalez is narrowly ahead among those aged 30 to 49, while Harrell has an advantage with voters aged 50 to 64. The Gonzalez campaign seems to be directing its energy toward a high turnout among young supporters and the city’s activist left. “Voters of color prefer Harrell by a 56-36 (percent) margin, while Lorena actually does better among white voters,” said Villeneuve.
The Nelson-Oliver contest shows a similar age gap. Nelson enjoys a two-to-one lead among older voters, while Oliver – a compelling speaker before youth audiences – leads among voters under 30.
Late arriving ballots from younger voters have trended left and tipped recent Seattle elections. Socialist Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant trailed incumbent Richard Conlin by eight points on election night in 2013 but late vote tallies sent Conlin into retirement. Sawant staged a similar post-election day comeback against challenger Egan Orion in 2019.
“I have never seen a gap this large overturned [in late ballots],” said Villeneuve, speaking of Harrell’s lead in the poll.
Two polls in September agreed on Harrell’s being in the lead but showed narrower contests. A KOMO-TV-Strategies 360 survey of 450 registered Seattle voters had Harrell at 40 percent with Gonzalez at 33 percent. The poll also showed that Seattle voters, by a two-to-one margin, have an unfavorable view of the Seattle City Council. Gonzalez is currently Council president, succeeding Harrell in that role.
The KOMO-Strategies 360 poll found Davison with a 19-16 percent lead over Thomas-Kennedy with a whopping 65 percent “completely” undecided. But that was before an independent expenditure group called Seattle for Common Sense started mailing out collections of NTK’s greatest-hit Tweets bearing such statements as: “Property destruction is a moral imperative.”
A Crosscut-Elway survey of 400 likely Seattle voters gave Harrell a 42-27 percent lead over Gonzalez, with nearly a quarter of voters remaining undecided. It found Nelson leading Oliver 31-26 percent, but with 34 percent undecided. Davison was ahead of Thomas-Kennedy, 26 percent to 22 percent, with 45 percent not having made up their minds.
A poll is a snapshot in time, and Seattle voters are known for delivering surprises. Incumbent Mayors Paul Schell and Greg Nickels, running for reelection, did not make it out of their primaries. Conventional wisdom can also take a licking, as in the presumed power of an endorsement by The Stranger, at least in the primary election. In the general election more moderate voters turn out in significant numbers. , If Harrell wins, it will be the third consecutive defeat for a Stranger-endorsed candidate in an election for Mayor of Seattle.