‘Fed-Ups’ Rout the ‘Riled-Ups’


First thoughts on the Seattle election. It turned into a tidal vote and a lopsided message election. I think of the two voting factions as the Fed Up, the winners by 20 points or so, and the Riled Up, who lost and maybe will adjust to the message sent by voters. 

Another way to view the results, given Bruce Harrell’s 65-35 margin over Lorena Gonzalez in the mayor’s race (which will probably turn into 55-45 after the late, left-leaning votes get counted in the next week), is that the long-running, overtime contest between Mayor Jenny Durkan and anti-establishment Council President Lorena Gonzalez and her council majority has produced a surprise knockout by Durkan and her moderately progressive voters. 

The tidal election was pretty much a sweep by the Fed Up moderates. Sarah Nelson led the firebrand Nikkita Oliver, 60-40 for a citywide council seat. Center-right Ann Davison demolished abolitionist Nicole Thomas Kennedy by 59-41 for city attorney. Unsurprisingly, Dow Constantine cruised to a fourth term as county executive, 58-42, against a young candidate attacking from the left. Another tidal signal was the surprisingly close, 53-47 lead for another anchor of the Left faction on the City Council, Teresa Mosqueda, running against an unknown rookie candidate.

On the other hand, two well-known Port of Seattle candidates, Stephanie Bowman (leading 51-49 over the former Pramila Jayapal staffer Hamdi Mohamed) and Peter Steinbrueck (50-50 draw with Toshiko Hasegawa) are probably going to bounced by the late-count votes. In addition, suburban-conservative King County Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, sunk by a dumb ad that backfired, trails her more-liberal challenger Sarah Perry, 45-55, a sign of the county’s wary tilt toward Seattle liberalism. The Port results validate the approach of electing left-leaning minority candidates by aiming at down-ballot, low-turnout races and pumping in labor money. 

A few more scattershot observations:

Labor, which went all-in for Gonzalez and Oliver, badly lost its Bernie-gamble and may have to adjust. Same for environmental groups. Can Mayor Harrell coax them back to the pragmatic, coalitionist center?

Walking wounded: Kathy Lambert, Dow Constantine (mainly eyeing a governor’s race), Teresa Mosqueda (eyeing Congressman Adam Smith’s seat?), The Stranger and Publicola, Port of Seattle, Lorena Gonzalez, Nikkita Oliver, Nicole Thomas Kennedy and the abolitionist cause.

Democracy Vouchers were another victim in the election, as they turned out to be not a way to overcome corporate contributions but a way to embolden mediocre candidates and enrich voucher-vacuuming consultants.

Defunding the police turned into an exploding cigar, and even Minneapolis voters rejected replacing the Police Department by 58-42. But good luck luring and confirming a strong leader as Seattle’s police chief.

Seattle School Board picked up two promising new members, Vivian Song Maritz and Michelle Sarju, which may foretell a change in the board chair from the decisive but elbow-y current president, Chandra Hampson. Also, good luck finding a strong superintendent who can survive more than three years. And does the board even want at take-charge supe?

Retirements of top department leaders at city hall will be another challenge for the new mayor — and an opportunity. Harrell has lots of friends in town, from years of schmoozing, so the danger of a patronage-minded mayor is another thing to watch.

The City Council is now 3 moderates, 2 swing votes, and 4 movement leftists. That’s enough to tie Mayor Harrell in knots. He might throw up his hands, as Mayor eventually Durkan did, or the two swing votes (Dan Strauss and Andrew Lewis) might read the election verdicts and go with the pendulum. (More likely they will opt for Manchin-like late votes.) The passion and the organizational strength are still with the Bernie/Jayapal/Sawant left in Seattle, so Harrell may have won the battle last night but could lose the larger war.

David Brewster
David Brewster
David Brewster, a founding member of Post Alley, has a long career in publishing, having founded Seattle Weekly, Sasquatch Books, and Crosscut.com. His civic ventures have been Town Hall Seattle and FolioSeattle.


  1. Great round up of quick takes on the election by Post Alley writers. If you read them all again in one sitting, as I just did, you get an informed and insightful analysis of what happened in Seattle and elsewhere. Teasing out the key threads, my takeaway is that voters were fed up. In Seattle, fed up with incompetence, among other things. In Virginia, where I lived for 30 years, fed up with Democratic machine politics/politicians. McAuliffe should not have been the candidate. Looking at national versus local outcomes, we also are reminded that progressive means different things in Seattle than in Virginia. Sandeep gives a good breakdown of the factions at play here. Now we all wait to see whether those newly elected can deliver on any of their promises.


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