Election 2023: The Dogs That Did Not Bark


One way to analyze elections is to consider the dog that doesn’t bark. This seems particularly true in the Seattle City Council elections this past week.

The first dog that merely whimpered was labor. Particularly SEIU 775 and Unite Here Local 8 were very active in recent city council elections, winning heavily in 2019. Mysteriously, these potent unions barely showed their fangs this time. Real estate interests and other business groups outspent labor by 6:1, which goes a long way to explain why the more left-leaning, pro-labor candidates did poorly. 

One wonders why. (Efforts to reach these unions for comment were unavailing.) One theory is that labor didn’t want to reward its more wayward councilmembers. A related explanation is that the unions realized there was such a tide running against the Seattle City Council that union donations would be wasted. Another is that labor has shifted to new areas for electing sympathetic folks, notably the Port of Seattle and King County Council. A fourth explanation is that labor wants to shift the focus from electing friendly folks to applying pressure once in office, including threats to un-elect waffling members. A final theory is that unions are back trying to unionize companies rather than the practice in the last decade of getting the city council to pass laws that enact union goals (scheduling, minimum wage) for the non-union citizenry.

The other dog that didn’t bark was the Sawant Machine. In the past, Councilmember Kshama Sawant revved up excitement and many young doorbellers, but this time she chose not to run, and her machine was idling. That’s another serious blow for the candidates replacing Sawant, especially Alex Hudson, as well as mobilizing the youth vote in other races. The result: low turnout, low intensity, low media narrative, and few reasons to vote and talk up the issues. 

As a result, the left part of these seven contests did poorly. It’s not so much that the moderates triumphed as that the armies of the Left avoided the battle.

Does this mean that the Left has died in Seattle? Certainly there will be a new center of gravity in the city council. But a decade of progressivism and new population has converted the city hall bureaucracy, the media, the arts, and the nonprofits into a Seattle shade of deep blue. Labor may have other fish to fry, and Sawant is moving out of town. But the leftward momentum has many more troops to deploy and youth energies and issues to tap. 

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. In my opinion, the Left did just fine in this election.

    To quote a local news source:
    “Well, it’s important to say that in Seattle, when we say someone is “moderate,” it means they’re what we used to call a liberal Democrat. This election is really a shift away from politics by bullhorn.
    As Hollingsworth said at a forum … last month: “I’m a Black, queer woman with a cannabis farm. When did that become moderate?”

  2. Most of the new, moderate councilmembers-elect DID have the support of many in Labor. Unions split up their endorsements, where they did endorse.

    SEIU, in case you hadn’t noticed, has been very busy with strikes, both actual and threatened, against Keiser and other healthcare providers. UNITE HERE is more concerned with filling hotel rooms these days, so that their members can again have employment. They won a lot of protections in the past several years, but that far-Left, Marxist-turn of the Seattle City Council created a downtown that has not been attractive to convention-bookers and tourists. Eventually, union leaders recognize that, if they want to get their members into the middle class, they need to pay attention to what the middle class actually wants, which is public safety, a reasonable sense of security, and good old-fashioned bread and butter issues, not ideological warfare. Building Trades unions have known this for a long time. Their public employee and social service worker union kin have seen the light as well.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments Policy

Please be respectful. No personal attacks. Your comment should add something to the topic discussion or it will not be published. All comments are reviewed before being published. Comments are the opinions of their contributors and not those of Post alley or its editors.