It was a night for “non-establishment” candidates Tuesday as the 43rd District Democrats made their ritual endorsements in this year’s local elections, which included votes on six City Council races.
Democrats in the 43rd Legislative District, which includes Capitol Hill and downtown, made no endorsement in the Council District 3 race where de facto incumbent Kshama Sawant has disrupted an otherwise Democratic stronghold. The vote is a clear blow to the hopes of Sawant challengers including the Central District’s Pamela Banks, seen by many as the favorite to make it through August’s top-two primary after a raft of City Hall endorsements. The victory, of sorts, continues a string for the Socialist Alternative candidate. Sawant also brought out a swell of supporters and was the crowd favorite in last week’s District 3 candidates forum.
Other incumbents and “establishment” candidates also failed to get a nod during the event, although the vote only represents a tiny fraction of the most politically active Democrats.
As the non-Democrats in District 3, Sawant and Lee Carter were technically ineligible for an endorsement from the roughly 150 party members gathered inside the University Heights building in the U-District. Sawant supporters in the party, including King County Council member Larry Gossett, urged a “no endorsement” vote for the District 3 race as a procedural vote for Sawant.
Democratic fundraiser and District 3 candidate Rod Hearne was also ineligible for an endorsement after his campaign was late to submit a required questionnaire. However, Hearne will be eligible for an endorsement during the group’s June meeting.
Hearne’s misstep — or calculated maneuvering? — spurred a motion to postpone the entire endorsement process for District 3 until next month when he could be on the ballot. The motion was shot down handedly.
That left Seattle’s former Urban League director Banks and women’s rights advocate Morgan Beach as the only two candidates up for a vote. After giving two minute speeches, neither managed to garner the 60% of the vote required for an endorsement. Both are now precluded from an endorsement vote in June.
In 2013, the 43rd endorsed incumbent Richard Conlin. Sawant eventually defeated the 16-year Council veteran that fall.
Sawant continues to lead the fundraising race in the relatively cash-laden District 3 race, with nearly $82,000 raised. She also has the lowest average contribution size at $110 — a testament to the candidate’s grassroots approach. The District 3 race has attracted the second highest total contributions after the hotly contested citywide Position 8 race.
In that battle, City Council president Tim Burgess also failed to get an endorsement Tuesday night. Former Tenant’s Union director John Grant received the most votes in the second round of voting, but not enough for an endorsement. Musician John Roderick was also close in the running.
UPDATE 5/22/15 4:00 PM: Recount! The 43rd Dems announced they made an error in tallying Position 8 votes and will put the endorsement back up for consideration in June:
SEATTLE, WA: Friday, May 22, 2015, the 43rd District Democrats held their annual Endorsement Meeting on Tuesday, May 19, 2015 at University Heights Center for Seattle City Council District 3, 4, 6, 7, (positions) 8 and 9, as well as King County Council, Port Commission, and more. Round 1 votes for Seattle City Council position 8 (candidates: Tim Burgess, Jon Grant, John Persak, and John Roderick) were miscalculated giving candidate John Roderick enough votes to move him into the reconsideration vote. Due to a typographical error, in the midst of the excitement of the evening, their vote tally volunteers (all members of the 43rd District Democrats Executive Board) and the 43rd District Democrats Chair, James Apa, did not recognize the mathematical error in vote counts on the tally sheet.
“We are extremely sorry to our membership and the community of people who trust in our endorsement process,” said James Apa, Chair of the 43rd District Democrats, “we pride ourselves in providing honest results, especially considering our community’s appreciation of our endorsements. Our tally committee and I each double-checked the results, and while it was an honest mistake, we feel badly about the whole issue. When we realized our error in reporting we immediately notified all candidates eligible for reconsideration of their additional opportunity to receive and endorsement by the 43rd District Democrats.”
Because the outcome of the reconsideration vote may have been affected by the 43rd District Democrats’ error, they will re-do the vote at their Tuesday, June 16, 2015 meeting, including only Tim Burgess, Jon Grant, and the “No Endorsement” option on the “ballot.” Candidates will still need 60% of votes cast to receive the 43rd District Democrats endorsement.
In the at-large Position 9 race, Central District neighborhood activist Bill Bradburd took home the 43rd’s endorsement, beating out Lorena Gonzalez, legal counsel for Mayor Ed Murray. Bradburd received perhaps the most resounding applause of the night.
In his opening address for the evening, Murray alluded to the shake-ups centrist Democrats face in this year’s election.
“I believe this Democratic party is going to get hit hard from the far left and the extreme right,” he said.
Here’s a rundown of the final results:
City Council District 3: No endorsement
City Council District 4: No endorsement
City Council District 6: Mike O’Brien
City Council District 7: Sally Bagshaw
City Council Position 8: No endorsement
City Council Position 9: Bill Bradburd
Seattle School Board District: Rick Burke
Seattle School Board District: No endorsement
Port of Seattle Commissioner: Courtney Gregoire
Port of Seattle Commissioner Position: No endorsement
Superior Court Judge Position 15: Samuel Chung
King County Council District 2: Larry Gossett
King County Council District 4: Jeanne Kohl-Wells
King County Council District 8: Joe McDermott
King County Elections Director: Zach Hudgins
- Judge Chung: “Good news … Both of my opponents dropped out yesterday.”
- Former 43rd District state representative and current mayor Ed Murray was the keynote speaker of the night and used his time to praise Burgess for taking the lead on pushing for universal pre-K. “I didn’t pioneer that issue, it was Tim Burgess who did that,” Murray said.
- “For some reason, ya’ll never get tired of me,” said Gossett, who’s seeking his eighth term on County Council.
- Echoing past calls to be accessible than Sawant on Council, Banks said “I believe everybody’s voice should be heard in this city and I will not keep anybody out.”
- Beach: “I rent in the district. I’m living the affordability issues here in the city.”
- City Council member Jean Godden, who failed to the the 43rd’s endorsement in District 4, said she would work on transportation issues if reelected. “The Burke Gillman trail is badly in need of repairs,” she said.
- John Grant was really the only candidate of the night to criticize an opponent. He chastised Burgess for not being tough enough on the Seattle Police Department in the wake of its federal investigation for excessive use of force.
- Given on of his opponent’s long history in tenant’s rights issues, Roderick opened his two minute speech by joking, “I’m totally in the pocket of developers and big business.”
- Mike O’Brien talked up his ongoing role in pushing for light rail extensions to Ballard and West Seattle.
- Allison Holcomb, the author of I-502 who considered a run in District 3 before being tapped for a national gig at the ACLU, introduced Burgess and Jeanne Kohl-Wells for King County Council. She commended Burgess for his work on diversion programs and for opposing the death penalty.
- Capitol Hill Community Council vice president (and CHS contributor) Zachary Pullin introduced Gonzales, saying she wasn’t “in the mayor’s pocket.”
Meanwhile, in a poll of CHS readers prior to last Tuesday’s forum, respondents showed the most support for Banks and Sawant. We’ve listed the campaign priorities that most defined the selections below: