Wednesday night, the race for a seat in Olympia to represent the 43rd District heats back up as challengers Nicole Macri and Dan Shih face off in an LGBTQ-focused candidates forum on Capitol Hill. CHS will be there to cover the proceedings but, first, we wanted to take a look back at the candidates for the state’s House of Representatives who didn’t make it through the primary to hear their stories about the race and how this tier of politics can play out at the neighborhood level.
Postage stamps and pit bulls
The day before the August primary, Sameer Ranade was knocking on doors in a last minute push to advance in the 43rd District state House race. The feedback from voters was encouraging. Many said they would be happy to vote for him, if they had not already mailed their ballot.
One side effect of Washington’s mail-in ballot system is that it makes a last minute push for underdog candidates nearly impossible. It’s a lesson Ranade said he may put to use in a future election, but his 2016 run for the 43rd District ended in August after finishing fifth in the top-two primary.
Beware of pit bull haters. That’s a lesson Democratic Party organizer Scott Forbes walked away with after a door knocking stop in May. While speaking with a Capitol Hill homeowner one afternoon, the conversation quickly turned to a bill to prevent local governments from banning certain breeds of dogs. Forbes started by saying he owned a pit bull, which promptly got him the boot.
Unbeknownst to Forbes, he had knocked on the door of Ellen Taft, who has been one of the most vocal opponents to pit bulls in Seattle.
(Updated to reflect that it was Scott Forbes, not Marcus Courtney, who shared this campaign anecdote.)
State House seats are usually thought of as one of the easiest launching points for a career in politics, but that was not the case in the crowded race between a number of strong candidates for the open 43rd District seat. Finding ways to enunciate positional separation on issues was especially difficult, even for Libertarian-leaning Republican Zach Zaerr, who managed a third place finish in the race with hardly any ground game and little fundraising.
During the handful of public forums, candidates often made their strongest appeals by selling their professional backgrounds: the homeless housing expert, the union organizer, the stalwart Democrat, the environmentalist. In the end, it was Downtown Emergency Service Center deputy director Nicole Macri and trial lawyer Dan Shih that secured the top-two votes to advance to November’s general election.
Macri and Shih will both be making an appearance at a candidate forum Wednesday organized by the Greater Seattle Busines Association. 7th Congressional District candidate Brady Walkinshaw will also be answering questions during the event at the Erickson Theater. Tickets are $20 for non-members.
When CHS asked the ousted candidates to reflect on the race, fundraising was common theme. Despite is institutional ties, Forbes said fundraising proved to be his biggest challenge in the race. Forbes raised just over $20,000 compared to winning campaigns that raised five times as much.
“Money isn’t everything—out of the six Democrats in the race, I’d have finished last if it were—but I learned during the primary that fundraising is often used as a yardstick when measuring the candidates, especially in the early months before most voters are paying attention,” Forbes said.
Tech labor organizer Marcus Courtney came in third in fundraising, with $60,000, and told CHS he was proud with the number of donations he received. Shih has continued his fundraising dominance after the primary with nearly $176,000 in the bank compared to Macri’s $117,000.
When asked what surprised him most about the race, Republican Zaerr said, “mostly that the Dems just let me be for the most part and attacked Nicole if anyone. Since we all shared many similar views I felt like we were able to find common ground and be generally civil.”
Ranade was dealt a more personally disappointing surprise during his campaign.
“I had a lot of friends unsubscribe from my campaign listserv,” he said. “I thought more of my friends would be interested in supporting my candidacy or staying informed of developments and events.”
Ranade and others also said balancing full-time work and the campaign was a major challenge. Danni Askini, executive director of the Gender Justice League, dropped out of the race in May, in part, to work on defeating an anti-trans “bathroom bill” in the state.
Askini had been considered one of the frontrunners given her name recognition, lefty political leanings (she is a strong supporter of Kshama Sawant and Bernie Sanders) and potential status as the first openly transgender individual to hold public office. She told CHS she would consider running for office again if given the right opportunity.