The evening began with an eager standing-room only crowd. More than three and a half hours later, the meeting ended with candidate pamphlets scattered and no consensus reached on an endorsement of the 37th District Democrats Monday night for the hotly-contested District 3 race.
A concerted effort by the Kshama Sawant campaign helped cement a “no consensus” vote as the 37th met Monday night to decide if the candidates deserved the group’s backing ahead of the August primary. The 37th District Dems only formally endorse members of the Democratic Party. Sawant, the incumbent and a member of the Socialist Alternative political group, high fived an aide after the final results were announced at the Ethiopian Community Center Monday night.
UPDATE: CHS has corrected the headline and story to recognized the formal “no endorsement” vote also failed and, instead, the decision reached was a formal “no consensus. Chase Cross, 1st Vice Chair, 37th Legislative District Democrats, notified us about our error and also takes issue with our positioning of the lack of endorsement in the vote:
I read your story about our recent endorsements meeting and there is a big correction needed: The “No Endorsement” position, which would be interpreted as a victory for Sawant (since she is ineligible for our endorsement), was declared the winner. That is flat incorrect — we reached the “No Consensus” position, which is different. No Consensus means that after balloting three times, no candidate and the No Endorsement position have all failed to achieve the 60% threshold. Characterizing it as a “win” for Sawant is inaccurate because not only did the No Endorsement position not pass on any ballot, but Zach DeWolfe also won a majority on every ballot except the final dual endorsement motion with Pat Murakami (a ballot on which No Endorsement” was not available.
The decision in the 37th can be chalked up as a loss for the most progressive of Sawant’s opponents and one candidate who considers the state congressional district her home turf.
“The Chamber of Commerce and Amazon are fighting to take City Hall back to business as usual corporate politics,” Sawant said earlier in the night as she addressed the 37th. “Their
role goal in District 3? Anybody but Kshama Sawant. Why? Because they know that my office for the last five years has unwaveringly stood by and represented working people, people of color, and marginalized communities.”
After three previous undecided ballots, 37th District Dems eventually turned down a dual endorsement of Seattle Public Schools board member Zachary DeWolf and neighborhood activist Pat Murakami by a narrow vote of 42-41 against the two candidates. They needed 60% of the members in attendance to earn the formal endorsement.
The local party will decide again on a general election endorsement after the August 6 primary.
The 37th Legislative District spans from Skyway through Leschi, the Central District, and Madrona, and includes the southern reaches of Seattle City Council’s District 3.
In an essay published last week in the South Seattle Emerald, Dr. Amy Hagopian, a health and health services associate professor at the University of Washington, encouraged the 37th District Dems “to change this practice of endorsing only party candidates and consider third-party candidates or, if that is not possible, to make a ‘no endorsement’ stand if the party candidates are unable to stand up to the Chamber and Jeff Bezos.”
“The city council needs a left-wing anchor to show the rest of the members where the goal post is,” wrote Hagopian, a Democratic Party precinct committee officer in Squire Park. “No other district will send such a candidate.”
Hagopian also led a letter signed by 18 fellow members of the 37th District Dems calling for a no endorsement vote that was passed out by the Sawant campaign during a recent candidate forum.
During the event, Hagopian ceded her time to allow Sawant to speak and, in the end, applauded the audience for allowing for a respectable event.
In opening remarks, DeWolf, a program manager for All Home, the county’s coordinating agency for homelessness, pitched his campaign as a way of helping kids who are unsheltered.
“I’m specifically running for the 4,280 students experiencing homelessness in our Seattle Public Schools because our students’ housing status absolutely affects their public education,” DeWolf said, citing statistics that show the disproportionate effect this has on people of color and calling for investments in diversion programs.
Murakami, the Beacon Hill neighborhood activist and business owner, also tried to flex her party credentials given the battle she knew was coming.
“I have more Democratic Party [experience] than all five of the other candidates and the three that dropped out combined,” she said. “I am a strong Democrat; I fought for Bernie [Sanders] and then when he lost, I was there doorbelling and calling for Hillary and I will continue to support the Democratic platform.”
However, Murakami’s candidacy was met with some consternation in the crowd when an audience member brought up comments she made to CHS last week in the run-up to a D3 forum hosted by Speak Out Seattle in which she said, in part, “people of color have turned their back on their community and not done anything to empower or better that community.”
Murakami explained her statement, saying “what I meant by that is sometimes we elect people based on identity politics, by the color of their skin or their sexual identity, and then they bail to help the people that they should be serving. Bail again and again and again and actually hold the people down that they should be elevating.”
Public defender Ami Nguyen, and Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce head Egan Orion were also up for the endorsement. Logan Bowers attended the meeting, but did not get a motion for consideration.
The candidates had one minute to personally make their case to the Democrats at the event before the first ballot was cast. As she has in previous public events, Nguyen continued to draw on her personal experience to connect with voters.
“In my 20s, while I was studying at Stanford, my brother was in jail, in prison, vying and waiting for his time and trial and I spent my 20s visiting him in prison,” she said. “And I know the 37th District goes through this and I know what it’s like to not be represented.”
Orion, meanwhile, tried to stoke optimism in a time of political disillusionment.
“I believe that in one of the most innovative places on earth, this city, we can do anything,” he said.
BECOME A 'PAY WHAT YOU CAN' CHS SUBSCRIBER TODAY: Support local journalism dedicated to your neighborhood. SUBSCRIBE HERE. Join to become a subscriber at $1/$5/$10 a month to help CHS provide community news with NO PAYWALL. You can also sign up for a one-time annual payment.