The one time council member Kshama Sawant didn’t want a no endorsement result she got it as the 43rd District Democrats failed to reach agreement on a single District 3 candidate with a standing-room crowd at the University of Washington’s Kane Hall Tuesday night. After two ballots, the attendees were unable to come to an agreement on an endorsement, even when the field was whittled down from the six candidates to Seattle Public Schools Board member Zachary DeWolf and Sawant.
This decision signals a splintered electorate where none of the five challengers have truly seized the mantle in taking on a polarizing incumbent and that anything could happen in the next two months before the August top-two primary. It also could be a sign of things to come in a summer of political races featuring an unprecedentedly huge field of candidates.
The first ballot Tuesday was inconclusive, leaving DeWolf and Sawant to duke it out on a second round. The All Home King County staffer received votes on 46% of ballots in the first set, while the incumbent was on 42%.
“These kids have hope and they cannot wait for us any longer to act,” said DeWolf, catching his breath after arriving a few minutes late to speak as he was running from another school graduation ceremony. “Please do not let them into a world where people are sleeping outside, where people are going hungry, where our cities crumbling because of the climate crisis. We owe it to these kids to deliver results so that they can be proud of the world that they’re living in.”
Unlike in last month’s contentious 37th District Democrats endorsement process, which resulted in a complicated ‘no consensus’ decision after three and a half hours and four ballots, the 43rd’s Democratic Party allows for the endorsement of a candidate outside of the party, such as Sawant of Socialist Alternative.
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On the so-called “reconsideration” second ballot, DeWolf received 55% of the vote compared to Sawant’s 45%, but 60% was needed to receive the formal endorsement from the 43rd District Dems, which represents Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, and the U-District.
“[Seattle’s corporate elites’] goal in District 3 is anybody but Kshama Sawant because they know my office is unshakably accountable to working people,” the incumbent said. “The best defense is a good offense.”
Eliminated after the first round were public defender Ami Nguyen, who received 35%, small business owner Logan Bowers with 22%, Pat Murakami with 20%, and Broadway Business Improvement Area director Egan Orion with 17%. Attendees could vote for more than one candidate on the first ballot.
Nguyen implored the crowd to find someone that has truly faced the issues plaguing the region and that can represent the full district, instead of a “select few.”
“It’s really important for us to have a city council member who has been on the ground to make sure that the policies we’re passing at City Hall are actually going to work and move the city forward, rather than just because it sounds good,” she said. “We need to make sure we have a council member that doesn’t make us feel bad for expressing our specific needs.”
“We need to make sure that we have a council member who has shared that experience, shared the struggle, and will not ignore the entire District 3.”
Both Bowers and Orion introduced themselves as possible pragmatic and effective leaders if given the opportunity to serve.
“It’s not enough to have good values, or even good policy, you need good execution and you need someone who can deliver actual results and apply good management,” Bowers said. “I bring something different: I’m a renter; I’m a problem-solver; I’m a small business owner.”
“I’ve shown time and again throughout my career that I can work across organizations and communities to do the hard work to actually get things done,” Orion said, using as an example Seattle PrideFest, for which he is currently the executive director.
Despite controversy over past divisive comments, Murakami presented her candidacy as a uniting force.
“If I’m elected, my priority is going to be on empowering people,” Murakami said. “I will not participate in the race to the bottom; I am about bringing people up to the middle.”
She was one of the final candidates alive in May’s 37th District Dems race, ending up on a dual-endorsement ticket with DeWolf that couldn’t garner the votes to earn the formal preference. Tuesday’s result was a significant drop for Murakami, who has stronger ties in the 37th.
Meanwhile, challenger Girmay Zahilay continued his string of endorsements with the support of the 43rd District Dems, which he earned over longtime King County Council member Larry Gossett by a more than 80-vote margin on the first ballot. The lawyer and non-profit leader has similarly received endorsements from the 11th, 37th, and 46th District Democrats. CHS wrote about the rare challenge to Gossett’s seat on the county council here.
Ballots for the August Primary are slated to be mailed out in mid-July. The top two finishers in each race will move through to the November General Election.
You can find the latest CHS Election 2019 coverage here.