It’s become a summer tradition in Seattle. In about the middle of July, people receive a primary election ballot in the mail, turn to each other, and say: “There’s an election?”
This year is particularly vexing, because for most voters in Seattle, this year’s primary election races are pretty dull. There are some huge congressional and state legislative races – in the suburbs.
You can still influence the outcomes you care most about, whether or not they’re on your own ballot, by donating and/or volunteering. But there’s a broader and more critical reason for getting involved in this election: Because you still can.
What’s become clearer and clearer this year is that Donald Trump, like his handler, Vladimir Putin, is committed to tearing down our country’s democratic structures and replacing them with an authoritarian regime featuring himself (and maybe, in a few years, his kids…). What this vision does not include is any elections that offer meaningful choices to ordinary citizens.
The appeal to getting involved in local political issues is that they’ve always been determined at a level where ordinary people can still have an impact. As Seattle gets bigger and wealthier, that seems like it’s becoming less true. But much of what’s undermining accountability to ordinary citizens by our local political leaders is happening at the national level; a political party whose decades-long commitment to voter suppression, gerrymandering, and unlimited corporate financing of elections has led, inevitably, to a reactionary Supreme Court and a president who thinks his personal interests (and wealth) should take precedence over – well, everything. Including fair elections and the rule of law, but excluding Mr. Putin.
Want to piss off Trump? Then vote. And get your friends to vote. And their friends. Get so many people to vote that the fucking Russians can’t possibly hide what the American people – and the people of our state and city – demand.
So what should we demand? I’m here – again – to help. And as has been true for each of the 23 (!) years I’ve been passing on my election recommendations, the usual caveats apply: this is one opinion. Take it for what it’s worth, which is, well, one opinion. Do your own research.
Remember, this is a top-two primary, meaning that the top two vote-getters proceed to the general election in November.
And be sure to return your ballot by Tuesday, August 7, but don’t think for a second the job of changing the world, or even our city, will be over when you do. Social change comes from below. Voting becomes most useful when people have already organized, not when the people and policies we empower are approved. Get out and make yourself heard all the time, not just by mailing in a piece of paper.
As for which lines to fill in the bubbles for…
THE TL;DR VERSION
US Senator: Maria Cantwell
US House of Reps. #1: Suzan DelBene
US House of Reps. #7: Pramila Jayapal
US House of Reps. #8: Jason Rittereiser
US House of Reps. #9: Sarah Smith
State LD #30 Senate: Claire Wilson
State LD #32 Senate: Maralyn Chase
Stae LD #32 House: Chris Roberts
State LD #34 Senate: Sofia Aragon
NE Electoral Dist. Court, Pos.1: Marcus Naylor
King County Prop. One: No
South King County Fire & Rescue Prop. 1: Yes
U.S. Senator: It’s a measure of how anemic the “talent” pool of our state’s Republican Party is that for its two biggest races this year, it’s trotting out has-beens who, combined, have never held elected office despite running for office a half-dozen times. In this race, that means former Seattle chuckle-buddy news icon Susan Hutchison, who memorably tried to cash in that good will in 2009 by running for King County Executive (against a then-youngish Dow Constantine) and trying to claim she was “independent,” because, then as now, being a Republican in a county-wide race was toxic. She lost, and lost again, and so now she’s chair of the state Republican Party. In that capacity, she suggested herself for this race, because otherwise the Republicans standard-bearer against Cantwell likely would have been Joey “Patriot Prayer” Gibson, who is, among many other things, possibly the most confused white nationalist neo-fascist in America – and that’s saying a lot.
Doesn’t matter. Cantwell’s going to win by 30 points anyway. She’s not the best Democratic Senator, or the worst, which means the job is hers until she decides she doesn’t want it or Trump disbands Congress, whichever comes first. Maria Cantwell.
U.S. House of Representatives, Dist. #1: While Suzan DelBene isn’t the worst Democrat in Congress, either, she’s well below the median for such things: a “moderate” Microsoft millionaire who bought her way into Congress – against more progressive opponents – and has done nothing to speak of in her four terms since. However, she has no serious opposition on her left this year, and in this of ALL years, you should know not to even consider voting for anyone with a “prefers Republican,” “prefers GOP” (the chickenshit version), or “prefers throwing kids in cages” after his, or occasionally her, name. They could be the second coming of whichever deity you prefer,.and if they’d vote for a Republican to replace Paul Ryan as House Majority leader, it invalidates whatever other good works or miracles they have in mind. So, sadly, DelBene it is. Suzan DelBene.
U.S. House of Representatives, Dist. #7: Note to long-term Seattleites who were in diapers the last time anyone other than Jim McDermott was Seattle’s congressperson: This is why so many of us wanted McDermott, nice guy though he was, to STFU and retire a decade ago. This is what a truly progressive Congressional representative looks and acts like. I supported Pramila Jayapal warily two years ago, my distrust tempered largely due to her brief Olympia career and higher upside than her opponents. She’s more than fulfilled that upside. Jayapal has gotten more done on more different issues in two years than DelBene has in eight, or McDermott did in 30. Now that our Racist-in-Chief is making daily headlines by scapegoating the people Jayapal fought for for decades before running for office, she is kicking ass and freeing prisoners. Finally, Seattle has a congressional representative we can be proud of. Pramila Jayapal.
U.S. House of Representatives, Dist. #8: Not much is at stake in this race, other than, oh, I dunno, the future of the world and stuff.
Specifically, after seven terms and far too many years, former King County Sheriff Dave Reichert is retiring as a Republican congressman serving eastern King County and Kittitas County. In 2012, state Republicans protected Reichert from the changing demographics of the Eastside by adding Kittitas County to the district – but this year, even that may not be enough. Ellensburg and Cle Elum just can’t compete with the many tens of thousands of new, Democratic-leaning voters the Eastside has added in recent years.
Democrats need to win a net of 24 seats currently held by Republicans to take back the House of Representatives. To say that having the Democrats win back at least one house of Congress dramatically increases the chance that we can save American democracy is, sadly, not so much hyperbole any longer. Another two years of Republicans running everything in DC and who knows which of us will be on the official Enemies of the People list by 2020. Vote now, so that we can vote later. The stakes in an American election have never been higher than they will be this November – and that includes the presidential election of 1860.
Every national list of possible Democratic pickups includes WA-08 – and if Dems can’t take our Eastside district despite its surging urban (and Democratic-leaning) population growth, it likely won’t win back the House or Senate come November, either. And on a host of issues, from federal funding for social and education priorities to seattle’s sanctuary city status to ICE depredations and supercharging racism and bigotry, what’s going on back there in the Era of Trump has a huge impact here.
The Republican opponent for Reichert’s seat in November will be that other retread: Dino Rossi, who nearly won the governorship in 2004 (and still thinks he did) by pretending to be a lot more moderate than the frothing, Trump-adoring self he’s fessing up to as the 2018 Rossi. And Rossi 4.0, despite having already lost three statewide gubernatorial and US Senate campaigns, can still draw on nearly unlimited money, and the love of fellow Trump fetishists everywhere. So the paramount task for our eastern and southern suburban neighbors in this primary is to pick, among the three significant Democratic candidates, the one with the best chance of beating Rossi, and thereby helping neutralize Trump and preserve our options for life, liberty, and a 2020 ballot.
Those three candidates are Shannon Hader, a public health director from Auburn; Jason Rittereiser, a former deputy King County prosecutor from Ellensburg; and Kim Schrier, a Sammamish pediatrician. Each has their fans. Schrier, the pediatrician, has gotten important endorsements from labor and women’s groups and is the early favorite. She’s also allegedly the most progressive of the three, in a district that has never elected a Democrat in its 38-year history, which is probably why she’s keeping her public campaigning as benign, unspecific, and feel-good as possible. In other words, she plays well with the Democratic base, but not necesarily the district at large, AND she’s following Hillary Clinton’s “keep it safe” frontrunner election strategy.
Hader, by contrast, is a thoughtful progressive – maybe too thoughtful, as in, the “why don’t my elaborately detailed policy papers beat your glib bumper sticker lies?” trap progressives too often fall into in political campaigns, especially with first-time candidates. And her wonkery is paired with the least charisma of the three, which also doesn’t bode well for November.
Any of the three, if elected, would be great in Congress – but I’m going with Rittereiser as having the best shot at getting there. He has roots on both sides of the mountains, and so would seem to have the best chance of also connecting with rural WA-08 voters sick of Trump’s act. I’m not normally fond of former prosecutors, but this district voted for a narcissistic (and somewhat dense) cop in Reichert seven times, so there’s that. Plus, Rittereiser also showed resourcefulness, and got a lot of national media coverage, a few weeks back by convincing his Seattle-based law firm to offer pro bono representation to any federal workers thinking of refusing to carry out Trump’s horrifying border separation policies. He says the firm got over 30 such inquiries. A Democratic Congress could make all of this nonsense go away. Jason Rittereiser.
U.S. House of Representatives, Dist. #9: Once upon a time – in 1990 – Adam Smith was a dynamic young politician. That year, he was elected to the state senate at age 25, becoming at the time the youngest state senator in the country. Six years later, he was elected to Congress.
He’s been there ever since. This year, he’s seeking his 12th two-year term in a district that has completely changed under him. What was once a bucolic suburban/exurban district where Smith could carve out a comfortable career representing Boeing and Fort Lewis is now the state’s only minority-majority congressional district, covering south King and parts of Pierce Counties. Smith, a hawkish Democrat who’s risen over the years to become the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, hasn’t faced a serious challenge in years. But now he’s got one, in a district he no longer fits.
His challenger, Sarah Smith, is being compared by a lot of observers to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the young Bronx firebrand who in June upset powerful incumbent Democrat Joe Crowley (who is white) in an almost entirely Latino and Black district. The parallels aren’t exact, but Smith’s politics are similar enough to Ocasio-Cortez that it will be fascinating, and telling, to see how she does in a district that doesn’t even remotely resemble the one Adam Smith, like Joe Crowley, was first elected in.
Locally, Pramila Jayapal has shown what we can get when we replace stale, establishment white guys. Let’s try it. Sarah Smith.
Selected State Legislative Races: As usual, most Seattle races are unopposed incumbents or non-competitive races. But there are a few interesting ones – again, mostly in the burbs:
State Senate, LD #30: As with the congressional races to replace Reichert (and Adam Smith), for the state legislature most of the interesting action is in the ‘burbs. Federal Way is one of those suburbs whose demographics have changed a lot in recent years, with a large influx of immigrants and other non-whites fleeing Seattle rents. Inexplicably, they are still represented in the state senate by Mark Miloscia, one of the most obnoxious of Olympia’s Republicans. (Yes, that’s a high bar.) You may remember this homophobic, anti-abortion culture warrior from his PR stunts in Belltown last summer bashing The Big City for trying to house the homeless. Yeah, that guy. Belltown still has a faint sulfuric odor from his visit.
Happily, for the first time in ages Miloscia has drawn a strong opponent: Claire Wilson, a former teacher who is Federal Way’s school board director. Wilson represents Democrats’ best chance for buttressing the slim one-vote margin by which Democrats took back control of the state senate in 2016, breaking years of Republican-backed gridlock in Olympia. The legislature always needs more education advocates, As a bonus, she’d also be removing one of the legislature’s most malignant members. Vote for her twice if you can. Claire Wilson.
State Senate, LD #32: Over the past two decades, two things have been constants in local politics: 1) Seattle’s legislative districts are dominated by Democrats; 2) Of those Democrats, the ones in North Seattle and Shoreline’s Legislative District 32 are always at war with each other.
The basic split is between corporate centrists and progressives. In the ’90s it was remnants of the Rainbow Coalition at war with Clinton supporters. Now, it’s Bernie Sanders fans against…uh, Clinton supporters. The song remains the same.
In this race, the war features incumbent Senator Maralyn Chase. She’s abrasive and fearless and one of the few members of Seattle’s legislative delegation – the safest and most left-leaning Democratic districts in the state – who’s progressive AF. None of that will ever do. The corporate wing’s challenger, Shoreline deputy mayor Jesse Saloman, has, remarkably, raised more money than Chase; he fully has establishment Dems in his corner. Nuff said. Maralyn Chase.
State House, LD #32, Pos. #2: Same song, new verse. Corporatist Ruth Kagi is (mercifully) retiring. Seeking to replace her are Chris Roberts and Lauren Davis. Davis is a Gates Foundation alum with the most money and the endorsements of Kagi and the same establishment roster that’s backing Saloman. Roberts, a former Shoreline mayor and city councilman, has the backing of Chase and the progressives. See the pattern here? Chris Roberts.
State Senate, LD #34: A half dozen Democrats are seeking to replace the retiring Sharon Nelson. The frontrunner is centrist Shannon Braddock, last seen in 2015 losing her Chamber-backed bid for Seattle City Council to Lisa Herbold by the narrowest of margins, despite outspending Herbold by a 3-1 margin.
Who’s the best of the outspent candidates this time? I’m going with Sofia Aragon, a nurse who is also on the board of the Low Income Housing Institute. She promises to be a strong advocate for public health, affordable housing, and homelessness issues that don’t get nearly enough attention in Olympia. Sofia Aragon.
Northeast Electoral District Court, Pos.1: Of the three choices, one clearly stands out as having the most appropriate experience and the most progressive endorsements: Marcus Naylor
King County Proposition One: King County wants to renew an existing levy for an automated law enforcement fingerprinting system. Beyond the recurring issues with the King County Sheriff’s Officeand its officers (which includes transit police) – or the county’s willingness to fund programs like this while refusing to spend more than the absolute minimum on our homelessness crisis – this would normally be a pretty benign measure. However, it’s more than just a renewal. Tucked into the tiny print is funding as well for facial recognition software. SPD already has this software, but putting it on busses, which all have cameras already, would a major upgrade for the local survellance state. Always read the tiny print. No.
South King County Fire & Rescue Proposition 1: This would increase property tax funding for fire & emergency services. Need any evidence why this is a good idea? Have you tried breathing outdoors lately? Yes
[Author’s note: For decades, despite chronic financial and health pressures, I’ve dedicated myself to activism and to reporting and commentary from and for those of us fighting for our rightful place in a city that is increasingly turning its back on many of us. If you find my reporting and commentary valuable – and would like to see me spending more time doing this and less time stressing over how I can pay for food, rent, and medical care – please consider donating whatever you can to help support my work. The PayPal button is on the lower right on geov.org’s home page. Many thanks for your help! – Geov Parrish]