Hey, Remember This?

After today’s ballot drop, Lisa Herbold continued to close the gap with Shannon Braddock in their West Seattle city council race. However, her rate of closure slowed today. She now trails by 95 votes, with no more than 3500 per district left to count. The race is very much too close to call, and is likely headed for a recount – it’s currently well within the 1/2 percent margin threshold required. But Herbold’s chances still appear good.

However, in South Seattle, the news wasn’t as good. Bruce Harrell now leads Tammy Morales by 401 votes, a gap that is likely too large to surmount. It’ll still be extremely close, but at this point Harrell has to be heavily favored to hang onto his council seat.

Why is this so important? If Herbold wins, she joins Sawant, Juarez, and O’Brien as a progressive bloc of four votes on city council. IF MORALES HAD WON, THERE WOULD BE FIVE VOTES, or a majority – enough, on many issues, to enact strong progressive legislation, and enough to block really bad legislation.

Without Morales? A lot of votes would go 5-4 in the opposite direction. For guidance on how critical that fifth swing vote can be in an ideologically divided body, imagine what the US Supreme Court’s decisions would look like with one more Clarence Thomas or Antonin Scalia on it.

That difference, for the next two years of Seattle City Council, could easily come down to a couple hundred votes in the Harrell/Morales race in District 2. Now, in a race that close there’s a lot of coulda shoulda woulda factors that, if they’d only turned out differently, could swing the race. However, in D-2, one of the biggest factors is the single biggest outside group that provides doorbelling and phone-calling volunteers – the Democratic Party group of the 37th (state) Legislative District, which heavily overlaps city council’s District 2.

Both Morales and Harrell are Democratic Party, and 37th LD, members. Whomever won the group’s endorsement also won the automatic promotion of their campaign by the 37th’s precinct captains and other volunteers. The extra votes that generated will almost certainly have exceeded the margin of victory in this race.

So, remember this? When Harrell won that endorsement with tactics that were controversial, unethical, and quite possibly illegal? (Perfunctory SEEC
investigation notwithstanding.)

That little bit of apparent political fraudulence looks like it might be the difference between a progressive majority on city council, and more business as usual. Put another way, a lot of companies and people stand to receive a lot more public largesse over the next two years as a direct result of Harrell’s Chicagoland-style thuggery; the cowardice of the 37th’s executive board in refusing to re-examine the decision; and the timidity of SEEC (which, after all, is a city department that answers to Mayor Ed Murray, whose pliant council majority was at stake) in deciding that most aspects of the incident fell outside its jurisdiction.

For progressive activists looking for lessons in 2017 for the mayoral and two council races – the council incumbents will be Burgess and Gonzales, both Murray allies – understand that as Seattle grows and the monetary stakes continue to rise, these sorts of dirty tricks will only get worse. Count on it. Plan for it. Remember Jonathan Grant and Triad Capital’s blackmail scheme? Never, ever underestimate the lengths to which big business will go, or the ferocity with which it will defend its gravy train.

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