This column was due before the election was certified. However, not much changed from what we knew on election night, as the ballots had slowed to a trickle.
The main message from many residents throughout King County — from Des Moines with a pro-police slate, to Federal Way where the incumbents and another slate each supported adding more police, to Kent’s mayoral race, where police support may have been the key to winning — the public message was the same: More police protection.
Even some of the close races had not shown much change in the past two weeks. Incumbents still won most of the races as did those candidates who were able to raise more money than their competitors. Most cities such as Bellevue, Mercer Island, Kent, Auburn and Renton won’t change much in their policies.
In addition to public safety, the biggest news was the low voter turnout. Auburn, Kent, Federal Way and Renton with 223,889 registered voters all had a turnout around 30% in each city, which means only one in three voters actually voted, which is very disappointing. But the turnout might be related to the top of the ticket in the larger communities.
Most cities in the area tend to be council-manager forms of government. Of the strong mayor form, only Kent had a serious mayoral race that the incumbent, Dana Ralph, won easily with over 68% to challenger Dawn Bennett’s 31%. Renton’s mayoral position was not up this year, and Federal Way had an incumbent, Jim Ferrell, against a perennial candidate, with the incumbent again winning comfortably. Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus was running unopposed. On the other hand, Seattle was at about 55% turnout with an exciting mayoral race, although Bruce Harrell also won big with a 58%-42% margin over Lorena Gonzalez.
The Auburn, Renton and Kent city councils will remain pretty much the same, so don’t expect major policy changes. Renton City Councilmember Carmen Rivera initially looked like she could be in trouble as she was behind election night through the next three days. However, she pulled ahead on the fourth day and has held steady around 52%.
Federal Way is where there might be some policy changes, as a slate had run together with common goals. On election night it appeared that three incumbents might lose as Hoang Tran, Leandra Craft and Greg Baruso were all trailing despite their support for more police officers. However, Tran pulled ahead during the second week of returns and has continued to hold his lead. With daily votes now down to two to three ballots per day, it seemed unlikely enough votes remain to force a recount, prior to certification. Also, since Baruso and Craft were appointed incumbents, they have already said their goodbyes — and Jack Walsh and Erica Norton will be sworn in early. Incumbent Martin Moore had lost in the primary, so a majority of the city council could be new, which is rare in this election, although some council members who were not up for election are thought to support some of the slate’s policy views. Also joining the Federal Way City Council will be former councilmember Jack Dovey, who was on the council before the change to strong mayor form of government.
There has already been speculation about what the Federal Way slate might propose. Their original plan appeared to have an interest in returning to the council-manger form, but it’s hard to argue with Ferrell’s 64% victory. One member of the slate was also elected to the school board, so we may see proposals at the city and school district.
The one place in King County where the council held mostly steady, but where we will see change, is in Burien. Burien city manager and former Federal Way Police Chief Brian Wilson announced he will leave in January, although he hasn’t been specific on his plans.
Even the race for King County Executive did not live up to expectations as Dow Constantine was easily reelected behind a huge warchest.
But there were some upsets. In King County Council District 3, Sarah Perry defeated Kathy Lambert, 56%-44%, as Democrats increased their margin by one. But after her colleagues said Lambert’s campaign flyer was racist, it may not have been an upset. The most notable upsets were in the three Port Commissioner races as two incumbents lost. Stephanie Bowman lost to Hamdi Mohamed, 46%-54%, and Peter Steinbrueck lost to Toshiko Grace Hasegawa by about the same margin. Only incumbent Ryan Calkins won at 74%. Another race that garnered a lot of attention was the race for Seattle City Attorney with the incumbent squeezed out of the middle in the primary. Ann Davison won by talking about law and order as a Republican.
In the smaller towns and cities, they take their voting more seriously. Yarrow Point’s turnout was almost 52% as was the town of Hunts Point. The town of Beaux Arts Village only has 268 registered voters, so community peer pressure may play a role. The city of Lake Forest Park had the highest percent at 57%, although Mercer Island held the highest percent on election night and continued that throughout the daily counts and finished above 52%. In one of the smaller communities, each candidate was unopposed and each got 119 votes, save one who had two write-ins against him rather than the 119.
In Seattle, they will be watching the recall of councilmember Kshama Sawant. In the suburbs, attention will turn to the opening of the state Legislature and city council candidates who lost election will plan for two years from now.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.