Handicapping the King County Executive Race

I’ve already gone out on a limb by predicting that none of the challengers in the Seattle mayor’s race have the political chops to unseat unpopular yet effective incumbent Greg Nickels.  It’s not an endorsement of Nickels, I just calls ‘em as I sees ‘em.

So why haven’t I made a similar effort to handicap the King County Executive race? Well, because like nearly every other political observer I’ve talked to, I haven’t the foggiest idea who’s gonna eventually come out on top.

What I do know is the that the wet dream scenario for each of the four Democrats would be to face off against Susan Hutchison in November, but while she’s the only Republican, the only woman and the only candidate with name ID north of 30% in the race, I’m still not so sure this scenario is such a sure thing. Name ID and gender won’t do it alone, so if Hutchison expects to make it through the primary she can’t keep ducking interviews and candidate forums. And while I suppose the $58,200 she’s raised thus far is respectable, nearly $45,000 of it has come in the form of double-max donations from the usual suspects (Kemper Freeman, Bruce McCaw, John Stanton, et al), accounting for a stunning average of over $1000 per contributor. Thanks to contribution limits, at some point Hutchison is going to have to expand her base beyond the very, very wealthy if she expects to stay competitive, even in the money race.

Before Hutchison stepped in, the primary was shaping up to be a regional playoff, with Eastside legislators Fred Jarrett and Ross Hunter battling to faceoff in November against the winner of the Seattle bracket contest between Dow Constantine and Larry Phillips. But Hutchison is at the very least a monkey wrench that makes all efforts at prognostication nearly impossible. A fairly even split on one or both of the Democratic brackets works strongly in Hutchison’s favor, but even mildly lopsided outcomes in the regional contests could easily result in an early exit for the former newscaster. We’ll see.

As for the Constantine vs. Phillips, Hunter vs. Jarrett subplots, well, it’s too early to pick discernible favorites.  For a while there I thought Constantine was picking up momentum, but that appears to have stalled at least for the moment. And neither Jarrett nor Hunter have had time to do much campaigning or fundraising since the end of the legislative session.

So while I don’t know how interesting the debate will be, for the moment at least, it looks like an interesting horserace.


  1. 1

    Nindid spews:

    One thing to take into account is Phillips’ strength in South King County. He has spent considerable time and effort in building up his support in the south end and his opponents simply have not.

    Whether or not the institutional support Phillips has there will translate into enough votes to break down the Seattle/Bellevue regional divide remains to be seen, but
    in a race this closely divided it can’t hurt.

  2. 2

    Michael spews:

    Tacoma has two good candidates running for mayor and an interesting city council race.

    Gig Harbor’s got typical suburban boringness going on. ZZZzzz…

  3. 3

    joel connelly spews:

    In order to reach these conclusions, how many candidates’ debates or speeches have you attended?
    The King County Dems’ four-candidate Renton debate?
    The Alki Foundation breakfast forum?
    The 45th district Democrats meeting at which Dow and Larry spoke?
    The Metropolitan Democrats’ noontime candidate forums, the latest featuring Ross Hunter?
    Dow’s kickoff at the Crocodile Cafe?

  4. 4

    Richard Pope spews:

    Joel Connelly definitely has a point. Susan Hutchison is a REPUBLICAN. Why would she show up at a DEMOCRATIC candidates forum?

    With four strong Democratic candidates, and one strong Republican candidates, Hutchison has pretty much a free ride into the general election — even if she somehow manages to really screw up in her campaign. If Hutchison doesn’t screw up, she will probably come in first place in the primary.

    The general election, of course, is a whole different ball game.

    And I wouldn’t break the race down into “Constantine vs. Phillips, Hunter vs. Jarrett subplots”. Even if there were only four Democrats and no Republicans, it would be overly simplistic to think of the general election as Constantine or Phillips getting one position, with the other position either going to Hunter or Jarrett.

  5. 5


    Joel @3,

    I haven’t been to any of the forums yet, so all my reports from them have been second hand. That said, I don’t really think I made any conclusions, other than that Hutchison making it to November is no sure thing if she doesn’t expand her base beyond rich people. I’m just laying out the horserace dynamics, as I see them.

  6. 6


    Richard @4,

    My assumption, in breaking it down into regional brackets, is that Constantine and Phillips have their base in the city, while Hunter and Jarrett have their base in the suburbs. Perhaps I’m wrong, but it seems at least a reasonable assumption.

  7. 7

    manoftruth spews:

    goldstein. were you one of the people asking the da in san diego to shut down a bible study in someones home because they didnt have permit of 15 people or more. it sounds like somwthing you would spend your time on

  8. 8

    Morning Line spews:

    Morning Line to Finish 1st in Primary:

    Hutchison: 3/2
    Constantine: 4/1
    Phillips: 4/1
    Hunter: 9/1
    Jarrett: 9/1

  9. 9

    Rujax! spews:

    7. manoftruth spews:

    goldstein. were you one of the people asking the da in san diego to shut down a bible study in someones home because they didnt have permit of 15 people or more. it sounds like somwthing you would spend your time on

    05/28/2009 at 3:35 pm

    No, dumbass…it was ME…a proud member of the Latino kkk….york, york.

  10. 11

    manoftruth spews:

    rujax, your post doest even make any sense. latinos are christians ad rever vthe bible. only people like goldstein have that much hatred for christians

  11. 12

    Ghengis Khan spews:

    IF you just add up total votes ever received the two county council guys have an advantage. Their districts are bigger; there’s only one member per district; in contrast the state legislators have smaller districts and there are three legislators in each one so they start out not being as well known.

    And it does not make sense to divide it as seattle v. eastside; most of the county, it outside of all 4 districts (county and leg. districts) involved. For each candidate about 80% of the county has never voted for them or even heard of them. Things are a little more fucosed inside Seattle so Constantine and Phillips are known inside Seattle, outside their districts, a bit more than Hunter and Jarett would be known outside their districts, which is to say not at all.

    Things naturally go in a 5-way to 30% for one (the Republican, naturally) and the rest dividing 70% but not equally, usually more like 25-20-14-10.

    I don’t see Philips or Constantine at the low end. They both have significant advantages over Hunter and Jarett. A geographic imagined NCAA slot system disregards this.

  12. 13

    Richard Pope spews:

    Goldy @ 6

    At least 5/8 of King County falls outside Council Districts 4 and 8 and outside Legislative Districts 41 and 48. Even if you take the entire Eastside and the entire City of Seattle, you still have close to 40% of King County remaining.

  13. 14

    Richard Pope spews:

    Genghis Kahn @ 12

    I don’t think the people of the City of Seattle pay any more attention to the King County Council than the folks in the rest of the county do. If anything, Seattle residents pay much less attention to the county council than do suburban residents. Folks in Bellevue know Jane Hague a lot better than folks in Seattle know Larry Phillips or Dow Constantine.

  14. 15

    manoftruth spews:

    goldstein, why dont you move to compton, you love diversity, why dont you live with the homies

  15. 16

    Ghengis Khan spews:

    it’s just a theory or guess.

    My reason is that people in the city of seattle inside the relevant council districts and out, pay more attention to Constantine and Philips, than people outside the city (in our outside the relevant districts) pay to state legislators Hunter and Jarett.

    IOW a dude Capitol Hill outside Constantine or Philips’ districts likely sees their names in the paper whereas a dude in Enumclaw or Federal Way does not see the name of Jarett or Hunter in the paper they read; the federal way or enumclaw dude may even have their whole life focused in tacoma or someplace.

    IOW for Constantine and Phillips their districts are bigger, their zone of name recognition is bigger, and they have higher positions than the 2 state legislators.

    My assumption is neither Jarett nor Hunter is on the council but are legislators, too lazy to look it up. but if they are on the council, my argument goes poof! and I won’t slice off your head and put it on the pile outside the city walls.

    Namaste –

  16. 17

    mark spews:

    Imagine all those council members trying to cheat at the same time. It very well could be a catfight and roger rabbit will finally, finally get hard.

  17. 18

    Eugene spews:

    Difficult to even venture a guess on this race. All have done polling and no one is talking.

  18. 19

    Rujax! spews:

    11. manoftruth spews:

    rujax, your post doest even make any sense. latinos are christians ad rever vthe bible. only people like goldstein have that much hatred for christians

    05/28/2009 at 4:18 pm

    whatever…mr. dumbfuck.

  19. 20

    ElephantsLead spews:

    With 60 plus % name ID I would say Hutchison has a better shot at expanding her base than any of the other life long elected officials. And why would she start attending forums and debates? She had a 20 point lead in the only poll done on the race. Seems to me she is being smart staying quiet.

  20. 21

    Tom Foss spews:

    This is probably a dead letter discussion at this point,but left out of all these discussions other than being inherent in the post itself, is that this is an August 18 primary, and at least in theory, a nonpartisan race. Most likely, we will be lucky to have more than 375,000 or 400,000 votes. Like it or not, Hutchinson is almost certainly a top two and the top vote getter in the primary. So the battle is to win the plurality of the remaining 250,000 votes.

    The city of Seattle will perhaps have a bigger draw than usual from the council and mayoral prmary, too.

    One has to ask- is the Olympia brand going to sell in King Co? That could be an issue for Hunter and Jarrett. At the same time, no one is jumping up and down about the success of King Co governance.

    In the end, watch the most qualified candidate to actually run the county- Phillips. He is also a very good retail candidate, based on what I have seen, leaving a mark on every room he goes to.

    Don’t overestimate regionalism. Primary Dem Voters will be open to Dow and Phillips in the county, and Jarrett and Hunter can appeal to many city Dems, too, who belive the county needs new direction.

    The interesting part of this is that I can make a real argument for everyone except Hutchinson to win the general, and to be a good new fresh leader of the county. Barring scandal, she gets clocked by the “democratic” winner.

    This race speaks to the depth of the Dems in this area, and the paucity of qualified Repubs.