The fire this time

Last week, I was actually invited to a house party for Barack Obama. Twenty freakin’ months before the election. Out of curiosity and loyalty to the friends who were hosting it, I went. It was a great discussion. But amidst all the earnest expressions of Seattle liberalism, one topic remained completely, curiously absent.

Before Barack or anyone else matters, we’ve got an election here, this year.

You would never know it from either the headlines or the local political chatter, much of which already seems obsessed with next year’s presidential race. But we have five city council seats, plus four seats on county council, two Port of Seattle commissioners, four Seattle School Board members, lots of suburban positions, and a host of ballot measures, including some critical transportation votes, coming up this summer and fall. Yes, summer; the primary has been moved back to August (when fewer people will be paying attention), and the filing deadline for candidates is now June 8, exactly two months away.

Why hasn’t there been more attention? Well, local media never does a very good job of covering local elections. (Quick: When was the last time you saw a Port of Seattle race discussed on TV? And why not? It’s a countywide election for a position that will oversee $442 million in public revenue in 2007.) But beyond that, in the marquee races -– the citywide votes for five Seattle City Council members -– 2007 is not shaping up so far as a very competitive year.

Of the five seats, incumbents are defending four; Peter Steinbrueck is leaving his seat open as he moves on to waterfront advocacy and, perhaps, a 2009 mayoral bid. Four candidates have already announced for Steinbrueck’s vacated position, but there’s a distinct lack of drama elsewhere. Only one candidate has announced against any of the four council members running for reelection (Tim Burgess, running against David Della). The other three incumbents –- Jean Godden, Tom Rasmussen, and appointee Sally Clark –- are thus far unopposed.

At first glance this seems mystifying. There’s plenty of neighborhood dissatisfaction over the way Seattle is being run, and the way its middle and working class residents are being run off. And the incumbents are beatable. Clark was appointed to her seat in 2006 and has never run any electoral race, let alone a citywide one; she has no electoral base and has done little in her year on the council. Godden is in her first term, having won in 2003 on her name recognition from years as a local gossip columnist. She’s famously clueless on civic issues and has done little beyond attending all the right parties and keeping a seat warm -– if that –- in her four years on council. And Rasmussen is also in his first term (as is Della). Three council incumbents lost in 2003. Why isn’t anyone stepping forward to challenge incumbents this year?

More pointedly, why aren’t any progressives running? Steinbrueck’s departure leaves only one council member (President Nick Licata) who consistently stands out from the dull, establishment consensus that is the Seattle City Council: all good liberal Democrats, tolerant on social issues and always quick with a corporate handout. Two of the challengers for Steinbrueck’s open seat, Venus Velasquez and Bruce Harrell, portray themselves as progressive, but both are very much part of establishment Seattle. (The other two announced candidates for the seat are moderate Republican Jim Nobles and the execrable John Manning, who resigned a council seat a decade ago after his third domestic violence complaint.) Progressives are losing one of their only two strong allies on council, and it’s been years since there’s been a credible progressive challenger campaigning for city council.

There are any number of reasons for this state of affairs, but the most obvious is money. It takes a lot of it to run a citywide race for Seattle’s exclusively at-large city council seats. As of late March, Rasmussen had already raised a whopping $112,501 for his reelection bid; Godden was not far behind at $100,629. By contrast, Velasquez, the first to announce for Steinbrueck’s seat when he withdraw from the race (and the most progressive of his would-be successors to date), leads her rivals in donations with “only” $27,275. Incumbency is clearly a major advantage this year, and any successful challenger had better spend most of her or his time raising money between now and August.

That said, it can be done: Della, Godden, and Rasmussen all beat incumbents in 2003. There’s still two months before the filing deadline. Godden and Clark in particular could be vulnerable to a well-organized challenge. Goodness knows that as Seattle densifies the council needs principled members who will listen to the neighborhoods and don’t sell out to every developer-backed scheme that comes along. There’s still time. Anyone willing to step up to the plate?

Comments

  1. 1

    spews:

    “…the council needs principled members who will listen to the neighborhoods and don’t sell out to every developer-backed scheme that comes along.”

    I agree with an awful lot of what you say except for the punch-line, above, which sounds like a good sound bite but I wonder if it has much real meaning. Could you offer some examples? Where is the Council & Mayor sacrificing “the neighborhoods” — what an odious term that is: can’t you speak of “neighbors?” rather than more group-think? — and “selling-out” to developers? What are some specifics?

  2. 2

    headless lucy spews:

    If you can somehow get on the ballot and your last name is the same as a famous product, you can get a lot of votes.

    For instance: Ed Wurlitzer vs Joe Wozniaski. I pick a note Wurlitzer.

    Melvin Jones vs Wynona Chevrolet. Chevrolet by a length.

    Mary Waysmith vs Keith Trojan. Trojan by 300.

    Steve Sharansky vs Stefan Sharkansky. I don’t know. “Stefan” sounds a little pretentious and foreign. I’ll have to pick good ole’ Steve.

  3. 3

    cinco spews:

    I’d rather eat poison than have to pay attention to Seattle city politics. Is there really any difference between Godden and Licata? Only in the eyes of those who stare at this shit all day.
    The assholes who really deserve the spotlight are the local legislators who deserted the people on the viaduct.

  4. 4

    Puddybud Now has a Doppelganger spews:

    The telling comment: “There’s plenty of neighborhood dissatisfaction over the way Seattle is being run, and the way its middle and working class residents are being run off.”

    Moonbat! politics don’t help the real working stiffs. In fact it chases them out of Seattle.

  5. 5

    Mark The Redneck KENNEDY spews:

    I’ve got some real bad news for you marxist moonbats… I just heard an interview with Newt. The guy is a fucking genius and a TRUE CONSERVATIVE. He will MOP THE FUCKING FLOOR with whatever empty skirt you guys nominate. It won’t even be fucking close. He’ll win every state.

  6. 6

    Mark The Redneck KENNEDY spews:

    Just wondering… are the record cold temps in the nation right now proof of global warming?

    I thought so…

  7. 8

    Media Critic spews:

    Geov – you have posted absolute blather.

    Dictum – not unique to Seattle – all incumbents have political advantage unless they have made a big mistake – as in Manning beating his wife. A story when you were in journalism, you were late in reporting.

    Sally Clark is your Lesbian sister, remember? Are you still Gay? She has no constituency, huh, try progressive women, and women in general , and gays and lesbians, and all the people who find her intelligent, bright and finishing a great beginning. Great future, no silly expectations of the newbie.

    You sound sour, and locked in the past and out of touch.

    The city is going thru a massive rebuild, and that change is not something imposed on us by the council but a part of change and increases in population and a strong economy and vast investments of labor, capital and ideas.

    Downtown is thriving as I think you noted elsewhere……but not because of you and your negative – no no no – cabal.
    Lockstep old hippies are a drag in 2007.

    Venus can not be elected. She has angered many sectors of the community in just a few short years, big mouth and bad attitude. Send her to charm school, Geov.

    Your buddies at the Stranger might endorse Manning again, after all, he has changed……

  8. 9

    Mark The Redneck KENNEDY spews:

    Geez… for all the “mandate” that you marxists got in November, you’re coming up kinda short in the results department.

    Stretch and the girlz promised that the first hunnerd days would generate big changes. How many of their kook ideas have become law?

    Answer: Zero. None. Zip. Nada…

    I’d really like to encourage you to keep running against President Bush. You gotta knock him down so he can’t get reelected for the third time. Good stratery. Keep it up…

  9. 10

    RightEqualsStupid spews:

    Now that’s funny. MTR – also a person who goes back on his debts, predicts Newt The Hoot will be the Publican nominee.

    PLLLLLEEEEAAAASSSSEE let it be Newt. Listen you baby-raping asshole. Newt is dead last in every rightie poll. Did your parents have any kids that lived?

  10. 11

    Don Joe spews:

    Welshing Redneck,

    Re global warming, as far as I understand it, yes, record cold temperatures in one hemisphere would be entirely consistent with global warming. ‘Course I’m not an expert, so why don’t you ask an expert? Oh, that’s right. You’ve already reached a conclusion regardless of what the science says. God forbid you should undermine such a daunting article of faith.

    As for the first 100 days, you’ll have to forgive the Democrats for having underestimated the full breadth and depth of the graft and corruption in Chimpy’s administration or how much time it would take to conduct a proper investigation into all of it.

  11. 12

    spews:

    Geov…

    We have met the enemy and he is us!

    Seattle lacks media, local political officers (ward healers), or any of the other tools needed to breed politicians.

    Look at the freaking School Committee. Habitually occupied by incompetents who can not get a job, eager PTSA spouses, or ideologues. Who else can AFFORD to run for this nearly full time unpaid position?

    Look at the tweedley dumb tweedley dee candidates for Superintendent. Two, so uninteresting sycophants are a tribute to a school board with no leadership. And Seattle’s media? No comments, no interviews … oh yeh one of them once visited South Africa in a jaunt. No doubt he will start a program jointly with the zoo.

    The two candidates for Steinbrueck’s seat would each have trouble getting a job selling popcorn for Microsoft. Well, that is an exaggeration, but based on the coverage in the Seattle papers all I seemed to learn is that one of them has the same last name as a famous Spanish painter and the other seems to have the good taste to have one Japanese and on African American parent. Hmmm smells like racism to me! Reallyy!!!! Why in hell aren’t the media outraged?

    Back to Pogo
    Where are all the folks from the DL??? I can think of five or ten folks there who are wonderfully more qualified for these than the Council. Geov .. howsa bout YOU??? Goldy????

    Maybe it is money.

    Maybe it is the f’d up media. Where is Crosscut on this issue?

  12. 13

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I’ve been hearing this “neighborhoods” meme for 30 years — everyone runs on it, and nobody does anything about it. Downtown business interests have City Hall in a death grip; always have, always will. Where do you think that campaign money comes from? Not residents struggling to pay mortgages and property taxes. The best we can hope for in the City Council races is that Manning gets repudiated (again) — soul-satisfying, but meaningless.

    Why do we have so many Republicans on the County Council in the state’s most Democratic county? Why do we even have one? Let’s hope voters rectify this situation. Keep the chimpanzees and orangutans in Woodland Park where they belong.

    The entire port commission should be voted out of office! Every damn one of ‘em! Nearly every other port in the country is self-supporting. Why the fuck are homeowners paying property taxes to support these leeches? Especially considering the crap they spend our money on? Fire them all! Get the hot tar ready, and back up the truck full of pillows — we’ll need those feathers. Go to a lumber yard and get some rails. It’s long past time to “reform” the port commission in a meaningful way (and I don’t mean by electing Richard Pope): http://tinyurl.com/2ht7k9

    If they stick a $4.4 billion concrete-pontoon bridge in the regional transportation package, I’m a lead-pipe “Hell no!” vote. I wouldn’t pay Frank Blethen $10.00 for something to wrap garbage in, and I won’t pay WSDOT $4.4 billion for a bridge that ought to cost 1/6th of that.

  13. 14

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @3 Godden is a joke. The only possible rationale for her occupying that seat is that she’s harmless, and that might not be the case with a replacement.

  14. 15

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @5 Let us know when your fucking genius figures out how to keep his pants zipped. Meanwhile, pay your fucking gambling debt!

  15. 17

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @6 Yes. But I won’t explain the science to you, because it’s too complicated for a peawit like you to comprehend. Just pay your fucking gambling debt!

  16. 18

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @9 “Answer: Zero. None. Zip. Nada… ”

    What do you expect, with 49 obstructionists in the Senate, and another one in the White House?

  17. 19

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @9 (continued) When gas costs $30 a gallon and the minimum wage is still stuck at $5.15 because of Republican obstructionists, it won’t be safe for Republicans to go out on the streets, because of the armed revolutionary mobs.

  18. 20

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @12 Of course it’s money! There are several million truck drivers, waitresses, and plumbers who are more qualified to run this country than George W. Bush. But you can’t run for president on waitress tips or 20 cents a mile for 12-hour workdays.

  19. 21

    God spews:

    “I’ve got some real bad news for you marxist moonbats… I just heard an interview with Newt. The guy is a fucking genius and a TRUE CONSERVATIVE. He will MOP THE FUCKING FLOOR with whatever empty skirt you guys nominate. It won’t even be fucking close. He’ll win every state.” — Mark the Whatever

    Sometimes I make mistakes. I’m so sorry. But look at the bright side: This Mark guy is so full of himself that he would never consider the possibility that he knows not what he speaks of.

    Too bad. He’ll be eating a lot of crow in November.

  20. 22

    Media Critic spews:

    16 – yes Thor. Despite Geov’s lock step parroting of the no no no no crowd, Sally had to be elected last fall to fill the term she was appointed to.

    Now she is running for a new term, four years….. she is a winner despite not being part of some old communist league group or some such which would make her progressive for Geov…..in fact as an avowed Lesbian Feminist….she might be the most rad of rads on the council in recent memory…..if you can set sexism aside….of course Licata lived in the C. Hill White House Commune for years….very cheap rent… I guess that counts a lot to some.

  21. 23

    Mark The Redneck KENNEDY spews:

    Seattlekyke – I should have fucking known….

    I checked out the Stephen Schwartz website. I should have fucking known you spent a lifetime on the public dole living off The Producers.

    Did you do any research on how parasites live?

  22. 24

    Mark The Redneck KENNEDY spews:

    Is there anybody on this board that has even a fleeting familiarity with the concepts of “billable hours” or “meeting a payroll”. Or are you all fucking gummint parasites living off The Producers.

    You all make me fucking sick.

  23. 25

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @24 I don’t see what all your hootin’ and hollerin’ is about, Redneck, ‘cuz if anyone who’s living off “producers” isn’t living off YOU. The only thing YOU produce is hot air and bad debt.

  24. 28

    Don Joe spews:

    He believes he’s a producer; he just can’t figure out whether he’s Nathan Lane or Zero Mostel.

  25. 29

    eugene spews:

    Times like these, I wish I wasn’t moving back to CA in June. Otherwise I’d definitely make a run for the council. I know, I’m just some nobody, but at this point it’s better than nothing. Seattle city politics are totally and completely dysfunctional. Nobody is standing up to Nickels, who has been a complete failure as mayor. The city has lots of problems but nobody to address them.

  26. 30

    Fred spews:

    13- We have so many Republicans on the County Council because unlike the City Council, it is divided into districts, not all of which are Democrat-leaning. Kathy Lambert’s District 3, for example consists of suburbs and rural, Unincorporated King County. As long as there are districts, there will be both Republicans and Democrats on the council.

  27. 31

    Truth_Teller spews:

    Geov – the answer is easy. Get local radio star and progressive blogger Goldy to run!

    Run, Goldy, run!!!

  28. 32

    spews:

    Fred is correct, up to a point. The way that King County Council districts have been drawn pretty much guarantees a number of Republican seats.

    However, that number should not be four. Council District 6, consisting basically of Kirkland, Bellevue, and Mercer Island, is currently represented by Republican Jane Hague. This is an area that has rapidly become almost solidly Democratic in the state legislature, that votes Democratic in federal and statewide elections. Most of Council District 6 is in the 8th Congressional District — the Democratic portion of the 8th CD — and the rest is in Jay Inslee’s solid-blue 1st CD.

    So why is this District represented by a Republican? More to Geov’s point, why is there no Democrat running against Hague in Council District 6? No County Councilmember up for reelection in 2007 currently has an opponent, but the other three (Gossett, Phillips, Constantine) are in completely safe Democratic seats. District 6 should be a Democratic seat, or at the very least a battleground. Yet the party appears to be surrendering the seat without a peep.

    This is even more baffling than the absence of a Democratic opponent for County Prosecutor Norm Maleng last year. I mean, that’s a race where Seattle voters had a voice. You’d think that, even if they believed that Maleng was unassailable (which, based on his decision not to prosecute fellow GOPer Lori Sotelo for her egregious perjury on voter challenges in 2005, I’d dispute), half a dozen Democrats would have filed simply to gain name-recognition for the future. I wrote in the name Bill Sherman, on both the primary and general election ballots, and I know I’m not the only one. We were crying for a candidate or candidates to run against Maleng, but no one did.

    We have a Republican squatter in what should be a Democratic Council position, yet there are no Democrats trying to unseat her. It makes no sense at all.

  29. 33

    BT spews:

    “And the incumbents are beatable. Clark was appointed to her seat in 2006 and has never run any electoral race, let alone a citywide one”>

    Geov, your bitching about the lack of attention to local politics would carry more weight if you weren’t clueless: “appointee Sally Clark” stood for election less than six months ago.