Endorsements are coming in fast and furious for the Council election races

I’ve been trying to stay out of the election fray, but I will jump in momentarily to point out that with the primary election about six weeks away, organizations have begun announcing endorsements. Just in the past 36 hours, we’ve heard announcements from the 43rd District Democrats, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, and the Martin Luther King County Labor Council. There are some surprises.

Marilyn Strickland and Markham McIntyre announcing the Chamber of Commerce’s candidate endorsements

Tuesday night, the 43rd District Democrats held their endorsements caucus meeting. In the end, they voted not to endorse candidates in any of the four City Council races that overlap with the 43rd Legislative District: Council districts 3, 4, 6 and 7.  According to the rules of their endorsement process, after candidates are nominated, registered members can submit a ballot voting to endorse any number of nominated candidates or “No Endorsement.” In the first round, if no candidates get more than 60%, then all candidates who received at least 40% move on to a second-round “reconsideration” ballot, where once again they must receive 60% and if no candidates do so then the result is officially “no endorsement.”

In the District 3 balloting, Zachary DeWolf and incumbent Kshama Sawant topped the balloting with 46% and 42% respectively. In the reconsideration round, DeWolf drew 55% and Sawant 45%. Sawant has been playing spoiler in similar caucuses in other legislative districts, where only registered Democrats may be nominated; her supporters have been voting “no endorsement,” and declaring victory if they prevent any other candidate from gaining an endorsement. In the 43rd, the bylaws only require nominees to be registered democrats in partisan races, so Sawant qualified For an endorsement for the nonpartisan City Council race; nevertheless, many of her supporters cheered when the “no endorsement” final result was announced last night.

In the District 4 ballot, Emily Myers and Shaun Scott made it through to a reconsideration vote with 58% and 54% respectively in the first round; the next-closest candidate was Alex Pedersen with 25%. In the reconsideration vote, Myers just missed an endorsement, gaining 59.2% of the votes (Scott had 52.6%).

In the District 6 ballot, Jay Fathi drew 41% of the votes in the first round and was the only candidate to qualify for the reconsideration vote; however, he could only manage 47% in the second round.

In the District 7 ballot, Andrew Lewis received 56% of the votes in the first round and was the only candidate to move on; but only drew 53% in the second round. It’s worth noting that the crowd was already beginning to dwindle at this point, and there were significant delays between initial votes, completing the ballot counts, and reconsideration votes — despite tireless and dedicated work by the ballot counters.

The 34th District Democrats have already announced their endorsements for this election cycle, throwing their support behind Lisa Herbold in District 1.  And the King County Young Democrats have also announced endorsements:

  • Seattle City Council District 1 – Lisa Herbold
  • Seattle City Council District 2 – Tammy Morales
  • Seattle City Council District 2 – Phyllis Porter
  • Seattle City Council District 3 – Zachary DeWolf
  • Seattle City Council District 3  – Ami Nguyen
  • Seattle City Council District 4 – Emily Myers
  • Seattle City Council District 5 – Debora Juarez
  • Seattle City Council District 6 – Dan Strauss
  • Seattle City Council District 7 – Andrew Lewis

Wednesday morning, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s PAC, known as CASE, released its slate of endorsements in the City Council at a press conference:

  • Seattle City Council Position 1: Phil Tavel
  • Seattle City Council Position 2: Mark Solomon
  • Seattle City Council Position 3: Egan Orion
  • Seattle City Council Position 4: Alex Pedersen
  • Seattle City Council Position 5: Debora Juarez
  • Seattle City Council Position 6: Jay Fathi and Heidi Wills
  • Seattle City Council Position 7: Michael George and Jim Pugel

The Chamber likes to remind people that it has 2400 member businesses which collectively employ 750,000 people (and 80% of those member businesses, they say, are small businesses with less than 150 employees). CASE Executive Director Markham McIntyre claimed, “This isn’t really about ideology, it’s about results and that the Chamber is looking for a City Council “less focused on ideological rhetoric,” but rather one “that gets back to basics.”  “This Council has really broken trust with the voters,” McIntyre said.

Markham confirmed that all of the endorsed candidates sought the Chamber’s endorsement. This is notable because with the current state of Seattle’s politics, both candidates and voters see a Chamber of Commerce endorsement as either a badge of honor or a badge of shame. District 3 candidate Zachary DeWolf, for example, chose not to be interviewed by the Chamber for its endorsement according to McIntyre.

McIntyre said that CASE decided its endorsements by commissioning an interview panel for each district composed of both Chamber members and neighborhood members; McIntyre indicated today that he would be open to releasing the names of the people on their panels, but has yet to do so in response to my request.

McIntyre said that the Chamber’s top issues in this election are:

  • homelessness;
  • affordable housing;
  • transportation;
  • seeing the Council do a better job of understanding the needs of all employers, small and large;
  • public safety, including the needs of their member companies’ employees. McIntyre said that the city needs a City Council that “supports the police officers,” though he was evasive about which of the current Council members in his view didn’t support the officers (other than Sawant who has made her views on SPD well known), and he was equally vague about exactly what it means for a Council member to be “supportive.”

CASE has raised $800,000 to-date for independent expenditures, but McIntyre was noncommittal about whether they had a specific strategy on how to spend it during the primary. He and Chamber President and CEO Marilyn Strickland said that it would depend upon the fundraising and spending patterns of the candidates they have endorsed. Strickland said to expect them to get more active once ballots are mailed out. “When the ballots drop is when things start to get hot.”

The Seattle chapter of the Sierra Club has also released its endorsements:

  • District 2: Tammy Morales
  • District 3: Kshama Sawant
  • District 4: Shaun Scott
  • District 5: Debora Juarez
  • District 6: Heidi Wills
  • District 7: Michael George

This represents a further lurch to the left for the environmental organization. Wills sits on the Executive Committee of the Sierra Club’s Washington arm, so their endorsement of her is no surprise.

Finally, last night the King County Labor Council voted to endorse Zachary DeWolf in District 3, passing over Sawant. Their endorsement of DeWolf adds to their previously-announced endorsements in other races:

  • District 1: Lisa Herbold
  • District 4: Emily Myers
  • District 5: Debora Juarez
  • District 7: Andrew Lewis

The Labor Council also held a candidate forum last night for District 6 candidates, so expect a vote on endorsements in that race in the near future.

In addition, the Seattle PI is reporting that three other key local unions, SEIU 775, the Ironworkers, and the Teamsters, are also endorsing DeWolf over Sawant.

Behind the scenes, Council member Teresa Mosqueda, a stalwart labor activist, has been campaigning heavily for DeWolf — and against Sawant. Both she and Council member Lorena Gonzalez, neither of whom are up for re-election this year, endorsed DeWolf the day he announced his candidacy.  More surprisingly, Mosqueda sent a strongly-worded letter to the executive board of the King County Labor Council denouncing Sawant in very specific terms:

From: Teresa Mosqueda 
Date: June 14, 2019 at 12:09:56 PM PDT
To: Dale Bright <dale@laborerslocal440.com>, Nicole Grant <nicole@mlkclc.org>
Cc: Katie Garrow <Katie@MLKCLC.org>
Subject: Mosqueda Letter re District 3

Dear Union Sisters & Brothers on the MLK Labor Executive Board:

Thank you once again for all your time, energy and resources that you put into electing strong union supporters and working family candidates. It continues to be an incredible honor to serve the City of Seattle, and at every turn include stronger labor protections for workers and our unions. Thank you again for all you did to support my campaign and for all you continue to do. I understand that there is a meeting coming up on Wednesday to consider the candidates in District 3. I offer this background for your consideration on why I chose to endorse Zachary DeWolf for Seattle City Council District 3, I was an early supporter and spoke about my support for him at his campaign kick-off this week. 

I did not come to the decision to support someone other than Councilmember Sawant easily. Like many of you prior to being on council, I have stood on picket lines and been at rallies that Sawamt has supported. I supported her with my own financial contributions and held a fundraiser for her with my family and friends last election. Since being on council, there have been now three times in which I have approached Sawant – in Dec 2017 after my election, during budget in Nov 2018, and again this spring in Feb 2019 – about working collaboratively together since we are both union members and agree on at least ninety percent of policy, yet she continues to speak publicly in opposition to the policies I am working on, then ends up voting yes. This has occurred on the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and building housing at Fort Lawton, to just name two recent examples. Sawant’s responded that she will not work with me to strategize because I work with the other “corporate” council members and she considers me and my colleagues “establishment” – which is an insult to all we’ve done to get more union members and non-establishment candidates like me in office. My position is that I can work with others and not compromise on my values and principles. I underscored the importance of getting to a majority vote to actually pass public policy to support workers. She disagreed and said that wasn’t her goal, and found it counter to the “movement” to work with my colleagues. That is not how we get law changed, and changing the law is why I am on council – to improve policies to favor more workers. 

I strongly encouraged Zachary DeWolf to pursue his interest in running for City Council. I am eager and ready to serve on the City Council with DeWolf to lift up union values, protect workers, and invest policies that create good union jobs in our local economy. DeWolf is currently driving crucial work on the Seattle School Board to make sure all schools are built with union labor. Working since October, in partnership with Seattle’s construction trade unions, DeWolf worked hard to break through institutional barriers to ultimately bring Community Workforce Agreements to Seattle Public Schools. He secured a letter from Superintendent Reykdal in support, and this will be the first time a public school district will will have a CWA in Washington State. Last Wednesday, after months of this collaborative work with the unions, the CWA got voted out of committee, with full board action and votes expected on June 26th and July 10th. Further, as a School Board Member, DeWolf was fierce in his commitment to teachers and the union during the adoption of the new science curriculum by ensuring that after 30 years, the voices of educators and teachers, and their expertise be centered in the public policy making along with students. 

DeWolf has the opportunity to be a representative of District 3, including Capitol Hill, at an important time for Seattle’s LGBTQ community. He served as President of the Capitol Hill Community Council, established the Seattle Renters’ Commission, pushed the law requiring landlords to provide voter registration materials to all new renters. He has shown he knows how to change policy and use a bullhorn. I am asking you to support DeWolf as a progressive pro-labor Democrat who will stand with workers, unions, our most vulnerable and he will work with me on council to advance public policy to change the law for long-term benefits to the members of the labor movement. With an unpredictable council after the 2019 election, I need colleagues who will be fierce in their commitment to unions, and collaborative in their approach to working with us beyond the rallies to actually pass public policy. I understand fully that not everyone has to have the same tactics to create policy change, but we don’t have time for efforts that undermine our priorities and distract from our goals.

There’s going to be a lot of change at Seattle City Council this year and we want a Council that will help grow unions, do the hard work together with us to tackle our most serious problems including creating stronger labor protections, building housing and childcare, protecting industrial jobs, while treating our unions and their elected leaders with respect and furthering alliances between labor and community. DeWolf is a necessary part of that team. I appreciate your time, your hard work, and all that you do to represent your members. It is with great respect for your process and vote that I reach out to offer this background and humbly as you to support Zachary DeWolf when you consider the MLK Labor D3 endorsement. As always, here to serve you, so please feel free to reach out with any questions or need for more information. Thank you once again. 

Your Sister,

Teresa Mosqueda 


While Sawant’s campaign site  lists endorsements from several other union groups, nevertheless these are high-profile defections from Sawant’s base of support — particularly the powerful SEIU 775 and the Labor Council. It will be interesting to see in the coming weeks what this portends for endorsements from the rest of her allies in organized labor. David Kroman at Crosscut reports on more of the back-and-forth behind last night’s endorsement of DeWolf.

A few take-aways:

  • While Juarez isn’t out-fundraising all of her competitors, she seems to be cruising through the endorsements phase, picking them up across the board including business, labor, and the Young Democrats.
  • Zachary DeWolf’s campaign appears to be picking up steam. Having jumped into the race late, he is lagging in fundraising, but the key endorsements (and near-endorsements) this week might help him.
  • Likewise, Emily Myers’s campaign is drawing attention — and endorsements.
  • The fact that the endorsements are split, even among the Democratic caucuses, suggests that the “get out the vote” ground game will be important in determining who makes it through to the general election. As a reminder, the top two vote-getters in the August primary will move on to the November ballot.