ELECTION 2021: Here’s who the 34th District Democrats endorsed in a marathon meeting

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By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

With 5 weeks to go until primary voting begins, our area’s biggest political organization – the 34th District Democrats – met online last night to make their endorsements. It took almost five hours, even with a decision late in the evening to delay one set of endorsements until next month.

Toward the meeting’s start, chair Carla Rogers acknowledged the event had brought a boost in membership (only those who were members by last month’s meeting could vote), surmising that was mostly because of the King County Executive race. Membership was announced at 548, and the onscreen counter showed attendance last night peaking at close to 400. At the start of the night, group leaders gave a pitch on staying engaged even after the vote.

A few notes first: The 34th legislative district includes West Seattle, White Center, Vashon/Maury Islands, and part of Burien. The group requires candidates to identify themselves as Democrats to be eligible for endorsement nominations, even for nonpartisan positions. To win endorsement, 60 percent support was required; if nobody got that on the first ballot, the top two votegetters went to a second ballot, and if neither got 60 percent, the remaining options were dual endorsement or no endorsement (the latter happened in one big race). There were up to four speeches for each candidate nominated – potentially two in favor (including the candidates themselves if the original nominator gave them the floor), two against.

Rogers said the meeting recording will be posted online within a few days. We watched it all in real time, 6:30 pm until almost 11:30; here are our toplines:

KING COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Before the meeting, it was expected that this would be the major drama of the night – with a longtime local leader vs. a rising star – but in the end, it wasn’t close.

The meeting was 3 1/2 hours old by the time they got to this race past 10 pm. Three-term incumbent Dow Constantine and first-term State Sen. Joe Nguyen, both West Seattle residents, were nominated. Nguyen spoke first; he quickly cited legislative successes and said it was a difficult decision to run for County Executive, but he’s seen a lot of change in the past 12 years and contends the county’s “been treading water for too long.” Homelessness has “only gotten worse”; “inequities have risen dramatically”; three-fourths of the county general fund goes to the “criminal legal system.” “Our future is now,” he declared. “Despite our successes at the state level,” solutions need to be implemented locally. “It takes action and not just words.”

Grace Stiller spoke against endorsing Nguyen, saying she appreciates his legislative work and “really wish(es) he would stay in that position.” Janine Anzalota then spoke for Nguyen, echoing his declaration that local solutions are required to carry out even state-funded initiatives. She said he has “direct executive leadership” and “lived experience” that would serve him well in dealing with the “most vulnerable communities.” Then another speech against endorsing Nguyen, from King ?Conservation District supervisor Chris Porter. He took objection to Nguyen signing a letter in November arguing for loosening some pandemic business restrictions. Porter also took issue with Nguyen’s listing of achievements, saying they are incomplete and there is more work to be done in Olympia. He “has a term that he needs to complete.”

Next, Constantine began by noting that he has been a chair of the group. Against the pandemic, he declared, he took “swift, decisive action” that saved lives. He insisted that “we’re taking bold action against homelessness,” housing thousands, and also taking action with the Best Starts for Kids levy (now up for renewal). He mentioned gun-violence-prevention investments, working to keep kids in school, and reducing youth incarceration (9 in custody today, compared to 90 a day when he took office, he said). He also mentioned working to electrify Metro. He said his parents inspired his commitment to public service.

Speaking against nominating Constantine was Jessie Boucher, who said that a fourth term is too long for Constantine to serve. “It’s time for change.” She mentioned Constantine giving tax money to the Mariners, and the county’s spending on public safety, including building the new youth justice center. Also, health equity: “Dow likes to tout high acccination numbers but fails to mention that the (most-vaccinated) are white.” She also alleged he had set but not met lofty climate goals. “No more platitudes, no more broken promises.”

State Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon then spoke for the incumbent, harkening back to the year 2009, when Constantine first won election to the post. The county spent 90 percent of its budget on public safety back then, he said, and has reduced that. It’s improved transit, with more RapidRide lines on the way, and transit usage increasing. He said Constantine is known in Olympia for his ability “to get things done.” He said Constantine’s action on the pandemic saved lives. He said he is not criticizing his legislative colleague Nguyen, but the county needs Constantine’s “wisdom.” Marlene Allbright then spoke against endorsing Constantine, saying income inequality has risen dramatically during his 12 years in office. Six years after Constantine and then-Seattle mayor Ed Murray declared homelessness was an emergency, it’s only gotten worse, and his vow to end youth homelessness by now has been broken. “The tranquilizing drug of graduality” – a phrase she quoted from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – “is a luxury we cannot afford.” She also noted a recent report of the county’s inequity in contract-granting.

RESULTS: Constantine was endorsed with 70 percent support.

SEATTLE MAYOR: Nominated for endorsement in this no-incumbent race were six of the 15 candidates – Lorena González, Bruce Harrell, Colleen Echohawk, Jessyn Farrell, Lance Randall, Andrew Grant Houston. City Councilmember Lisa Herbold opened the speeches by saying González (who was not there) – a West Seattleite – is a strong “partner” in fighting for this area as well as the city. Harrell said he’s trying to run a “positive” campaign and plugged his “race and data initiative” as he did in last weekend’s 34th DDs-presented candidate forum (WSB coverage here). Echohawk, as she did in that forum, said she’s running to carry out “transformational change” in the city. Farrell got words of support from a former legislative constituent. Randall did not speak but was supported by David Toledo and Phil Tavel, who both said they felt the candidate could solve the city’s persistent problems. Houston declared, “We need change,” and said he’s the best candidate to address crises such as climate and housing.

RESULTS: This went to a second ballot, which under the rules was a runoff between the top two vote-getters on the first ballot, González and Harrell: neither got 60 percent, so there was one more try – dual endorsement or no endorsement. The latter won, 133 to 132, so the 34th DDs are not endorsing anyone in the Seattle Mayor’s race, at least for the primary.

SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL POSITION 8: Nominated for endorsement were two of the 11 candidates, Teresa Mosqueda and Kate Martin. Mosqueda, the incumbent and a West Seattle resident, couldn’t be there because of a family emergency; Fitzgibbon spoke in support of her.

RESULTS: Mosqueda was endorsed, with 73%.

SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL, POSITION 9: Two of the seven candidates, Brianna Thomas and Sara Nelson, were nominated for endorsement. Porter spoke in support of Thomas, a West Seattle resident.

RESULTS: Thomas was endorsed, with 62%.

SEATTLE CITY ATTORNEY: Two of the three candidates, Pete Holmes and Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, were nominated.

RESULTS: Holmes, the incumbent, was endorsed with 70%.

Last night included some non-Seattle races too, from areas that are partly within the 34th boundaries:

KING COUNTY COUNCIL POSITION 5: Nominated for endorsement were incumbent Dave Upthegrove and Dr. Shukri Olow.

RESULTS: This went to a third ballot, after Upthegrove fell just short of 60 percent on the first two, and the end result was 75% support of a dual endorsement for Upthegrove and Olow.

BURIEN CITY COUNCIL: In three separate votes, the endorsees were Jimmy Matta, 90% support; Sarah Moore, 80%; Krystal Marx, 79% support.

BLOCK ENDORSEMENT: Endorsed by acclamation (eligibility for this required running unopposed or with no Democrat opponents) as the night began:

Best Starts for Kids levy renewal
Superior Court Judge Andrea Robertson
Burien City Council candidate Hugo Garcia

DELAYED: The three Seattle Port Commission seats up for a vote this year were originally also on last night’s agenda, but because the meeting was running so long, participants decided to delay those votes to next month’s meeting, July 14th.

ALSO ANNOUNCED: The 34th DDs will have a picnic September 18th at Lincoln Park.

AS FOR THE ELECTION: Official primary-election day is August 3rd; ballots will be mailed about three weeks in advance, and voting starts as soon as you get yours. The full lists of candidates for all positions is on the King County Elections website, along with links to candidates’ websites.

NOT REGISTERED TO VOTE? Here’s how.

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