Seattle voters split down stark political lines in early primary election results

Aug 4, 2021, 5:58 AM | Updated: 10:54 am
Ballots, election day, Seattle primary...
A ballot drop box in Seattle. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

With the first round of primary election results in, Seattle voters put much of their support behind known quantities in the race for mayor, while a sharp political divide has taken shape in other races.

See all local election results

In early returns for the mayoral race, Bruce Harrell and Lorena Gonzalez have carved out comfortable leads over the rest of the field. Harrell served on city council for over a decade before opting not to run for reelection in 2019. Gonzalez currently serves as council president.

Further on down the ballot, few candidates appear to have made headway with voters while campaigning on a message that Seattle needs new leadership. To wit, none of Colleen Echohawk, Jessyn Farrell, or Andrew Grant Houston — all of whom cast themselves as local political outsiders — have garnered more than 9% of votes with roughly 18% of ballots counted.

Seattle City Council

A similar narrative is playing out in Teresa Mosqueda’s bid for reelection to her at-large city council seat, having already gathered 54% of votes. By all appearances, she seems likely to coast into the general election to face either civil engineer Kenneth Wilson or perennial council candidate Kate Martin.

For the other at-large council seat up for grabs, Seattle voters are split down stark ideological lines. On one side, Fremont Brewery co-founder Sara Nelson (42% of votes) has garnered support from older, more conservative (at least by Seattle standards) establishment figures, including former Councilmembers Richard Conlin (on the council from 1998-2013) and Heidi Wills (2000-2003), as well as local real estate CEO Martin Selig and the Seattle Times Editorial Board.

On the other side is local activist and formal mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver (34%), running on a platform to divest the city from the police department, end homeless encampment sweeps, guarantee free mental health care to all Seattle residents, and double down on Green New Deal policies. Oliver has also scored endorsements from prominent local progressives like City Councilmember Tammy Morales, County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, and state Rep. Tarra Simmons, while donors to their campaign include activist and former council candidate Shaun Scott and critical race theory scholar Edwin Lindo.

The 8-point gap between Nelson and Oliver will be one to watch as more votes are counted this week too. In recent Seattle elections, progressive candidates similar to Oliver have frequently seen late surges once ballots turned in later get counted.

Seattle City Attorney

A race that appeared early on to feature 12-year incumbent City Attorney Pete Holmes running unopposed has since morphed into a scenario that could end up with him not even making it to the general election in November.

Holmes (32% of votes so far) sits in a virtual tie with Ann Davison (34%) and Nicole Thomas-Kennedy (32%), both of whom registered to run just before the city’s late-May filing deadline.

Similar to the council race between Nelson and Oliver, the field of candidates for city attorney runs the gamut on the political spectrum.

WA Secretary of State encourages ‘ride along’ with local election officials

The sum total is a three-way battle between Seattle’s existing political establishment in Holmes, a candidate backed by a local PAC that supported several prominent Republican campaigns during the 2020 election cycle in Davison, and Thomas-Kennedy, whose “abolitionist” platform seeks to stop prosecuting low-level misdemeanors, defund the police department, and invest in restorative justice policies.

With less than a fifth of votes tallied, this is shaping up to be the most unsettled — and potentially most consequential — race in Seattle so far during this primary, with a wide range of outcomes depending on who moves on to the general.

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Seattle voters split down stark political lines in early primary election results