How wealthy strongholds helped deliver Seattle’s 2021 election to moderate candidates

Nov 30, 2021, 11:55 AM | Updated: 12:00 pm
Seattle election...
Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood. (M.O. Stevens, Wikimedia Commons)
(M.O. Stevens, Wikimedia Commons)

Seattle’s 2021 general election results have long since been decided, but there’s plenty to glean from recently-released data that provides a broader picture of how moderate candidates prevailed over their more progressive counterparts.

Red-lining, race, and wealth continue to form borders between Seattle voters

In the race for mayor, Bruce Harrell took nearly 59% of votes, driven largely by a virtual clean sweep of wealthy neighborhoods along Seattle’s eastern and western coastlines. That saw him prevail over challenger Lorena Gonzalez in areas like Magnolia, Queen Anne, Madison Park, Ballard, and Alki, among others. Harrell also made inroads in several areas Gonzalez had won in the August primary, including parts of Green Lake, Sand Point, West Seattle, Lake City, and Northgate.

Similar trends were seen in the Position 9 at-large city council race between Sara Nelson and Nikkita Oliver, the former of whom won by a 54% to 46% margin. Nelson’s core voting bloc also came from Seattle’s coastlines, while flipping precincts in Lake City, Greenwood, and North Seattle that she had previously lost in the primary. Conversely, Oliver took a nearly uninterrupted bloc of neighborhoods between Capitol Hill and Rainier Valley, excepting precincts directly along the eastern coastline of the city facing Lake Washington.

The battle for city attorney ended up with the closest margin of victory among Seattle’s 2021 races, with Republican Ann Davison edging out abolitionist Nicole Thomas-Kennedy by a 52% to 48% gap. Davison ultimately won on the strength of many of the same coastal neighborhoods Harrell and Nelson prevailed in, as well a handful of precincts incumbent Pete Holmes had taken in the August primary in the University District, Greenwood, Ballard, and West Seattle.

Demographically, the neighborhoods Harrell, Nelson, and Davison won in both the August primary and November general election skewed toward more white, wealthy areas zoned for single-family homes. Notable exceptions to that trend included victories for the trio of moderate candidates in denser, more diverse precincts within the University District, the downtown core, and parts of North Seattle.

Corporate money wins Seattle in new form after sparking ire of voters in 2019

The one outlier among all candidates was incumbent Position 8 Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, whose 60% to 40% margin of victory over Kenneth Wilson was the widest of any race. While wealthy voting blocs like Magnolia, Madison Park, Alki, and the western edge of Ballard all went for Wilson, Mosqueda made inroads into Queen Anne, parts of West Seattle, and Seward Park, most of which had also largely voted for a straight ticket of Harrell, Nelson, and Davison.

Overall, the most consistently conservative and moderate precincts across both the primary and general election were in Magnolia, Ballard, Madison Park, Alki, Fauntleroy, and Seward Park. Progressive strongholds held firm in Capitol Hill, Rainier Valley, Fremont, the International District, and North Delridge.

You can see full visualizations from each race at this link.

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How wealthy strongholds helped deliver Seattle’s 2021 election to moderate candidates