Analysts: Seattle City Council election shows Democrats worried ‘city streets are unsafe’

Nov 9, 2023, 3:49 AM | Updated: 6:32 am

Capitol Hill shooting crime election unsafe democrats...

Four people were shot on Capitol Hill early Sunday morning. (Seattle Police)

(Seattle Police)

Following the initial results of the elections in the state of Washington, political analysts are saying this year marks Seattle’s turn away from progressive politics and toward more business-friendly, public safety-oriented priorities.

On Seattle’s Morning News Wednesday, University of Washington Department of Political Science Democratic strategist Cathy Allen, and Republican strategist Randy Pepple talked about the winners and the losers of Tuesday night’s elections.

The biggest takeaway both Allen and Pepple had was the shift in Seattle voters’ attitudes about public safety and asking for big changes in the city council.

Current numbers have incumbents trailing heavily behind their oftentimes more moderate challengers. The most prominent example of this is the race for the council’s seat in District 7 between incumbent Andrew Lewis and newcomer Bob Kettle.

From Matt Markovich: Can progressive candidates surge to prevent Seattle City Council overhaul?

Lewis’ campaign was rife with controversy after the council member, who represents neighborhoods in downtown Seattle, voted against a law that would bring the city’s drug ordinance in line with the statewide law. Lewis said he did not feel the new law had enough provisions to divert those arrested for drug offenses to mental health service instead of into the criminal justice system.

Progressives such as Maren Costa, Alex Hudson, and Dan Strauss also trail their more moderate opponents. A big reason for this, Allen argued, is because of a shift in the city’s attitude away from the full-throated, activist progressivism embodied by socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant, who chose not to run for reelection. She said, instead, Seattleites were looking for a more pragmatic approach to issues of public safety and homelessness.

“What I know is that (Tuesday night) enough change happened. People said, ‘I’m fed up with homelessness, I’m fed up with not being able to find a home for my kids. I’m fed up with all of this kind of public safety problem and no cops around,’ Allen said. “So I think it was a more practical, personal night, where people were looking at their own lives and looking for a better quality.”

More election coverage: Latest Seattle City Council and other Washington numbers

Pepple agreed, saying that while the number of Republican voters in the area is low, he saw a shift in how Democratic voters handled conservative platform issues like crime and drugs.

“In the city of Seattle, you know, Republicans are one out of eight votes, so we don’t get to determine a lot of elections. It was the independents and the Democrats that looked around and said that our city streets are unsafe,” Pepple said.

Elections across the US

On the national stage, Republicans didn’t quite get what they were hoping for, with key losses in the Kentucky gubernatorial election, the Virginia state legislature, and an Ohio referendum on abortion rights.

US Election Day roundup: Democratic Gov. Beshear reelected in Kentucky

Pepple said he was disappointed in the individual outcome but had some hope for the 2024 elections, saying there wasn’t a real national embrace of President Joe Biden.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think it tells us anything about what to look for in 2024,” Pepple said. “I can say it was not necessarily a good night for Joe Biden, because none of the candidates were running towards him. I know that.”

Allen disagreed with a laugh and said she “slept very soundly last night thinking, ‘I had a good night.'”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Analysts: Seattle City Council election shows Democrats worried ‘city streets are unsafe’