Don’s election picks

Nov. 5, 2019, general election

Once again, my picks. My ground rules and biases:


• Electing school boards is insane. Elected boards have no accountability, they engage in group think, and put decision-making in the hands of committees. Let’s do what NYC did: Make the mayor accountability for schools. Since that’s not going to happen here, the best we can hope for is to eliminate the obvious crazies. I support charter schools, because, as in healthcare, competition is the only sure way to improve quality.


• Electing judges is insane because it eliminates appropriate vetting. They should be nominated by the executive branch and confirmed by the legislative. This website is pretty good for statewide races:


• Managing an operating budget by referenda—voting on levies—is about as idiotic as requiring Congress to approve an increase to the debt ceiling  to pay for what it already spent.


• When I am dumbfounded by a race, I turn to my respected friend, Janice Van Cleve. See her website: We sometimes disagree on candidates, but not on principle. I also consult the Progressive Voters Guide. Again, I don’t agree with all their endorsements (e.g. Kshama Trump), but its analysis is thoughtful:




Don’s choice

Initiative 976

NO. The final hurrah of Tim Eyman before he goes to jail for theft, laundering money, and contempt of court. Eyman is Washington’s own Trump on the right. (For our Trump on the left, see Seattle District 3.) This is a dangerous initiative that would increase traffic congestion across the state.

Referendum 88

YES. It restores affirmative action in public employment and university admissions. It’s a small step to address gaps between rich and poor, and our society’s polarization.

Advisory votes 20–31, 8200

Maintain. A successful Tim Eyman initiative requires these meaningless non-binding votes affirming certain actions by the legislature. What a waste of money. Thanks, Tim. Hope you enjoy jail.

King County Prop 1

YES. Renew the money for Medic One. Managing an operating budget by referenda is idiotic. Nevertheless…

King County Elections

Julie Wise. Professional and innovative incumbent. Her opponent is unqualified.

King County Council 2

Larry Gossett. I was all set to support Gossett’s young, dynamic opponent Girmay Zahilay—until I learned that he wants to close our newly opened youth detention center. I’m all in favor of diverting as many kids as possible from jail, but you can’t divert violent offenders. I went to his website to see what other positions he had; his website is thin and filled with rhetoric, including blind support of unions. Now there are good unions and bad unions, just like there are good businesses and bad businesses. When I worked at Group Health, including a stint on management negotiating teams, I had the utmost respect for unions like UFCW and OPEIU. Other bargaining units? Not so much; they were willing to sell out their own members for political purposes. So let’s not give anyone blind support. FYI, I’m a former union member myself—the Newspaper Guild, which defended me when I got fired. And my family heritage is that of union activists.


Gossett has served the county well over the years, and he deserves a lot of respect. 

King County Council 4

Jeanne Kohl-Welles. Incumbent who’s been around forever in politics and continues to do a good job.

King County Council 6

Claudia Balducci. She’s experienced and smart, a former Bellevue mayor who supports progressive causes. Her opponent is a perennial candidate who opposes light rail, one of the more successful transportation initiatives in recent years. (It’s not run by SDOT).

King County Council 8

Joe McDermott., incumbent. This is a duh. Joe is deservedly a shoo-in.

Port of Seattle 2

Sam Cho. He’s runs a small export company, so he’s familiar with business and the Port. Served as a congressional aide and Obama appointee to the GSA. Endorsed by many organizations and people. That being said, let’s put it all in perspective. Every Port candidate promises a more transparent Port (as has been promised by every candidate since kingdom come). Honestly, the Port’s pretty transparent these days. They promise a more environmentally friendly Port. Obviously, they haven’t noted that the Port is damned environmentally friendly these days). They promise shorter lines at SeaTac. Good luck on that.

Port of Seattle 5

Garth Jacobson. He’s a tax lawyer and worked in Montana state government., More important, he has specific ideas about improving Port operations. The incumbent, Felleman, has tons of endorsements but (to borrow from Amy Klobuchar), he’s all foam and no beer.

Redmond mayor

Toss-up. Both Angela Birney and Steve Fields are good, progressive choices. 

Redmond council 1

Varisha Khan. Would be the first, and welcomed, Muslim politician in the area. Her incumbent opponent opposed light rail.

Redmond council 3

Toss-up. Both Jessica Forsythe and incumbent Hank Margeson are good progressive choices.

Redmond council 5

Vanessa Kritzer. Current planning commissioner and Microsoft employee. Her opponent opposed a mosque near the Microsoft campus, saying it would cause too much traffic. Right. As if it would compare to the Microsoft traffic.

Redmond council 7

Carlos Jimenez. Has a labor background. His incumbent opponent opposes safe injection sites in the face of science and public health.

Renton mayor

Marcie Maxwell. Former state rep and school-board member. Endorsed by Planned Parenthood, labor council, and Sierra Club.

Bellevue Council 1

John Stokes. Former mayor and realistic approach to transit and homeless. His opponent doesn’t seem to have a stance on issues.

Bellevue Council 3

Jeremy Barksdale. Seems to have the best handle on growth. Currently chair of the planning commission. PhD in computer science. Would be a welcome person of color on the council.

Bellevue Council 5

Janice Zahn. Pragmatic incumbent. Endorsed by the Times. She’s in public-works construction management, so has good roots. (A friend knows her and concurs that she’s pragmatic.)

Bellevue Council 7

James Bible. I’m not too up on the Good Book, but I’ll make an exception for Bible, a former public defender. His opponent opposes services for the homeless and opposes light rail.

Seattle Council 1

Lisa Herbold. Incumbent. I didn’t vote for her the first time she ran, but in the ensuing years, I’ve been impressed by her responsiveness and smarts. My favorite Herbold vote was her “con” to bailing out the unethical former SDOT director, Scott Kubly and his Pronto bike debacle. (She lost the vote.) She also sponsored a common-sense noise-reduction ordinance that passed the council with a single dissenting vote: Kshama Trump (see district 3).

Seattle Council 2

Mark Solomon. Mark Solomon is a former cop (and sorely needed African-American presence) who takes a realistic approach to the homeless and spending money on social services, rather than on under-used bike lanes for white guys, and a rent freeze, and all of its unintended consequences that we’ve seen in other cities: increase in arson, increase in tear-downs, reduction in housing starts. Not to mention that rent freezes in this city will mostly help Amazonians. I like his idea of a public bank (like North Dakota’s state bank) to fund housing.

Morales wants to stop clearing unauthorized encampments, and opposes the city’s Navigation Team that tries to bring services to the homeless. She wants to accelerate bike-lane construction, and tax large corporations (e.g. Amazon and Boeing). Needless to say, she’s part of the Trump-Sawant crowd (see district 3). Her only redeeming position is that she supports safe injection sites which is common sense from a public-health perspective. Taxing large corporations will result in unintended consequences in the real world as evidenced by Boeing moving half its production to non-union South Carolina, and Amazon expanding to non-union Virginia. What we’d end up with is money for wealthy bike nazis and no money for the homeless, who would live in dangerous, crime-ridden, drug- and rat-infested pig sties under the freeway. 

Seattle Council 3

Egan Orion. Egan Orion has deep community roots, most recently as director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce. (Understand that the Capitol Hill Chamber isn’t a right-wing group; it supports small businesses.) Orion also has deep roots in the gay community—a potent base. I had a long conversation with Orion’s campaign operations manager, and if she’s indicative of the kind of people Orion hires, we’re in good hands. Orion won’t call people names if he disagrees with them.


It shows how badly incumbent Kshama Trump-Sawant has failed her district in that she only got one-third of the vote in the primary. Predictably, she blames her poor showing on corporate interests, instead of looking herself in the mirror and seeing her own failings as a councilmember and as a human being.


Her party is the “Socialist Alternative” party. Don’t be fooled by the name: It’s not an alternative to the Democrats; it’s a Marxist alternative to mainstream Democratic Socialists like Bernie Sanders and AOC. Trump calls women who disagree with him “nasty.” Sawant calls people who disagree with her “tools of corporate interests.” 


On policy matters, like Trump, she plays only to her base. She was the only councilmember who opposed Lisa Herbold’s noise ordinance. Why? Who knows. Maybe Karl Marx liked to drive his muffler-less car down the street while people were trying to sleep. Moreover, she refused public funding for this election, preferring to raise half her money outside the state, so she can hire paid “signature” gatherers to harvest email addresses. If she loses, she’ll blame everybody but herself.


As for her vaunted rent freeze proposal, see my comments under district 2.


But don’t take my word for it:


Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda: “[We] are both union members and agree on at least 90% of policy, yet she continues to speak publicly in opposition to the policies I am working on, then ends up voting yes. 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 nonestablishment candidates like me in office.” 


Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez: “I think I agree a lot with many of her policies, but unfortunately I have found that there is almost a non-existing working relationship between her and myself and, frankly, anyone else.”


State Rep. Jamie Pederson, Seattle Times, Oct. 13, 2019: Sawant is a "mirror image of Donald Trump—pitting the world against each other. She is just utterly disinterested in representing Council District 3," who said he gets requests for help from people who tried and failed to get a response from Sawant's office.


Joel Connelly, Seattle P-I, Aug. 7, 2019: “The public's patience with Sawant has worn thin. She won't cooperate with colleagues. She is a non-stop demonstrator, booed last year by union Ironworkers in an anti-Amazon protest. She answers to a movement, Socialist Alternative, rather than District 3 constituents.”


Seattle Times, Feb. 9, 2019: “Despite the city’s pressing homeless crisis, Sawant’s Human Services, Equitable Development and Renters Rights Committee has checked out, canceling 11 of 14 meetings since July, although one fell on Christmas Day. [Mayor] Durkan’s office said Sawant also canceled regular meetings with the mayor to discuss human-services issues and declined meeting times until recently.”


Teamsters Local 117, Dustin Lambro, political director, July 1, 2019: “People are just over the Kshama thing. She acts like she knows better than our workers.”


Seattle Displacement Coalition, John Fox, Sept. 21, 2017: “Sawant made a tactical decision not to tick off the well-heeled corporate-backed urbanists or the zealously pro-density Stranger and its readership, for fear of undercutting her reelection chances in her 3rd District. Doing so makes her look more like a typical Seattle politician than her actively cultivated persona as a principled advocate for racial and economic justice. … Ironically, Sawant is catering to development interests she rhetorically disavows. It’s hypocritical and hurts most low-income and working people and especially communities of color.”


National Association of Minority Contractors, Bob Armstead, October 2015: “Sawant ignored us when we tried to get a meeting.”


Mothers for Police Accountability, Rev. Harriet Walden, October 2015: We face serious public-safety issues in District 3. But Kshama Sawant is a no-show in the community,. Kshama spends a lot of time outside the district, outside the city. She isn’t there when we have a crisis.”


Former councilmember Tim Burgess, Seattle Times, Oct. 10, 2019: “She would prefer to pick up a bullhorn and shout. And that is not what advances the ball.”

Seattle Council 4

Alex Pedersen. Endorsed by both the left and the right. Ex-aide to the respected Tim Burgess. This is the guy.

Seattle Council 5

Debora Juarez. Juarez has been a meh councilmember, but at least she’s attuned to her district and is articulate. 


In contrast, her opponent, Ann Sattler, is dishonest and wrong on several issues.


Sattler worked as a caseworker for a Republic congressman, which is neutral kind of job. But she didn’t work for any congressman; she worked for a right-wing congressman, John Paul Hammerschmidt, who was one of the few Republicans to support Nixon to the bitter end, and who sponsored a bill to weaken the First Amendment by banning flag-burning. Sattler hides her Republican past (and her Republican campaign manager and consultant) from her public persona, although she says she’s a life-long moderate Democrat. I’m sorry, I was a Congressional intern, and I would never have thought of applying for a job with a right-wing Republican. There’s some inconsistency here, bordering on mendacity.  


Even that might be excusable, but as an adult living in Seattle, she worked for the anti-jobs Sodo basketball arena, which would have threatened the Port of Seattle.

Seattle Council 6

Heidi Wills. I really like Heidi Wills, the ex-councilmember who’s running down the middle of the road and is endorsed by folks like Gary Locke and Ron Sims. In her first round as a councilmember 16 years ago, she got unfairly tarred because she accepted money from the owner of a strip club, and was fairly fined $1,500 for an ethical violation and conflict-of-interest related to the strip club’s zoning. That was 16 years ago. She’s paid her fine to society, and it’s time to take advantage of her talents.

Seattle Council 7

Jim Pugel (although his opponent is excellent). He’s an ex-cop, has reasonable positions, and great endorsements. 


That being said, I’d be just as happy if his opponent, Andrew Lewis is elected. He’s a prosecutor who’s also reasonable on a broad range of issues, and has been endorsed by scores of reasonable people and groups.


District 7 will be a winner no matter who wins.

Seattle Schools 1

Eric Blumhagen. Seems to have the best background and credentials. All the candidates promise the same things. Did I ever mention that electing school boards is insane?

Seattle Schools 3

Rebeca Muniz. Graduate degree in education. Talks about wraparound services—helping kids in unstable homes so they succeed in the schools. Nice endorsements. Did I ever mention that electing school boards is insane?

Seattle Schools 6

Leslie Harris, incumbent, who, I’m told, has been a dedicated public servant. Molly Mitchell from Seattle Central College is also intriguing. Oh, have I ever mentioned that electing school boards is insane?