Week in Review: November 10, 2023 - with Melissa Santos
Week in Review: November 10, 2023 - with Melissa Santos
On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Seattle Axios reporter, Melissa Santos! Melissa and Crystal discuss how Election Night results in Washington state aren’t conclusive and can change due to our mail-in ballot system, how four County election offices were evacuated and whether this might explain low turnout trends. Then they dive into where Seattle City Council election results currently stand and the impact that enormous spending by outside interests had on voter communication. Looking outside Seattle, more encouraging progressive results appear to be taking shape across the state in Tacoma, Bellingham, Spokane, Snohomish County, Bellevue, Bothell, and more! The show wraps up with reflection on why celebrated Seattle Police Department Detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin suing the City for decades of racism and gender bias from SPD management and colleagues is yet another indication of internal police culture not matching their publicly declared values. As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at . Find the host, Crystal Fincher, on Twitter at and find today’s co-host, Melissa Santos at . Melissa Santos Melissa Santos is one of two Seattle-based reporters for Axios. She has spent the past decade covering Washington politics and the Legislature, including five years covering the state Capitol for The News Tribune in Tacoma and three years for Crosscut, a nonprofit news website. She was a member of The Seattle Times editorial board from 2017 to 2019, where she wrote columns and opinion pieces focused on state government. Resources from Hacks & Wonks “” by Melissa Santos from Axios “” by Melissa Santos from Axios “” by Melissa Santos from Axios “” by Melissa Santos from Axios “” by Joseph O’Sullivan from Crosscut “” by Lauren Gallup from Northwest Public Broadcasting “” by Matt Driscoll from The News Tribune “” by Joseph O’Sullivan from Crosscut “” by Mai Hoang from Crosscut “” by Jessica Pishko from Bolts “” by Jordan Hansen from Everett Herald “” by Mike Carter from The Seattle Times Transcript [00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington state through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Tuesday topical show and Friday week-in-review delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, the most helpful thing you can do is leave a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes. If you missed our Tuesday topical show, it was a special one. Our producer and special guest host, Shannon Cheng, chatted with Amy Sundberg and BJ Last from Solidarity Budget about currently ongoing City of Seattle budget process. The conversation ranged from the fight over the JumpStart Tax to why ShotSpotter is more egregious than you thought. This is the first show that I actually have not hosted on Hacks & Wonks and Shannon did a fantastic job. It's a really informative and interesting show, and I highly suggest you listen. Today, we're continuing our Friday week-in-review shows where we review the news of the week with a co-host. Welcome back to the program, friend of the show and today's co-host: Seattle Axios reporter, Melissa Santos. [00:01:41] Melissa Santos: Hi, Crystal. [00:01:43] Crystal Fincher: Well, good to have you back on this Friday following general election results in Washington state. We have a lot to talk about, a lot that's interesting. I think the first thing I wanna talk about is just the nature of elections and results. As a reminder to people - for so long, so many of us were used to going to a polling place, voting, getting election results on Election Night. We still get that from a lot of other places in the country. It does not work like that here in Washington - and particularly for the City of Seattle, some other, especially major metropolitan areas - where there's, you see differences in where different demographics typically vote in the timeline when ballots are out. What races look like on the first night can look very different than what the ultimate results show. How do you approach this? [00:02:39] Melissa Santos: Well, so I basically - especially in Seattle races - I try to put a caveat at the top of any story I write on Election Night or the next day, sometimes even Friday of election week saying, Races are known to swing by 10 or 12 points in Seattle - this could change. It will change. It could change dramatically, essentially. So that's, I think, what we're seeing here. I mean, as of right now, when we're actually recording - we don't have Thursday's results yet. So we only have a very limited batch of ballots, especially because of something else we're probably gonna talk about later - there was limited counting in some counties, including King County, yesterday and fewer ballots released because of a scare they had at the elections office. So we just don't have a lot of information. Election night - like half the ballots maybe are being reported, so that's just a ton of room for results to change. And we have seen that repeatedly in Seattle, especially when it comes to progressive candidates looking like they're down, and then - oh look, they won by four points, three points, two points. So this happens a lot. And that's just a good caveat to keep in mind as we're talking about election results the week of the election in Seattle. [00:03:49] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and as you said, we are actually recording this on Thursday morning. Viewers will start to hear this on Friday, but we don't have many results - we might as well talk about it now. The reason why we have even fewer results than we thought, or fewer ballots counted, is that there were some wild things that happened at some elections offices yesterday. What happened? [00:04:10] Melissa Santos: So four county elections offices in Washington state, including in King County, received an unknown powder substance in envelopes that were delivered to the election office. And so the King County Elections office in Renton, that does all this counting, was evacuated for three hours the day after the election - in which counting was not happening because they had HazMat there, they had the Fire Department there, they had the police there checking to make sure this wasn't something super dangerous, that there wasn't a chemical attack, essentially, against the election offices. And in Spokane County, they got a similar thing and they actually didn't - I don't think they released results yesterday at all, actually, in Spokane. Or at least it was very delayed and limited. So in King County, they released many fewer ballots, and counted many fewer ballots, and reported fewer than they had expected to on Wednesday, the day after the election. And then also Skagit and Pierce County offices got mysterious packages. And two of them - in King County and Spokane, it was, there were traces of fentanyl. We're still waiting for more information, so there was some sort of fentanyl in there. Not clear about the other two - might've been baking powder in Tacoma, according to one report I saw, so. But in any case, this is a threat that people are sending stuff that is very threatening. I mean, everyone remembers it was around - Anthrax scares and this and that. So when you get in the envelope as a public servant like that - you're worried it could kill you, it could kill your colleagues, and then you're gonna not keep counting ballots probably. Or your coworkers across the building are gonna stop counting ballots - and that's what happened. [00:05:45] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. And people are on heightened alert for a number of different reasons. These bring to mind some of the increased attacks that we've seen that seem to have anti-Semitic, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim bias. There have been envelopes of powder mailed to synagogues in our state. So this has a lot of people wondering - are these ties to election denialists? Is this someone with some other grievance? But people are on heightened alert about that. King County counted about half as many ballots yesterday as they originally intended to, so we have really abbreviated results. The other factor that is a challenge that is not standard - not what we normally see - is turnout is low, is trending really low. And weirdly, it was trending above where we were a couple of years ago until Election Day - 'cause we can track how many ballots are received each day, how that compares - so it was actually up by a few percentage points. But on Election Day, really, turnout seems to have cratered. We don't know why. Again, the results being released - it's so early, so we just may not have the full picture. Maybe people just voted in a really late flux and we don't know that yet. There's just a lot that we don't know. But right now, turnout seems to be trending pretty low in a different way than we've seen before, at least so far. So we're not sure what that means, who might not have turned out, is this gonna wind up low? We just have a lot that we still need to see, both in results and in just the ballots received, and what that means for turnout. So with that said, let's start off talking about the City of Seattle. We had several council races. And I guess thinking, going through the results - overall, the more moderate candidate was leading pretty significantly in a lot of cases on Election Night. Again, as we talked about earlier, several of these races are still within the bounds where it's possible these races could change. And the person who ultimately winds up winning could be different than the person currently leading in several of these races - if ballots trend how they traditionally trend in the city - there's been a few different folks who've done some public analysis of this. But right now in District 1, Rob Saka - this looks to be one of the races that looks pretty conclusive, that Rob Saka currently holds a pretty commanding lead over Maren Costa. In District 2, Tanya Woo is currently leading Tammy Morales. This is a closer race and one that is within the margin where we see late ballots overtake what the early results were. In District 3, Joy Hollingsworth - this seems like a pretty settled race - seems to have prevailed over Alex Hudson. District 4, we have Maritza Rivera leading Ron Davis. This is one that is at the margin of where races come back - if ballots trend in the same way as they had before, Ron could end up eking out a win. If they don't, maybe he comes up a little short, but definitely a race we anticipate tightening up. In District 5, Cathy Moore holds a pretty commanding lead - this looks like one where it's beyond the range of kind of the bounce-back of ballots over ChrisTiana ObeySumner. And in District 6 - [00:09:34] Melissa Santos: District 6 is Dan Strauss, and that is really, really close, with Dan Strauss and Pete Hanning. And we actually saw Strauss, who's an incumbent, and is the more leftward candidate in that race - I mean, of the candidates in that race. [00:09:47] Crystal Fincher: Of the candidates in that race. [00:09:49] Melissa Santos: Not really the most leftward councilmember that is on the ballot necessarily, but in this race he is the more progressive of the two. He was down two points on Election Night, but now it's less than one percentage point. And that's just with the limited ballots we saw on Wednesday. So that's an example of how much you can switch there - we saw about a percentage point gain in a very close race. So I suspect Dan Strauss will actually win his race and be reelected, but we will see. [00:10:18] Crystal Fincher: It would be shocking if he didn't wind up winning this. And in District 7, we have Andrew Lewis and Bob Kettle, with Bob Kettle currently in the lead over Andrew Lewis. This is another one where it is still within the range that this is too close to call. We need to see further results. And if again, ballots trend in the same way as they've trended - particularly in 2021, but also in 2019 - then Andrew Lewis could wind up winning. This week is gonna be interesting with results because we typically get a daily update at between 4p and 5p, depending on the county. And King County - it's typically 4 p.m. But Friday is a holiday, so we won't get updates on Friday. Today, Thursday, will be the last day of updates. And then the next day that we get an update on the vote totals will be Monday. So Monday will probably be a very conclusive day, a day that shows whether people are on track to make it, where a lot of the late ballots are going to be in the tally - because the counting continues over the weekend, even though they don't release the results until Monday. So we'll see what that is. But a lot of races that are currently too close to call, even though if you've seen some other media outlets, particularly some columnists - I think Danny Westneat had a column, that was like - Oh, the progressive era in Seattle is over or something like that - which I think certainly the early results are different than even earlier results that we've seen in prior races, different than even in the primary, I think we would say. So there is something afoot here, and there's certainly going to be a different council with one, so many new candidates. But there's gonna be a new composition on the council, certainly. But saying what that composition is going to be with so many of these races still in the air, I think it's premature to say at this time, and we'll still see. We just don't know about the turnout and don't wanna mislead people, have to rewrite headlines. I think you're one of the more responsible journalists when it comes to setting appropriate expectations and making sure you don't overstate what the results are saying. [00:12:45] Melissa Santos: I mean, I think the one thing you can say, that I got from Danny's column, that I can guarantee will be correct is you will not have Kshama Sawant on the council anymore. And she has been one of the sort of firebrands on the council, very - has strong views that she doesn't shy away from and doesn't - whatever dynamic that is on the council, some people don't like it, some people do like it - that she just says what she wants to do and doesn't kind of do as much backroom compromise sometimes on certain issues. That's gone. So you don't have a Socialist on the council anymore - that is happening - 'cause she didn't run for re-election. There wasn't a chance for her to lose. So either way, that was gonna be different. But a couple of the moderate candidates we were talking about, I'm not really sure which way they'll vote on some of the issues that typically define Seattle moderates. And for me, Cathy Moore comes to mind. She won by - I mean, you can say Cathy won at this point - it was about 40 points. So that is not going to be, that's not going to happen for ChrisTiana ObeySumner. But Cathy, during election interviews, was a lot more forthright actually about taxes, saying - I disagree with the business community actually, that we probably need more tax revenue. And so she was much more open on the campaign trail about the notion of taxing businesses to close the City's budget deficit. And this is one of those issues that typically defines sort of the Seattle centrist moderates, business-friendly candidates - is having a lot more reticence about taxing businesses. Usually the candidates won't say - Absolutely not under any circumstances. But they'll say - We need to do an audit. I'm not, I mean, some of them actually will say, I don't think we have a budget deficit - in the case of Bob Kettle, I think that was something he said regularly, despite what the revenue projections do say. But Cathy Moore was a lot more nuanced on that topic. And also on zoning, potentially, and being willing to have more dense zoning in certain areas. I'm not sure that she'll vote the way - it remains to be seen. People can say things on the campaign trail and do totally different things, so we'll see. But she was fairly consistent about being sort of more on the liberal side of certain issues in that respect. Joy Hollingsworth, who has, I think, pretty definitively come out ahead in District 3 - this is Sawant's district. You know, she's a really - she's just a really compelling personality too. I mean, and I'm not saying this in a negative way - you talk to Joy, you feel like she's listening. She's a good candidate on the campaign trail. I saw her canvassing a lot - like in person, a fair amount - 'cause I live in that district. And her campaign sent out a lot of communications. She had the benefit of independent money, which we will talk about soon, I think, as far as more outside spending benefiting her campaign. So there were more mailers sent out - not even necessarily by her campaign, but on her behalf. And I just don't know if she's a traditional candidate. And she would say this and has said this - When am I the centrist candidate? I'm a queer, cannabis-owning business owner, you know, who's Black, and I just don't, when am I like the right-wing candidate here? So I mean, maybe doesn't fit the profile of what people think of when you're talking about sort of centrist candidates. And again, has done a lot of work on cannabis equity and equity issues, I think, that also helped her relate to a lot of voters in her district. Well, Rob Saka, I think, is more - who I think is pretty clearly winning in District 1 - is probably the most traditional, sort of more business-backed candidate who's skeptical of taxes, skeptical of how the City's spending its money, and then also had a lot of big business backing on independent spending. And is sort of more - we need to hire more cops, more in the traditional line of what you're thinking of as a centrist candidate. And he is going to be replacing a more progressive councilmember in Lisa Herbold. But, you know, they basically have Saka in that mold, clearly. And then the other two races that are decided already, it's not totally clear that it's some - it's gonna be a, exactly what kind of shift it's gonna be. And in fact, Cathy Moore is replacing a more moderate on the council anyway. So a lot is still dependent on what - the results we still don't have. And also, one of the more progressive members on the council is Teresa Mosqueda, who is running for King County Council and is likely to ultimately win that race, and that's gonna be an appointment process, where - to replace her on the council. So who that is - you could end up with a fairly progressive council, potentially, in some respects. If all of these races switch to progressive suddenly in the late results, which certainly may not happen. But it's just a little premature on Election Night to necessarily say the council's going to be way less progressive than it was, I think, potentially. That's all. [00:17:40] Crystal Fincher: No, I completely agree with that. We've talked about on the show - if you know me personally, we have definitely talked about this in person - but painting, you know, the media narrative out there, that - Oh, it's the super progressive council, you know, who's always battling with the mayor, and we want a change of direction. I'm always asking, define what that direction is, because we did not have a progressive council. There were different people in different positions on the...