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.

About the Guest

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.

Find Melissa Santos on Twitter/X at @MelissaSantos1.


Digging into Seattle’s Budget Process with Amy Sundberg and BJ Last of Solidarity Budget from Hacks & Wonks

4 election offices evacuated in Washington state; fentanyl found at 2” by Melissa Santos from Axios

Business-backed Seattle council candidates take early leads” by Melissa Santos from Axios

Seattle council incumbents still trail in latest election results” by Melissa Santos from Axios

Business-backed groups spend big on Seattle council races” by Melissa Santos from Axios

Tacoma to consider new tenant rights measure on Nov. 7 ballot” by Joseph O’Sullivan from Crosscut

Tacomans deciding on progressive renter protections” by Lauren Gallup from Northwest Public Broadcasting

The 4 biggest takeaways from election night results in Tacoma and Pierce County | Opinion” by Matt Driscoll from The News Tribune

Bellingham voters consider minimum-wage hike, tenant protections” by Joseph O’Sullivan from Crosscut

Lisa Brown leads incumbent Nadine Woodward in Spokane mayoral race” by Mai Hoang from Crosscut

Controversial Sheriff with Right-Wing Ties Faces Voters in Washington State” by Jessica Pishko from Bolts

Johnson defeats Fortney in sheriff’s race, new ballot drop shows” by Jordan Hansen from Everett Herald

Pioneering Black detective sues SPD, alleging racism, gender discrimination” by Mike Carter from The Seattle Times

Find stories that Crystal is reading here

Listen on your favorite podcast app to all our episodes here


[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 council - certainly had progressives on it, but a number of moderates on it. And in this change, as you said - in District 1, I think it's very fair to say that that moved in a more moderate direction. District 5, I think that's moving in a more progressive direction, everything on balance.

[00:18:30] Melissa Santos: And if Ron Davis wins in District 4 - which that district has been super swingy in the past because it has - I think university students is a factor, sort of, I do think there's a late turnout surge there in a lot of years, in some years, maybe that's greater than some districts. If he wins, you're going to be replacing Alex Pedersen, who is one of the more - certainly centrist, some would say conservative - but center candidates, and so you'd have a much more liberal person in that respect on, I think, both taxes, on criminal justice, I think on also zoning, definitely zoning, Ron Davis is like the urbanist candidate - is kind of what he's known as, and having worked with FutureWise and these organizations and in advocacy, sort of behind-the-scenes roles. So yeah, that would be, kind of, undermine the narrative to me. If you replace Alex Pedersen with Ron Davis, I'm not sure the progressivism-is-gone narrative exactly will hold up, so that's - but again, we would need some big swings for these things to happen. I'm not trying to act like you're going to get all these progressives. It definitely was a good night for business-backed, sort of, more centrist candidates on Election Night.

[00:19:42] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely, I agree with that. And I think if Maritza Rivera ends up doing that, that's basically a wash on what their representation does - that looks like they have continued with what they generally had. And didn't move in a more progressive direction, but certainly did not get more moderate or conservative than what was already there, I think. I think there are two buckets of candidates that we're looking at, as you alluded to before. I think that Rob Saka, if Bob Kettle were to wind up prevailing, if Maritza Rivera were to wind up prevailing - those, I think, are most firmly in the traditional moderate conservative, very skeptical of taxation, very supportive of carceral solutions, more punitive solutions, lots of talk about hiring and supporting police, different answers to different issues, often involving public safety elements. I think that's fair to say. I don't think most people would put Cathy Moore, Joy Hollingsworth in that same category.

I think Tanya Woo is a bit of a toss-up. This is another race where, I think, next to Dan Strauss, the next most likely candidate of what looks the way ballots traditionally go, even with some wiggle room - Tammy Morales, the way ballots trend in Seattle, certainly has a path to finishing in the lead. There is definitely a difference between those two candidates, but I think Tanya Woo has certainly expressed some reservations for taxation, has certainly expressed her support for public safety solutions - Maybe she falls somewhere in the middle there. It seems like she's not as aggressive as some of the other candidates and their zeal for those solutions, but she has signaled that she's open to them. So I think that's a question mark if it goes the Tanya Woo route. But this is a race that is definitely too close to call at this point in time for the way Seattle ballots trend. So that's Seattle.

Let's talk a little bit more about the money, which you have written about - basically, everybody wrote about. We have not seen spending of this magnitude in Seattle City Council races since the Amazon money bomb that we saw in 2019. What happened with outside money in this race and what impact do you think it had?

[00:22:34] Melissa Santos: So originally in 2019, there was a big - originally, that's not that long ago, I understand, but in recent history of Seattle elections - the Chamber of Commerce had a PAC that was spending a lot on behalf of the business-preferred candidates. And Amazon gave a million dollars plus to that - a million of it right at October, I think, in 2019. And that kind of - especially, Sawant in her race, again, Socialist councilmember, was saying Amazon's trying to buy the election. And then there was a sense that left voters turned out citywide even to kind of object to that. There was one, something that I think a lot of observers thought happened that year. And that one might have helped fuel this surge of left-leaning voters after the initial vote count as well. And also, Trump was in office. There was a lot of sort of motivation, I think, of progressives to kind of vote and make themselves heard wherever they could during that era.

Okay, so this year - your original question - this year, we didn't have a chamber PAC doing all of the money. It wasn't all relayed through this chamber PAC. It was different. There were all these little political action committees called Neighbors of this Neighborhood. It was Downtown Neighbors Committee, Elliott Bay Neighbors Committee, and then University District Neighbors Committee. So it sounds, you know, those innocuous, sweet-sounding PAC names, right? But they were all supporting the candidates that were preferred by the, I mean, the Chamber and the Downtown Seattle Association. And they spent a fair amount of money. I mean, in the - I don't think that I had all the receipts when I did the calculations on Sunday, so there's a few more that have come in since then. But I mean, it was $300,000 almost for Maritza Rivera. And when I say for, I mean, a lot of it was spent opposing Ron Davis, but all benefiting Maritza - either in direct support from these external groups that were saying, Vote for this person, or, you know, saying, Don't vote for this person, her opponent, the more left-leaning candidate in that race. So that's quite a bit of money for one race, one district race, you know, you're talking about.

And then we saw that for support for Rob Soka as well. And they were some of the similar groups where - there's overlap in who is supporting these PACs, right? Landlords organizations, there were builders and construction and realty interests. And there were - the Realtors PAC actually gave separately to a few candidates like Tanya Woo and Bob - okay, I shouldn't say gave. Let me back up. The Realtors PAC, the National Realtors PAC, actually spent its own money separately from these Neighborhood groups to support Tanya Woo and Bob Kettle. And so you just saw that outside PAC money was coming in. And that was, you know, a lot more than the leftward union side spent this year by a significant margin to kind of help support these candidates. So, I mean, at the end you had $1.5 million almost spent and more than $1.1 million of that, maybe $1.2 million, was from the business sort of backed interest sort of pouring money from outside into these races, supporting their preferred candidates.

[00:25:53] Crystal Fincher: So I think - one, something that gets missed or I've seen a lot of questions about - so people are like, Okay, there's a lot of money. Corporations have a lot of money. How does that impact races? What does that mean when it comes to these campaigns and when it comes to what voters see?

[00:26:11] Melissa Santos: So what you're paying for is communication. What they are paying for is communication. They're paying for mailers that go to voters, they're paying for TV or radio ads in some cases - maybe not radio this year, but it's, you know, this is some of the things that independent expenditures pay for. Online ads - so reaching voters to tell them about the candidate. And this is what campaigns do. That's the whole point of a campaign. Except when you have someone from outside doing it also, it just really widens your impact as a candidate - even though they don't coordinate, they're not involved together - it still will help get your message out to more people if you have supporters doing this on your behalf and buying mailers.

I mean, I live in District 3 and most of the mailers I got were from Joy Hollingsworth's campaign, but I did get another mailer from an independent expenditure committee. And this was one that also was like - You like weed, vote for Joy Hollingsworth. Literally, that's what it said. I wish I was not kidding. So, I mean, again, that's - again, muddying the who's progressive and who's not a little. I mean, the mailers contribute to that, but anyway. And I got one mailer from Alex Hudson's campaign. So it just was like 5-1 on the communications I got from Joy Hollingsworth just to my own house. And so that's just an example of - even though only one of them was independent spending, you know, you can have a lot more mailers come and reach someone on behalf of a candidate if you have this outside money paying for it.

[00:27:37] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and communication is really everything. I think, you know, most people know I do this kind of work during the day, this podcast is an extra thing, this is not the main thing that I do. But it really all comes down to communication. Like you talked about before, there are things that the campaign can do to directly communicate with voters - phone calls, canvassing is the most effective thing they can do. And if a candidate and their campaign is on the campaign trail doing that, that is certainly generally a really positive thing for their campaign and one of the most effective things that you can do to win votes. But Kshama Sawant is notorious and the DSA - people passionate about Kshama are notorious for mounting really formidable, substantial ground games where they are covering most of the district. Most candidates are not knocking on most of the doors in their district. They're knocking on, you know, a pretty small percentage of them. And even though to them and their supporters - they see the candidate talking all the time, attending events every night - you're only reaching 15, 20% of the people in the district probably. And so the other 80% of voters have not heard anything directly, have been busy living life.

The thing that many candidates don't realize is that the hardest thing isn't getting them to understand that you're better than your opponent, especially for candidates who have not run for office before. The hardest thing to do is to let voters know that you exist overall. Most voters don't know that candidates exist. Most voters don't know that there's an election coming until they see the ballot arrive in their mailbox. People, like a lot of the people who listen to Hacks & Wonks - we're not the normal ones. We've talked about this before on this show. Most people do not pay attention to the news, to candidates, to elections as much as we do. That's really important to remember when it comes to this, because that spending - the type of communication, whether it's mail, the digital video ads that you see, cable TV ads, banner ads, text messages. One, that all costs money. And so having money enables you to do more of that. And getting that in front of voters is generally the most meaningful exposure that they have to candidates - that's how they're learning about a lot of them. So if they are bombarded with information from one candidate, they hear predominantly about one candidate - usually their communications talk about how wonderful the candidate is, all the wonderful things that they're saying or planning to do, or the version of that that they're spinning in that communication - that makes a big difference. And that's how people get to know who the candidates are.

If someone isn't doing much of that, they can't win. That's kind of just a structural Campaign 101 thing. So again, talked about this on the show before - if you know me, we've definitely talked about this. Sometimes when people are making sweeping pronouncements about - This narrative clearly won the day and this is what voters are saying - that may be the case in a race where there's robust communication coming from all sides, where the amount of money spent is a lot closer with each other on both sides. But in these races where one candidate is outspent by hundreds of thousands of dollars and the communication that that equates to, you rarely see those candidates win in any circumstance, regardless whether the one outspending is moderate, conservative, progressive, what kind of message they have - if it's good or bad, it can be really mediocre, it can be pretty bad. If you spend and communicate that much and so much more than your opponent, that in and of itself usually is enough to win, which is why people talk about the influence of money and the communication that that buys being corrosive or toxic or such an issue, because that in and of itself is oftentimes enough to move enough voters to win the campaign.

[00:31:57] Melissa Santos: And we should mention - Seattle has a Democracy Voucher system and I think all of the candidates, I think all of the candidates use Democracy Vouchers. Crystal can correct me if I'm wrong. But certainly some of the business backed ones receiving outside money also were limited - this limits their spending as a campaign, right? So the outside money takes on an even bigger role when each of the candidates can spend - I mean, gosh, the limit is, it starts at like $90,000, then it goes up if you all raise a lot of money. But you're limited, you're not spending more than $150,000, or $125,000, or something as a campaign. I forget the exact limits, but somewhere like around there or even lower. And then you have - so think about that - the campaign spending, we say $115,000 and really can't spend more. And then someone else is spending almost $300,000, right? So - separately - so you're having these, sometimes it's gonna be the majority of money in a race because the third party committees are not limited in how much they can raise and how much they can spend. So that's how you can get millions and millions of dollars. This year, it wasn't millions, but it was more than a million backing a certain slate of candidates. And that gets a big impact when you have fairly low-cost campaigns and everyone's limited to that to a certain degree.

[00:33:12] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. So I think that is the picture of Seattle races at this point in time. I think it is fair to say that even if a number of the candidates come back, I think it's an over-pronouncement to say that there was a broad shift in direction one way or another. But I think it's absolutely fair to say that no matter what the results end up being, they're not going to be celebrated by progressive candidates, that moderates are going to wind up happier than progressives are gonna wind up with these results - in the city of Seattle.

But I wanna talk about elsewhere in the state because I think the broad picture in the state - even though Seattle's likely to dominate the media conversation - that the picture in the rest of the state was more positive for progressive people than it has been in quite some time, that we see trends moving further in a Democratic and progressive direction, particularly in purple and red cities in some of the many metro cities. So Seattle, the biggest city in the state there, moved and had their results. But looking at Tacoma, looking at Spokane - these are two cities that seem to have moved definitively to the left in the composition of their councils, in Spokane's case - including the mayoral race - and also with some ballot initiatives. So starting with Tacoma - what's happening in Tacoma?

[00:34:47] Melissa Santos: Well, they do have a measure on the ballot that's about sort of renter protections, which actually looks like it might prevail. It was down a little bit on Election Night, but again, we don't have a lot of results from Pierce County yet, and it's super close right now. And given the way the ballots so far have sort of trended, even with this limited amount of ballots released, I suspect that this sort of measure to enact a lot more protections for renters against eviction - and I'm blanking a little on some of the details of it - but that's sort of a priority for more liberal voters and certainly policy makers. That looks like it may pass still, still uncertain. But you also - what I thought was interesting, you know - you had, I'm just making sure I did not, two days ago with my Tacoma results, but it looked like Jamika Scott was doing really well and likely to win her race in Tacoma. And Jamika has run for mayor before and she's sort of a known, you know, pretty serious policy person, I think, in Tacoma on advocating for ways of getting rid of systemic racism. I mean, getting rid of it would be difficult, obviously, but sort of ways to mitigate and kind of make lives better for people who traditionally have not benefited from our systems. And she was really active with, or I mean, leader of the Tacoma Action Collective, which has been a group that's been sort of protesting different institutions in Tacoma, as far as their treatment of Black people and treatment of people of color more broadly, I think, as well. But especially with police brutality. This is someone who has been kind of consistently saying, We need some change in our system. And she's being elected, and people like her message in Tacoma - enough of them - to really catapult her into office, it looks like. And so that's something that was interesting. We saw Olgy Diaz, who is an appointed councilmember - oh gosh, no, she won an election by now - has she--

[00:36:51] Crystal Fincher: No, she was appointed, and she's running for her first actual election now, following the appointment. And she just took the lead. She was narrowly down on Election Night. Again, the same caveats apply - that that Election Night is a partial tally. It is not a result. So on the initial tally, she was down just by a smidge. Now she is actually leading. And just with the way ballots trend, it looks like that lead will continue to grow. So you had the more progressive candidates, certainly, in both of those races prevail. I think interestingly, particularly in Jamika's race - Jamika was not endorsed by The News Tribune, which has been very consequential in endorsing folks. And despite that - and I think, as a credit to the work that Jamika has been doing in community for a while and the coalition that Jamika built - speaking directly to issues that are impacting so many people. And a lot of times speaking meaningfully to communities, as you said, that have not traditionally been served very well by government. And really inspiring a coalition to rally around her, to vote in support of her, to turn out for that. I think that was helpful.

In the same way, the Tacoma for All tenant protection measure, which had a storied path to the ballot - the City of Tacoma was basically looking to put a competing, less impactful measure that did less than this initiative did - looked like that was motivated by some of the opposing forces who didn't wanna see this measure prevail. They ended up going to court over it and the process wound up being flawed. So this wound up being the only measure - the citizens' initiative - on the ballot. And that attracted a ton of outside spending - the realtors, a number of landlord organizations, developer organizations spent a lot - hundreds of thousands of dollars in opposition of this initiative. And for - one, to be as close as it is, given all that spending, is pretty miraculous and I think goes to show the depth of the problem and how extremely it is felt to have this much support. But it looks, based on the way that ballots traditionally trend, like it's on track to eventually take the lead and win.

So this is not the only initiative - there are others across the state, including other tenant protection initiatives that are speaking to what's - the large percentage of renters in the state are facing the seeming imbalance between how landlords can technically treat tenants and how important it is to put more safeguards around. And I think generally it's not controversial to say that treating being a landlord like any other business is not good for society when we're talking about a basic need for people. And putting more protections around whether the timelines of being able to raise rent, how you can evict people, the kind of notice that's required, and assistance that may be required. If you are forcing someone to move out, the issue of economic evictions, or just putting someone out - not because they did anything, but just because they want to earn more money from that property - are things that people are willing to revisit across the state. And I think a lot of people can learn that lesson.

The other thing, just - I, as someone who does this for a living, get really excited about - that we're seeing in Tacoma and play out elsewhere in the state, is that sometimes these initiatives come and I'm speaking as a consultant, so obviously this happens - it has a lot of good results sometimes - but this wasn't the result of consultants getting around, establishment party entities saying, We want to put an initiative on the ballot, what should it be? And deciding what that's going to be in rallying support. This was something that truly did come from the community. This was a response from people in the community to problems that people in the community were having. They got together, they made this happen, they knocked on doors and advocated for it. This was not funded by an outside source - anything like that. And I think those are wildly successful. I think we've also seen this with the Tukwila Raise the Wage initiative that was successful that the Transit Riders Union did - that kind of model, which oftentimes is a reaction to inaction sometimes by people in power, which is frustrating to a lot of people, not seeing the issues that they feel are most important being addressed. We're having another very viable path with municipal initiatives being initiated, not just by the same old players with money, but people in community learning how to advocate and move policy themselves. I think that's a really powerful thing. We're seeing that across the state and I think we're gonna see more of it. I think that's a positive thing.

[00:42:24] Melissa Santos: Yeah, Bellingham looks poised to raise its minimum wage as a city. And they passed a measure that actually - they've been doing tenant protections as a city council, but I think that what they look on track to pass - I should say the minimum wage is leading, I should say. I guess I'd have to look just close at the results. But they're on track to pass something that requires landlords to help tenants relocate if they raise their rent by 8% or more. I mean, that's like a pretty - Bellingham is a fairly liberal city, a lot of college students from Western and all this. But that's a level, that's like sort of testing out new policies at a city level that I don't think we've - I don't think Seattle requires the landlords to do rent - well, anyway, it is kind of, I'm rambling now, but it is kind of some creative, interesting stuff happening in some of these cities that is very on the progressive edge.

And Spokane's mayor looks like they're going to be replaced with a Democrat - Lisa Brown, who used to be the state Senate majority leader and has been working in Governor Inslee's administration as Commerce Director. And so that's a big change there too. And that is certain - I think that is a very clear contrast in candidates where you have some voters rebuking the sort of far-right ties potentially of the mayor. Crystal has probably been following this more than me, but there was a big controversy recently with the mayor of Spokane sort of engaging with Matt Shea, who is like - oh my God, I forget all of this.

[00:43:56] Crystal Fincher: Domestic terrorist, an advocacy, an advocate of domestic terrorism, someone who was planning to partake himself.

[00:44:02] Melissa Santos: Yeah - who, an investigation that was commissioned by the State Legislature when Matt Shea was a legislator found that he engaged in acts of domestic terrorism. The current mayor were kind of hobnobbing with that, became an issue in that race. And voters are saying, Let's try something different - it looks like in Spokane with a more Democratic mayor. So that is a different than maybe what progressives might be seeing in Seattle. You're seeing other cities have sort of different results.

[00:44:33] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. This was one where there's - in Seattle, it's on the centrist to progressive spectrum. This was a clear Democrat versus far-right Republican who did hobnob with Matt Shea, who attended - Matt Shea, who now is well-known as someone who was found to engage in domestic terrorism, to support a variety of far-right, extremist, insurrectionist type beliefs. Nadine Woodward appeared at one of his events, hugged him, seemed to be hobnobbing with his people. And even after that was palling around with Moms for Liberty - which are notoriously anti-LGBTQ, particularly anti-trans - candidates pushing for policy, pushing for book bans in school districts across the nation, basically. So there was a clear contrast here. These issues were front and center, and voters made a clear choice here and made the decision to change direction. And there're also - three of the four Democratic councilmembers are leading in Spokane. And so this is definitely moving in a more Democratic direction in Spokane, which is a really big deal. We saw similar in Tacoma.

We were looking at a lot of suburbs - I mean, looking at the Eastside, just in King County - so many of those races. Now, Bellevue may have a more progressive council than Seattle. We've seen in a number of these cities, whether it be Bothell or others, where they have moved on affordable housing policy, transit and transportation, mobility policy in ways that Seattle has not. They seem to be outdoing Seattle when it comes to some of the implementation of progressive policy that lots of people have been asking for in the city of Seattle. Other cities have been moving beyond them and it seems like, in those cities, voters have responded well. There has been vigorous opposition to these, we hear reporting about pushback to expanding zoning and the types of housing that's able to be built in all areas basically. But those debates were had and it looks like in most of these situations where there were competitive candidates fielded, they prevailed. So I think that Seattle certainly looks one way. A lot of the state has really, really positive signals and directions. And as someone who works in elections, the map for what's possible in Washington state, I think, has expanded even more with this cycle. And there are some absolute blueprints to look at moving beyond to other cities, whether it's kind of party supported, establishment supported, well-funded efforts or more grassroots initiatives - that there are multiple routes now to passing policy that helps more people and especially the people who need the help most. So we will see what that is.

Also in some pretty high profile races, like the Snohomish County Sheriff, where we had someone who billed themselves as a constitutional sheriff, who had said that they didn't plan on enforcing all of the laws, especially when it comes to gun legislation that we've passed, some gun control legislation - just some real extreme views. And voters picked the more moderate sheriff candidate there - certainly not revolutionizing what the traditional practice of public safety is among sheriffs, but I think voters definitely want to put more boundaries in place, and are worried about accountability, and really focusing on what makes people safer from all perspectives, and wanting to make sure people's rights are respected. And not necessarily feeling like violating people's rights is just a necessary price we have to pay to be safer as a community - that allowing that perhaps is part of what is making us more dangerous, what is contributing to some of the challenges in recruiting police officers. And addressing some of those systemic issues or at least promises of doing that from people are more convincing to voters in areas that have been comfortable voting for Republicans even - that they aren't just willing to just say, Do whatever you say you need to do regardless of whether it violates rights, or doesn't jive with the law, or whatever that is. So interesting results across the state certainly.

Now with that, I want to talk about a couple of other things that we saw, including news. We saw news, we saw coverage before - I think particularly from PubliCola, from Notes from the Emerald City - about one of the most well-known officers in the Seattle Police Department suing the department. Detective Cookie Bouldin - suing the department saying that she has witnessed and experienced racism, gender discrimination over several years with the department. What do you see with this?

[00:50:19] Melissa Santos: I mean, I don't think it's necessarily a surprise that over time, especially over decades, a woman of color, Black women in particular, may not have felt at home in the Seattle Police Department. This is something I believe she's raised before, now it's just there's a formal lawsuit. It's something that - it's not a huge surprise, but I think that it is a blow to the department to have someone so recognized as a leader and over time, to make these claims. It's kind of like when - not to change the subject to another thing, but when Ben Danielson, who worked at Seattle Children's, is a very respected Black pediatrician - is also suing Seattle Children's for discrimination and racism - maybe not discrimination, but discriminatory policies. And this has a huge impact when you have someone that you've held up as sort of an example of your best, in some ways, as a department or as an agency or as a hospital. And who is sort of someone you've said - This is someone who shows how we are including communities, who has been working on these issues. And then they say - Actually, there's been a lot of problems and there's been discrimination and racism that I've encountered in unacceptable ways. It's a huge blow to the police department, Seattle Children's.

These are things that really are not good for the - not just the image of the police department, but because - they point to real problems. I'm not saying this is just an optics issue or something, but it signals that maybe what you've been saying publicly isn't what's happening internally, and it isn't what's happening privately, or how people are experiencing your actual policies and your actual operation. So that's not great. And I know for the police department - and I know that Chief Adrian Diaz has been really vocal about stamping out racism in the department. I mean, it's something he talks about a lot. But this indicates that there's been problems for a long time, at least in the minds of one of their really esteemed long-time officers in the Seattle Police Department. And I don't know that one chief talking about stamping out racism and trying to talk about culture change can - I don't know that the boat shifts that fast, right? So if you're pointing to deeper issues that have been - for decades, someone who's been there for decades, or was there for decades - gosh, I mean, it kind of, it raises questions about how much is still persisting of this and then how quickly it can change if it still is persisting.

[00:53:11] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I mean, I think lots of people aren't surprised to hear that it is persisting, given a number of the things that we've seen coming out - whether it's the video of the SPOG Vice-President mocking the value of the life of a pedestrian that was killed, Jaahnavi Kandula, that was killed by a police officer speeding without lights and sirens on on the way to a call, whether it's the tombstone that they saw, whether it's just a number of the incidents that have resulted in complaints against several officers, consistently against a consistent group of officers, it seems, in several situations.

And it's particularly notable just because Detective Cookie, as she's known by so many, has really been such a PR boon for the department, really is a face of the department. When people talk about community policing, when they talk about building relationships with community, when they talk about - Hey, there should be officers that really care, really get to know people, look out for people - a lot of them are directly thinking about Cookie Bouldin. They're directly thinking about things that they've seen her do in community. There's a park named after her. She's known for almost mentoring people, working, getting kids involved with chess - really someone who, I think, regardless of where you stand on the institution of policing where people would say, even with people that disagree, but if you're like Detective Cookie - She's okay, I've seen her help, I've seen her care. Certainly what I think a lot of people would want police to aspire to be, would want the role to aspire to be in a best case scenario. And for her to say - Yeah, well, this institution certainly, in Seattle, is one that is racist, is discriminatory, and has harmed people like me, people who it's held up as paragons and examples of what the job really is and how it can be done in the community - is troubling.

We've seen this happen several times before in other departments - not with, I think, officers as publicly visible and known as Detective Cookie. But certainly a lot of discrimination suits - particularly from Black officers, other officers of color - saying that there have been systemic issues that they have been the victim of. Or even off-duty incidents where people have not recognized that they were officers and just saw a person of color and treated them in a different way than they were supposed to. So we'll see how this turns out, but certainly a stain, another stain on the department. I don't think anyone can say this is coming - this is just grievance, or sour grapes, or someone who just hates the institution of policing and is using anything to just tear down police, or who isn't supportive of policing overall. This is someone who has kind of built their life and they're living on that, is known for doing that and seemingly cared about that, yet went through all this. And maybe because they cared, endured through all of it - don't know the details there, but it is challenging.

And I think one of the things that came out of the debates and the campaigns, the conversations that people had is really a reckoning with - maybe this is a big problem for recruiting. Maybe it's not the money that has been thrown at them that we've tried to use, that now even police officers are saying this is not a problem about money. People are talking about - it's not an attractive job. Maybe is it actually what's happening within departments the part that's not attractive and not external reaction to it. I hope that whoever winds up being elected on the council contends with this in a serious way. I think no matter what the view is on police, and I think there's a range of them within the candidates who are currently in the lead and even those who are not. But I do think this needs to be taken seriously. And I think even if you look at polling of Seattle residents - their views on public safety and policing are more nuanced than some of the like flat, simple - either you back the blue, you support cops, or you don't. Think people are, I think it's fair to say that at least most voters are generally supportive of having police respond when they call 911, but they want that to be an effective response. They want it to be a constitutional response that does keep everybody safe, and respect everybody, and build trust in the community. And we're just seeing too many things that are not that.

And with that, I think that we have come to a close today. Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, November 10th, 2023. The producer of Hacks & Wonks, and this past week's guest co-host, is the incredible Dr. Shannon Cheng. Our insightful co-host today was Seattle Axios reporter, Melissa Santos, who does a wonderful job reporting on all things political and beyond. You can find Melissa on Twitter @MelissaSantos1. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks. You can find me on all platforms, basically, as @finchfrii - that's two I's at the end. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, wherever you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Friday week-in-review shows and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, please leave a review wherever you listen. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the podcast episode notes.

Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.