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Seattle's 2021 primary just set up a 'battle royale' in November

2021 primary election aug 3
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Dyer Oxley / KUOW

The 2021 August primary may have set up more than just the top candidates Seattle will be voting for in November. It was also status check on how residents feel about the direction of the city, its leaders, and the solutions to the problems it faces, such as police reform and homelessness.

For voters, these issues will be as much a part of the ballot as the candidates.

KUOW's Angela King discussed the primary election results with Marcus Harrison Green of the South Seattle Emerald and the Seattle Times and Joni Balter, political analyst and contributing columnist.

Marcus Harrison Green: I couldn't help but think that as much as we hear this narrative that newspapers are slowly dying, it seems like they still have the power to be monarch makers. It's no secret that The Seattle Times and The Stranger endorsements still carry weight. And they're often the main predictors of who actually ends up making it out of the primary. That apparently is going to hold true today. You look at the mayor or city council and even the city attorney's race, and it looks like The Stranger endorsee will go up against The Seattle Times endorsee

But in terms of the city attorney's race you have a center-left person in Ann Davison, a progressive in Pete Holmes, and what some people deem a far-left candidate Nicole Thomas-Kennedy. I don't think these candidates could be more different than the Hatfields and McCoys.

Marcus later clarified his "center-left" description of Davison, saying she is "the most conservative that you can get in a city like Seattle."

Joni Balter: I don't think there is a screaming clear message, that Biden or center left Democrats won big here. I think it's more clear that the far left did not win. Bruce Harrell had a very strong showing no matter how you look at this. The man is most likely to be the next mayor; rejects the current ultra-Progressive course the city is on. And it's one led by his opponent Council President Lorena González. So a stark contrast for voters.

Lorena González is running as if it were 2019, using the boogeyman of Amazon or corporate America as a we vs them kind of thing. This to me is treating voters in one of the most sophisticated cities in the world as if they're naïve.

Seattle City Council position 9 race

Joni Balter: Seattle currently has five activists on the City Council, and they haven't really done us proud. They help make people feel either unsafe or maybe even ashamed of their own fabulous city. So this is a chance to change that. Nikkita Oliver, who did well in the primary is also an activist. I am very impressed by small businesswoman, Sara Nelson, showing she basically doubled her percentage since her 2017 bid for a council seat. And I think Nelson's profile is a pretty good match for the moment. Our small business owners feel neglected for all kinds of reasons. And we could use a little business savvy on the Council.

Marcus Harrison Green: I think you have to look at this race from the lens of this last year and a half or so that we've gone through a reckoning of what police accountability should actually look like in this city. You have people currently in the city who say we haven't gone far enough, and we still need to divest from policing and support social systems that get to the root causes of violence. And then you have that the counter-argument ... people who say that we've already gone too far we have an uptick in violence now and, yes, we do have bad apples that need to be eliminated. And we may need to retrain police in de-escalation and anti-bias techniques, but we don't necessarily need to make significant cuts to police.

The two candidates here represent these dueling opinions. You have Nikkita Oliver who represents more of the first approach, and Sara Nelson represents more of the second. What's interesting is that this will really be the first time since the George Floyd protests that voters get to directly register their opinion about police reform.

Joni Balter: Results here set up a battle royale over homelessness and the Compassion Seattle charter amendment. So here we have two candidates with starkly different views on this amendment. Harrell is for it, González is against it. And so that debate is going to be exactly as charter backers intended. You have to say how you're going to fix the homelessness problem. And the status quo isn't going to fly.

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