Seattle’s move to the middle, lower voter turnout, and races still in play: election analysis
The 2023 General Election is over. And because we’re election news junkies, we’re here to catch up on what’s known so far about how Washingtonians voted.
Now, there are caveats — results for many races are still far from being called, as ballots continue to be tallied.
There were many big decisions to be made that could significantly shift policy around the state — city and county council races, school board races, housing policy, sheriff positions, mayoral races, the list goes on.
In Seattle, centrist candidates had a particularly good night, notes Seattle University Associate Teaching Professor Patrick Schoettmer.
"Generally, Election Night is the high-water mark for the centrist candidates," Schoettmer said. "And I think that high-water point was a little bit higher than we might have been expecting, based off of some of the primary results."
Sound View Strategies consultant and partner Sandeep Kaushik noted that, while centrists may have taken the night, it's likely that the tides will turn in at least some of the races.
"Typically in Seattle races, there's about an 8 to 10 point net shift towards of the left in later ballots," Kaushik said. "In recent history, that that shift has been sometimes as high as 12, or even 13 points."
That, Kaushik said, means there are plenty races still in play.
"I think one of the biggest things we can look at when it comes to the results is how Mayor Harrell's endorsements seemed to have been a real boon to those candidates," he noted. "Even if there was sort of a general backlash about the current direction of the city council, there also seems to have been a second undercurrent and public sort of expressing confidence in the direction Mayor Harrell wants to take the city."
Raven Tyler, a consultant with Northwest Passage Consulting, was paying specific attention to local school board races this year.
"I think we do tend to forget about school board races," she said. "On the local races, the really small races, folks tend to build their bench, if you will, for higher office."
Tyler notes that more conservative candidates, many backed by the far-right group Moms for Liberty, came out on top last night. And that could be a sign of what's to come as voters look to 2024 and beyond.
But, it was also an off-year election, which usually means low voter turnout. So far, the Secretary of State’s office estimates about a 21% voter turnout for the November elections. If that number holds, it will be about half of what we saw in the last off-year election.
And those low turnout numbers say a lot about how voters are feeling right now.
"I think it's, you know, we may just be seeing a little bit of fatigue on the voter side," Tyler said.
Schoettmer agreed and noted that there could be other reasons for the low turnout.
"If we're looking at city council races, I think that there were more areas of similarity than disagreement," he said. "So the lack of clear contrast might be part of the explanation."
Schoettmer also said that progressives have a tendency to be distracted by national politics. And with the Iowa caucuses 68 days away, there's plenty to be focused on.
Sandeep Kaushik, a partner at Sound View Strategies, consulted with Seattle City Council District 3 candidate Alex Hudson.
Raven Tyler is a consultant with Northwest Passage Consulting. During the 2023 election, Northwest Passage worked with Seattle City Council District 5 candidate Cathy Moore, District 3 candidate Joy Hollingsworth, King County Council District 6 incumbent Claudia Balducci, King County Council District 4 candidate Sarah Reyneveld, King County Council District 8 candidate Teresa Mosqueda, and Seattle School Board District 1 candidate Liza Rankin.