Jul 21, 2022 - Politics

Seattle has more open legislative seats than any year since 1994

Open legislative seats in Seattle
Data: Washington State Legislature, election records; Note: The 1994 number includes one seat that became vacant after the Legislature adjourned for the year, for which a temporary replacement was appointed before the election; Chart: Axios Visuals

Get ready for the busiest legislative election season that Seattle has seen in almost three decades.

What's happening: Six incumbents who represent Seattle at the state Capitol are not running for reelection this year.

The big picture: The last time Seattle legislative districts had this many open seats was in 1994.

  • That means Seattle voters this year have more power to shape the future of state politics than in past midterm election cycles.

Why it matters: Lawmakers in Olympia make decisions about how much you pay in taxes, how much money goes to public schools, gun-control policies and a range of other issues that affect your life.

Details: The retirement of three longtime Seattle legislators — David Frockt, Reuven Carlyle and Eileen Cody — supercharged this year’s election season.

  • State Reps. Javier Valdez and Noel Frame are running for Frockt and Carlyle’s open Senate seats, leaving their two House seats up for grabs.
  • Five people are running to replace Valdez, while five others seek to fill Frame’s seat.
  • Meanwhile, three candidates are vying for Cody’s old job, while another four have lined up to replace first-term state Rep. Kirsten Harris-Talley, who decided not to run for reelection.

Of note: All the retiring legislators are Democrats, as are nearly all of the candidates vying to replace them.

What they’re saying: Michael Charles, a Democratic political consultant based in Seattle, told Axios he thinks the city’s high cost of living factors into the large number of open seats.

  • Rank and file legislators earn salaries of $57,876 per year, while Seattle’s median household income was $97,185 in 2020, per census data.

Yes, but: Alex Hays, a Republican political consultant, told Axios that internal conflicts in the House Democratic caucus have played a role, too.

  • In an op-ed earlier this year, Harris-Talley blasted House Democratic leaders as lacking integrity, saying that was one reason she chose not to run for a second term.

Between the lines: State Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, who chairs the House Democratic Campaign Committee, told Axios the biggest factor is more mundane: the timing of legislative retirements.

  • In the past, some Seattle legislative seats became vacant mid-term and were filled initially by appointment, he noted.
  • That hasn’t happened recently, which is one reason for the number of open seats this election cycle, Fitzgibbon said.

What’s next: Ballots for the Aug. 2 primary were mailed to registered voters last week.

  • You can return your ballot to an official drop box by 8pm on Election Day, or mail it (as long as it is postmarked by Aug. 2).
  • The two candidates who get the most votes in the primary will advance to the general election.
  • Expect that process to produce several Democrat versus Democrat races this November. 
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