Jul 31, 2023 - Politics

3 things we're watching in Seattle's Aug. 1 primary election

Illustration of a checkmark over a square changing into a question mark.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Tuesday's primary election will determine the matchups for this fall's Seattle City Council races, winnowing the 45 candidates on the ballot down to 14.

Why it matters: The November election will bring at least four new faces to the nine-member City Council, which could substantially alter the city's political direction.

  • The primary will signal which races are competitive and which aren't, shaping where outside groups decide to spend their money heading into November, political consultant Ben Anderstone told Axios.

State of play: Seven of the City Council's nine seats are on the ballot. Four are open races with no incumbent running.

Here are some of the things we are watching most closely.

How the results change throughout the week

The results on election night are bound to be misleading, Anderstone said. That's because Seattle City Council races are known to get a surge of left-leaning votes as more ballots are counted in the mail-in election, a process that goes on for days.

  • In general elections, results for City Council races have been known to change by as much as 10 to 12 points after election night, Anderstone noted. So it's best to take those early results with a grain of salt.

Whether incumbency helps or hurts

Three races feature council incumbents — and recent polling indicates many voters don't feel the council is doing a good job on issues such as public safety and downtown recovery, Anderstone noted.

  • Sitting council members should be especially worried about how they’ll fare in November if they garner less than 45% of the vote in the primary, he said.

The impact of campaign money

In the eight-way race for the open seat in District 3, three candidates — Joy Hollingsworth, Alex Hudson and Alex Cooley — have each raised about $90,000. That's substantially more than the other five candidates.

  • Similarly, in District 1, Maren Costa and Rob Saka have a notable fundraising advantage.
  • And in the race for the open District 5 seat, community advocate Nilu Jenks has raised almost twice as much as the nearest competitor.

Be smart: You can still register to vote through Tuesday if you do so in person at a county election center or at the King County Elections headquarters in Renton.

  • You can return your ballot by mail as long as it is postmarked by Tuesday. But this late in the game, elections officials generally recommend instead using a ballot drop box to avoid any hiccups that could prevent your vote from being counted.
  • Drop boxes are open through 8pm on election night. Best to arrive early in case you encounter a line.

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