Opinion

Election night insight in Federal Way | Andy Hobbs

Amid the hot debate over Proposition 1 and an elected mayor, both sides of the fence were relatively calm on election night.

Federal Way City Council member Jim Ferrell got a rock-star welcome at Marista’s coffee shop for a gathering of Accountability Comes to Town (ACT) supporters. He and campaign manager Steve McNey glowed like kids on Christmas once the first election results were announced in ACT’s favor. McNey helped Ferrell get elected to the council in 2003. McNey will relocate his family from Florida to Federal Way, then try to make Ferrell the city’s first elected mayor.

Volunteers for Federal Way Works, which led the opposition against Prop. 1, converged at Scoreboard Pub for a few election night drinks. The vibe was a mix of relief, disappointment and acceptance, along with hope that the tide will turn as more ballots are counted.

The elected mayor initiative was first rejected 55 percent to 45 percent in early 2008. This time around, the debate boiled on both sides, but with one key difference: ACT took a professional approach to the campaign, beefing up its message with money and muscle. ACT mailed thousands of fliers across the city — a strategy that helped shape the debate and stir up emotions. Federal Way Works played catch-up most of the time, relying on volunteers and a leaner budget.

A common conversation at both camps: The nationwide trend of bucking the status quo and trying something new. Some call it “the Obama effect,” based on the impact of last November’s presidential election. Instead of asking “why,” this year’s voters seemed to ask “why not?”

Russian and Ukrainian voters

At the ACT election night gathering, Federal Way resident Paul Kalchik mentioned his own behind-the-scenes victory as a political consultant. Kalchik helped mobilize an estimated 800 to 1,000 Russian and Ukrainian voters for this election. His goal is to register 3,000 voters from this demographic by 2012.

Russians and Ukrainians make up 10 percent of Federal Way’s current population of about 88,000. This demographic is conservative, and Referendum 71 (the domestic partnership bill) helped draw more of these voters into this year’s election, Kalchik said.

Older generations typically don’t trust government and therefore don’t vote, based on political views established in their home countries, Kalchik said. An endorsement for a candidate or issue carries a lot of weight, especially if it’s someone the Slavic voter trusts. Likewise, younger generations born in the United States are more open-minded to voting, he said.

“I can see us being a powerful voice in the future,” he said, comparing the Slavic community to the Korean population in terms of potential influence. “We’re establishing ourselves here.”

Kalchik’s father, Anthony Kalchik, is a Realtor who ran for District 30 state representative against Mark Miloscia in 2006.

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