With 56 percent of the primary vote total, Federal Way incumbent Jim Ferrell holds a comfortable lead over Councilwoman Susan Honda in the race for mayor. But the surprise of the evening was Hoang Tran’s first-place finish in a four-person field to replace retiring council member Jeanne Burbidge.
That Ferrell would have the lead was not a surprise. As the incumbent he had several advantages, including a huge lead in the money department, raising over $63,000. But the 20 percent margin was a surprise.
His game plan was to try and put Honda away in the primary by breaking the 50 percent threshold. That would give any potential financial contributors to Honda second thoughts. He put his financial advantage to good use and bettered his goal by 6 percent.
Honda needed to be within striking range of about 10 percent and had to hope that third-place finisher Mark Greene would take home 10-12 percent. The combination would give Honda a shot in November.
But Honda was far short of 10 percent, and Greene only took 7 percent.
Insiders say Ferrell has a mixed record, which could make him vulnerable, but Honda lacked the resources to get that message out and was simply overwhelmed by Ferrell’s financial advantage. As a result, she was unable to present a strong enough case either in policy differences or administrative credentials to give the voters a reason to consider an alternative.
Can Honda still win in November? It’s possible as she will pick up Greene’s voters, and many new voters will realize an election is going on, but she has a very steep climb.
The race for council Position 4 has been the most interesting during the primary season as four good candidates tried to separate and define themselves for an electorate who seemed more interested in the beautiful summer than trying to listen to policy discussion about transportation, public safety or economic development, as the 24 percent turnout demonstrates.
First-time candidate Tran built on his strong Mirror debate performance with 28.3 percent of the vote and finished first in the crowded field.
Tran was a late starter but was able to raise over $20,000 in a short period of time, which likely surprised the other candidates.
He also benefitted from a low Democrat turnout, which hampered Edwards, while Republican voters were divided. Ballots are still arriving, but it appears Diana Noble-Gulliford, at 27.4 percent, will hold the second position and face Tran in November.
Noble-Gulliford and businessman Jack Stanford have helped build Federal Way into what it is today. Both are Republican and well known among long-time residents.
But they are not known by newer voters, and they fit the same profile and appeal to the same voters, which hampered the late-starting Stanford in a competitive primary. Stanford captured 25.2 percent, but that left him just short of second position by a little over 200 votes. But his voters will help Noble-Gulliford in November as she tries to match Tran.
Edwards was the first to announce and was out campaigning before some candidates had even decided to run. She had shifted away from longtime ally Honda and became Ferrell’s candidate.
As the lone active Democrat in the race, Edwards was expected to ride Ferrell’s coat tails into one of the top two positions in November. But her fourth-place finish at 18.5 percent may have been as big of a surprise as Tran’s first-place finish.
Some insiders believe she didn’t doorbell enough or may have been saving resources for the general election. Others felt her effort at the Mirror debate to broaden her platform beyond her interest in the homeless came too late.
That Ferrell’s huge margin couldn’t pull her along was another surprise.
As expected, county Proposition No. 1 for the arts was defeated. While an outstanding idea for the long-term needs of the region, it came after all the controversy around Sound Transit and a conservatively based turnout outside Seattle. The voters’ negative 51-49 percent was predictable.
County Executive Dow Constantine faced minimal opposition and appears headed for an easy re-election.
Incumbent County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer faced no opposition at all and will take a new oath of office in January 2018.
In neighboring Auburn, incumbent Mayor Nancy Backus held a lead of 50 percent to 43 percent over Councilman Largo Wales. But a third candidate registered at 6 percent, which is likely an anti-incumbent vote that may go to Wales and tighten up the race in November.
In Kent, longtime Mayor Suzette Cooke is not running, and council members Jim Berrios, at 39 percent, and Dana Ralph, at 33 percent, emerged from the field to face each other in the general election.
Traditionally Republicans in this state have been more disciplined about voting in off-year elections, while Democrats make a stronger showing in presidential years.
This was a more conservative group of voters, and the low turnout served as the biggest disappointment.
How low was the turnout? Mercer Island was at 38.5 percent, but Kent and Federal Way, at 25 percent, trailed south county neighbors Auburn at almost 26 percent and Des Moines at almost 29 percent. Renton was even lower at 23 percent.
Voting is your right, and it’s a privilege we sometimes take for granted. Vote in November!
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former Auburn mayor and retired public official. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.