In the primary election for City Council Position 4, the big surprise was that first-time candidate Hoang Tran came out leading. Tran was up against three more well-know candidates who had lengthy resumes of involvement in Federal Way. Tran was a newcomer, but he made that weakness a strength by campaigning as a fresh face with new ideas. At 28.4 percent of the vote, it was not a big win, but it was good enough to advance him to the general election.
Finishing in second place, at 27.5 percent, was Diana Noble-Gulliford. At less than one point behind, she is very much in the picture, as she and third-place finisher, businessman Jack Stanford, who garnered 25.3 percent, competed for the same voters.
Their strength is in longtime residents who lean Republican and are active in many different organizations in town. Stanford’s votes will go to Noble-Gulliford, and their combined vote in the primary was 55.9 percent. That makes Noble-Gulliford the early front runner in the primary.
In contrast, the question that looms over the election is where will fourth-place finisher Sharry Edwards’ 18.5 percent of voters go?
Edwards’ support has come from Democrats and social issues advocates. But this year, that may be a more fluid base than normal.
With the primaries now over, it’s show time, and the two most important public debates are coming up in October. The Chamber of Commerce luncheon Oct. 4 gives the candidates a chance to speak directly to business leaders, and the Federal Way Mirror forum is set for Oct. 11 and is open to the public and will attract a large crowd. In both cases, candidates speak beyond those in attendance, directly to the public through the important media coverage.
These events are particularly important to Tran. Unlike Noble-Gulliford, he is not known to many active in the Chamber of Commerce, or the business community at large, and has not attended many of their functions to make connections.
This is a new group to him and provides a timely opportunity to make an impression. The other constituent groups crucial to Tran’s potential success are Democrats and social progressives. Tran leans more conservative on some issues, but his position as the administrator of the local Department of Social and Health Services office provides a visible example that might appeal to the two groups. Further, his campaign staff have been promoting him in democratic terms in what appears to be an effort to appeal to Edwards’ voters. Tran’s financial disclosure forms show a solid base of financial support from expected constituent groups.
Historically, Republicans have been more disciplined about voting in off-year elections, and Democrats turn out more in presidential years. Again, this would tend to favor Noble-Gulliford, but the Democrat vote may become important to her as well as Tran.
The secondary lesson in the primary was that Mayor Jim Ferrell does not have long coat tails. Ferrell identifies as a Democrat, though many of his positions are designed to appeal to Republicans, and he took 56 percent, in the primary. He strongly embraced Edwards who has been an active Democrat in word and action. Her fourth-place finish was a political shock, and, when combined with the second- and third-place finish of two Republicans, suggest the Democrat vote is up for grabs for two reasons.
Some Democrats say that they could not vote for Susan Honda, Ferrell’s opponent for mayor, but want to send Ferrell a message and either voted for Tran or didn’t vote in this race. The other reason making the rounds is that the changing demographics in Federal Way favored Tran in a low turn out primary.
Lastly, Tran has raised over $22,000, and Noble-Gulliford has raised under $3,000. Can Tran’s huge financial advantage offset her higher name familiarity?
Two good candidates. Study them and their positions closely.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn and retired public official. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.