Uneven turnout despite issues

In the short-term, the big news was the defeat of the advisory vote to allow pot stores in the city limits.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.

There was plenty for voters to talk about county-wide, and the turnout was good in some places for an off-year election, such as Seattle at 54%, Normandy Park at 59%, Lake Forest Park at 57%, and Medina at 58%.

But South King County had trouble cracking 40% in most places. At newspaper deadline, Federal Way was at 39%; Renton, even with a mayor’s race, was also at 39%; Kent and Auburn were at 37% and Algona at 35%.

There were several story lines in Federal Way, as conservatives and progressives continued their debate for political control of City Hall and school board. In the short-term, the big news was the defeat of the advisory vote to allow pot stores in the city limits. In the long-term, the big story was the voters’ demonstration of support for the school board and Superintendent Tammy Campbell.

It will be difficult for the supporters of pot stores to find a way to get another ballot attempt with the current council and mayor alignment. Mayor Jim Ferrell is opposed to pot stores, and council members will have political difficulty arguing against the voters’ will. Those voting yes were at 46.4% while those voting no were at 53.5%.

With recent departures, four of the five school board members were up for election including three new appointees. Last spring at a legislative day hosted by state Reps. Kristine Reeves and Mike Pellicciotti, along with Sen. Claire Wilson, an early political message was delivered by a crowd of over 400, where only 100 usually attend. The organized crowd was unhappy with a sex education bill in the Legislature, but attendees also commented on other concerns.

Conservatives Tenya Magruder filed against Luckisha Phillips, and Elizabeth Carlson against Jennifer Jones. First-time candidate Magruder ran an organized race, suggesting some professional help, while Carlson never appeared to engage as a candidate, although she still got over 8,000 votes. Carlson had apparently been misled into thinking she would run unopposed. School board members and Campbell spent time defending district policies and outcomes, and noted the high graduation rates.

Both Phillips, at almost 60% over Magruder, and Jones at 65% over Carlson, were easy winners, suggesting voters’ confidence in district polices. But residents should watch the political dynamics. Campbell replaced a controversial superintendent and made several changes in the administration. She also won approval for a bond issue to replace aging schools. The changes in the board could have been controversial but it appears district voters have registered another vote of confidence in Campbell and the new board.

Incumbent council members Susan Honda and Mark Koppang both won.

Honda held a 65%-34% advantage from election night through Saturday that is unlikely to change. Her opponent Sharry Edwards had made the outcome easier with some strategic errors.

However, the race in Pos. 5 was expected to be close, and with each day’s ballot post it got closer. On election night, Koppang held a 55% -44% lead over challenger Jamila Taylor. However, by Saturday Koppang’s lead had slipped to 51.3% to 48.2%, but there may not be enough votes left to count to change the outcome.

The same may be true in Pos. 7 as Linda Kochmar’s lead over Tony Pagliocco also slipped from 53%-46% to 52%-47%.

Taylor looks like a good candidate to run again in 2021. Pagliocco appeared to let the momentum he gained after the primary get away the last three weeks, but he was already talking about running for either mayor or council in two years.

The upset for the evening was the passage of Initiative 19-001 led by council members Jesse Johnson and Martin Moore, which will send several political messages to the community. The policy will make it more difficult for landlords to evict renters without a reason. The legislation was seen as a way to help low-income residents or those who may be candidates for homelessness, stay in their homes.

Johnson said the message was “yes to housing security and creative housing justice.” Koppang said the “initiative was flawed and portions will be rightly challenged.” He felt the outcome was an example of the “lessors being out-voted by the lessees.”

The message to Ferrell and City Hall is that voters want a more compassionate solution to the homeless challenge, rather than the continued efforts to force them out of town.

Statewide, voters appear to have defeated reestablishment of affirmative action, while telling King, Snohomish and Pierce counties they didn’t like mass transit. King County and the city of Seattle were already talking about a lawsuit on I-976.

Final results will be posted in a few days.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.

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