by Real Change Staff
Members of the South Seattle Emerald team contributed to this reporting.
The 2022 general election is one that’s guaranteed to bring change. Control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are on the line, along with a handful of important governorships. While Seattle — and, to a lesser extent, King County — is deep blue, there are plenty of shades to it. The region faces major questions about how to handle homelessness, the opioid crisis, and police reform, among other issues.
Real Change, the International Examiner, and the South Seattle Emerald collaborated to cover four of these races leading up to election night: the 37th Legislative District State Representative seat, the 46th Legislative District State Representative seat, the 9th District U.S. House seat, and the King County Prosecuting Attorney position. The 37th covers an ethnically and economically diverse swathe from SoDo all the way to Skyway. The district is at the epicenter of the area’s homelessness crisis and has been historically overpoliced, another major issue that the State Legislature is involved in. The Prosecuting Attorney’s race, a contest between a status quo, straight-across Democrat, and a “law and order” candidate who wants to put the brakes on justice reform, is something of a barometer for the county’s overall political direction.
The race in the 9th Congressional District is likely to result in a victory for incumbent Rep. Adam Smith over his election-questioning, Trump-supporting opponent, Doug Basler. The 46th Legislative District is more hotly contested, but will also have important implications for Seattle’s North End, which is no stranger to issues like homelessness and inequity.
This is Washington State, so the first drop on Tuesday may not be the end of the electoral story, but here is how the races looked that night.
37th Legislative District: Emijah Smith and Chipalo Street
Chipalo Street pulled ahead on the first night of election results in the race to represent the 37th Legislative District, securing 54.40% of the vote to Smith’s 44.24% with 26.87% of ballots reported.
In a statement released after the ballot drop, Smith said that she remained optimistic that later ballots would turn the tide in her favor.
“Win or lose, being connected with everyday people carries more value for the long term, and I’m in it for the long term,” Smith said.
The contest between Smith and Street was notable because of the circumstances under which the seat opened up. Rep. Kirsten Harris-Talley won the seat in 2020, but announced in an op-ed published in the South Seattle Emerald that she would not seek reelection because of the toxic work environment and pressures on her and other legislators to bend to the system rather than legislate their values.
“But you know what was in short supply in my experience in the legislature? Integrity,” Harris-Talley wrote.
Her departure left the seat wide open, attracting four candidates: Andrew Ashiofu, Nimco Bulale, Smith, and Street. The latter two dominated in the August primary, securing 35.4% and 41.5% of the vote, respectively.
Smith ran as a daughter of the 37th, a lifelong resident of the district whose advocacy — particularly around equitable access to housing and opportunity for marginalized community members — had taken her to the very halls of power she now sought to occupy. If elected, she said, her focus would be on policies to ameliorate the damage done to the community by War on Drugs policies that hurt people’s ability to build wealth.
“When I think about my advocacy, it’s really about transformation. It’s about breaking the status quo,” Smith told Real Change in September.
Street moved to Seattle roughly 15 years ago to take a job at Microsoft. His role involves working with people over whom he has no direct authority and bringing them around to his way of thinking, a skill that Street believes will be useful in the legislature. He is also bullish on the role his tech experience can play in crafting policy around issues like data privacy — changes in the national landscape around abortion access, for example, have caused Washingtonian lawmakers to evaluate how to keep people safe if they come to the state for health care.
In his campaign, Street has emphasized the importance of educational opportunity and a more expansive conception of public safety that goes beyond policing.
“Basically, how do we have a society that we all feel safe and are happy to live in?” he told Real Change in September.
Both candidates stressed housing as one of the top issues facing the 37th.
The race to represent the 37th Legislative District has been mostly nonconfrontational leading up to election night. When asked why they believed they were the best person for the job, the candidates differentiated themselves in terms of experience and politics, but stopped short of negativity.
Over the course of their campaigns, Smith and Street raised comparable amounts of money — $130,529.32 and $152,142, respectively — and didn’t see the wave of outside funds that swamped other contests.
Prosecuting Attorney: Jim Ferrell and Leesa Manion
The race to fill the vacancy left by veteran King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg served as something of a proxy for broader debates about public safety. The ninth most expensive race in Washington State, it pitted Satterberg’s longtime chief of staff Leesa Manion against former County criminal prosecutor and current Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell.
The week before Election Day, polling from the Northwest Progressive Institute (NPI) showed the two candidates neck and neck, with Manion and Ferrell getting 32% and 31% aggregate support, respectively. That represented a significant boost for Ferrell over NPI’s summer poll, which showed, after providing the whopping 86% of voters who were undecided with detailed candidate bios, 41% supporting Manion and only 20% supporting Ferrell.
Ultimately, Manion took an early lead, securing 55.26% of the Tuesday ballot drop to Ferrell’s 44.19%. From his election night party in downtown Seattle, Ferrell said that he would wait to see more results before conceding.
From her watch party in Talarico’s, a popular pizza spot in West Seattle, Manion told supporters that she believed that voters wanted a “yes, and” approach from their prosecuting attorney.
“We’re going to hold accountable people who commit violent crimes, sexual assault, gun crimes, repeat property crime,” Manion said. “But they also know there’s a lot of struggle in our community and individuals who need help, and [voters] want them to get help so that the behavior stops.”
Despite his 16 years of service in the prosecutor’s office, Ferrell sought to frame himself as a tough-on-crime outsider who would challenge the status quo. He also aggressively courted endorsements from police unions. Manion specifically did not, citing the importance of the appearance of impartiality with regard to cases involving police brutality. Ferrell was backed by the Seattle Police Officers Guild, the King County Police Officers Guild, and the Washington State Fraternal Order of Police, among others.
According to The Seattle Times, Ferrell cited a youth diversion program called Restorative Community Pathways (RCP), which directed teenagers accused of misdemeanors and a limited set of felonies to community groups for education and outreach, as a motivation for his run. RCP is a pre-filing diversion program, meaning that the teens are not immediately charged with a crime. Ferrell believes that the program lacks sufficient oversight, as it trusts community organizations to monitor participants rather than the court system. Manion oversaw the creation of that program, but it’s not the only thing he differs with her on.
He expressed more explicit support for keeping cash bail (though Manion, in a Sept. 28 interview with Real Change, also refused to say she’d abolish it), wanted to begin prosecuting drug offenses including possession again (where Manion emphasized treatment), and bemoaned the legislature’s decisions to ban high-speed police pursuits, which he said were essential to effective law enforcement.
While Ferrell tried hard to portray Manion as part of “the establishment,” she didn’t shy away from the characterization, positioning herself as the more experienced candidate with views on equity and criminal justice reform more in line with the mainstream. She won endorsements from major regional politicians like King County Executive Dow Constantine, and former Governor Gary Locke.
It’s a nonpartisan position, but Manion was also very explicit about being the “only candidate in this race that is a Democrat in good standing with our state party,” as well as her success in garnering endorsements from every single legislative district’s Democratic Party group. The state Democratic Party denied Ferrell access to their voter database while allowing it for Manion, The Seattle Times reported on Oct. 25. Despite that, Ferrell is a self-professed Democrat, favoring abortion rights, gay marriage, labor and environmental protections. He has also made addressing wage theft, a distinctly progressive cause, a priority of his campaign, even vowing to set up a unit dedicated to prosecuting it should he win.
Over the course of the campaign, both committed gaffes. Manion said, responding to Ferrell’s criticisms about her lack of trial and specifically criminal trial experience, that “The people of King County are not electing me to stand in a courtroom … I could do that tomorrow. We have brand-new lawyers fresh out of law school going to trial,” sparking outrage among her own staff and an eventual apology letter. Ferrell, for his part, made a surprise appearance at a police union event alongside controversial SPOG president Mike Solan, drawing criticism from Manion over the fact that Solan has moved to suppress information about the six Seattle Police Department officers who participated in the Jan. 6 riot in Washington, D.C.
Should Manion hold on, it may signify an electorate that wants to continue the County’s current approach to the criminal legal system.
Congressional District 9: Rep. Adam Smith and Doug Basler
With the first wave of ballots counted, incumbent Democratic Rep. Adam Smith looked set to cruise to a reelection victory with about 71.02% of the vote. His opponent, perennial Republican candidate Doug Basler, netted 28.78% of the vote on election night.
Smith is set to serve his 14th consecutive term as representative for the 9th Congressional District, which encompasses southeast Seattle, Bellevue, and much of South King County. However, with ballots still being tallied nationwide, his tenure as the chair of the powerful House Armed Services Committee remains uncertain. It all depends on whether the Democratic Party can maintain control of the House of Representatives after a tough midterm election campaign and gerrymandering by state legislatures to give Republicans a partisan advantage.
FiveThirtyEight, a data journalism website that models elections through poll aggregation, reported that Republicans are favored to win the House as of Election Day, Nov. 8.
The 9th CD is Washington’s most racially diverse district, with more than 59% of residents identifying as Hispanic or not white.
After winning the August primary with 55% of the vote, Smith’s election seemed all but secure. Smith faced a spirited challenge from progressive school teacher Stephanie Gallardo, who received about 15% of the vote. Gallardo had criticized Smith for, among other things, his bellicose foreign policy approach.
One of Smith’s signature accomplishments in this term was passing a comprehensive weapons package for Ukraine. Following Russia’s February 2022 invasion, Smith has been one of the most vocal champions in Congress for increased military aid to Ukraine, including flying to Kyiv to call on President Joe Biden to supply long-range missiles to the country.
In his interview with Real Change, Smith said that his biggest regret was voting in favor of the authorization of military force in Iraq. He also pledged that if reelected, he would try to address income inequality and invest more into affordable housing to address the homelessness crisis.
Basler did not respond to interview requests from Real Change. In an Oct. 25 debate at Seattle University, Basler said that Democratic policies such as “defunding the police” were responsible for crime and that it was right for Republicans such as Trump to question the integrity of the 2020 election.
“They tell us we should trust the system, but we shouldn’t have to trust the system — we should know,” he said.
In election fundraising, Smith raised and spent more than $1.2 million dollars, dwarfing Basler’s haul of $126,000. According to OpenSecrets, most of Smith’s campaign funds came from large contributors and political action committees (PACs), while Basler relied mainly on large contributions.
King County Elections will continue to tally ballots returned by mail and drop box over the next weeks and expects to certify the final results on Nov. 29.
46th Legislative District: Darya Farivar and Lelach Rave
Disability Rights Washington Policy Director Darya Farivar took the lead in the race for the 46th Legislative District after the first ballot drop on Tuesday night.
Farivar received 55.94% of early votes, compared to Rave who received 43.11%.
Consultant Ben Anderstone said that the campaign was overjoyed with the result, but would be watching for late ballots to see if they changed the trajectory of the race.
“We’re feeling pretty darn confident here. There’s lots of screaming, for sure,” he said.
In a statement, Rave said that while this is not where her campaign hoped to be, there were still many votes left to be counted.
“We are very proud of the campaign we ran,” Rave said. “We worked hard and hope that the ballots will reflect that work.”
Covering much of northeast Seattle and parts of North King County, including Lake Forest Park and Kenmore, the 46th district is slightly whiter and more affluent and Democratic than the state as a whole. The two candidates — both Democrats — appealed to voters on their support for liberal policies such as increasing access to behavioral health treatment and abortion, supporting gun control, building more affordable housing, and protecting the environment.
The position opened up after longtime State Sen. David Frockt announced he would not run for reelection. This led State Rep. Javier Valdez announcing his run for Frockt’s seat, opening the 46th’s district position number 2.
Five candidates entered the race for the safe Democratic seat. Farivar and Rave prevailed in the August primary with 31.6% and 28.1% of the vote, respectively. Despite being a safe seat, the race has become the sixth most expensive Washington legislative race in the 2022 midterms, with candidates spending more than $835,000.
While Farivar came in first in the primary, Rave has raised the most money. According to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission, Rave brought in more than $312,000 in campaign contributions through Oct. 31, compared to Farivar’s nearly $170,000. Both candidates relied mainly on individual donors, with some donations from labor unions and PACs. Rave drew in more support from the wealthy too, receiving more than $9,000 from businesses directly and garnering 214 donations from individuals equal to or more than $500. Farivar received 106 big donations.
Rave also got more than $38,500 in support from “super PACs” — political committees which independently spend money on behalf of candidates. Her main corporate support came from the health care industry, including the insurance providers Regence and Premera Blue Cross. Rave also received donations from food and alcohol industry organizations and $1,000 from Anheuser-Busch. Unlike Rave, Farivar did not receive corporate support.
In her interview with Real Change, Farivar said that her experience as the policy director of Disability Rights Washington made her uniquely ready to hit the ground running with policymaking. Meanwhile, Rave pointed to her advocacy work with the American Academy of Pediatrics and said that her unique perspective as a physician would be a big asset in Olympia.
While both candidates highlighted their mainstream liberal credentials, Farivar distinguished herself as the more progressive candidate on issues such as police reform. She said that she was proud of advocating for the passage of multiple police accountability bills in 2021 and said that she would build on that if elected. In contrast, Rave focused more on Seattle debates on public safety, saying she had never supported the “defund the police” movement and that the current police force was “depleted.”
Rave and Farivar received support from labor unions, though Farivar got the backing of more progressive organizations as well as the other three primary opponents. The conservative Seattle Times editorial board endorsed Rave while the more progressive-leaning The Stranger Election Control Board backed Farivar. In many ways, the 46th district position number 2 race reflects an ongoing divide between more conservative and progressive forces within the Democratic party.
Ballots will continue to trickle in over the next few weeks with final results to be posted on Nov. 29.