2021 General Election: Washington voters reject income taxes; Seattle voters back law-and-order

Brett Davis

The Center Square

Washington state voters were rejecting income taxes, while Seattle voters appeared to be embracing more moderate, law-and-order-focused candidates in key races for mayor, city attorney and city council, according to early returns from Tuesday’s election.

An advisory vote on Washington state’s new income tax on capital gains was failing after an initial round of election results. The Washington State Legislature passed the tax, without voter approval, earlier this year. Gov. Jay Inslee signed the tax into law in May.

The nonbinding Advisory Vote No. 37 is meant to gauge public opinion.

About 63 percent percent of statewide voters say the measure should be repealed, and 37 percent say it should be maintained.

Anti-income tax sentiment could also be seen at the local level, with 78 percent of Yakima voters approving Proposition 3 to add a local income tax ban to the city charter. Yakima looks to join the 10 other cities and one county in Washington state that have now acted to ban a local income tax.

In Seattle election contests, law-and-order Democrats scored some notable victories over progressive candidates.

Bruce Harrell, a lawyer and former member of the city council, was leading current District 9 City Councilmember Lorena González, 65 percent to 35 percent in a race to elect Seattle’s next mayor.

Harrell, who during the campaign vowed to use his experience to aggressively tackle the rampant homelessness and public safety issues that plague Seattle and threaten the city’s small business recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine mandates, declared himself the victor in the mayoral contest.

“We’re going to have a new conversation on homelessness, a new conversation on education, on transportation, on climate change,” Harrell said Tuesday night in a speech to exuberant supporters in Seattle following early returns.

“A new discussion because it’s gonna be rooted in the love we have for each other and the love we have for the city.”

González ran on a platform of more subsidized housing, expanded social services and creating new protections for renters to be paid for by taxing big businesses.

Despite Harrell’s commanding lead and holding out hope she will benefit from late-counted ballots that typically favor more progressive candidates in Seattle races, González declined to concede Tuesday night.

“It’s pretty clear that Seattle voters want to see a city hall that works with all of Seattle, including downtown residents and businesses on the issues impacting our city, rather than one that stokes divisiveness,” the Downtown Seattle Association said in a statement. “Voters are signaling a desire for real plans that drive progress and results instead of performative politics. They want action, not dysfunction and rhetoric. Downtown Seattle’s recovery was on the ballot and Bruce Harrell understands why that’s a critical issue for the entire city.”

Some other citywide office races played out similarly, with the more law-and-order candidates triumphing over more progressive contenders.

Ann Davison appeared on her way to being elected Seattle city attorney after capturing 59 percent of the vote in initial balloting, while challenger Nicole Thomas-Kennedy garnered 41 percent of the vote.

Seattle attorney and arbitrator Davison promised a more law-and-order-focused approach to making the Emerald City prosperous and safer.

She managed the apparent win in deep-blue Seattle in spite of declaring herself a Republican in 2020 while Donald Trump was president. Davison ran as a Democrat for city council in 2019 and as a Republican for lieutenant governor in 2020.

Thomas-Kennedy is a former public defender and self-described abolitionist whose platform stressed restorative justice and alternatives to prison, as well as going after wage theft, corporate landlords, and oil companies.

In the Seattle City Council District 9 race, Fremont Brewing co-owner Sara Nelson captured 60 percent of the vote. Nikitta Oliver, who advocated for more progressive taxation, commercial rent control and free public transportation, trails with 40 percent. This is a city-wide seat open after City Council President Lorena González decided to run for mayor.

Incumbent Teresa Mosqueda leads Kenneth Wilson, a civil engineer and small business owner, in the race for Seattle City Council District 9. Mosqueda has 53 percent of the vote so far, while her challenger has 47 percent.

Meanwhile, King County Executive Dow Constantine appeared to be on his way to serving a fourth term after taking 58 percent of the vote over his opponent Democratic state Sen. Joe Nguyen.

Four initiatives in Bellingham pushed by the progressive group People First Bellingham have seen mixed results so far.

Of particular concern to business owners and managers was Initiative 4, which would require certain employers to provide supplemental hazard pay of $4 an hour during a declared state of emergency. The measure was failing, with more than 61 percent voting “no” to nearly 39 percent voting “yes.”

Initiative 1, an expansion of tenants’ rights in the form of up to 90 days’ notice for any evictions and the provision of rental relocation assistance, was losing, with more than 55 percent “no” votes compared to nearly 45 percent “yes” votes.

Initiative 2, prohibiting Bellingham from acquiring or using facial recognition technology, was passing, with almost 52 percent “yes” votes and 48 percent “no” votes.

Initiative 3, prohibiting any person who receives city funds from using those funds to discourage unionization efforts, garnered nearly 59 percent “yes” votes to 41 percent “no” votes.

Election results are certified by each county on Nov. 23. The secretary of state will certify results by December 2.