Wednesday, June 12, 2024
Grueling, quirky process shapes Seattle primaries.

Grueling, quirky process shapes Seattle primaries.

It is just past midnight, and Alex Hudson is anxiously waiting for a web post that could potentially change the course of her life. As a candidate for Seattle City Council, she has been eagerly anticipating this one endorsement that has the potential to propel her to the top of the upcoming primary on August 1. Like most local candidates, Hudson has invested a significant amount of time trying to secure various endorsements. On her computer, she maintains a meticulously organized spreadsheet with numerous rows representing invitations from various organizations to compete for their stamp of approval. The list includes prominent players in Seattle, such as unions, advocacy groups, local branches of the Democratic party, and media outlets. Hudson diligently updates the spreadsheet, marking the endorsements she has won as “Won!” and watching as they turn mauve, adding a touch of order to the chaos. As the date of the primary approaches, Hudson finds herself consumed by thoughts of endorsement-related activities even in her dreams. She feels like she is working even while she sleeps.

However, there is one endorsement she is particularly eager to receive – The Stranger’s endorsement. The Stranger is Seattle’s alternative newspaper, and its endorsement has the potential to make or break her primary campaign. Political consultant Ben Anderstone acknowledges that meticulous door-to-door campaigning and mail campaigns can only take a candidate so far, especially in a city with a large voter base like Seattle. He emphasizes the significance of an endorsement from The Stranger, stressing that it can have a substantial impact, often leading to a significant increase in popularity overnight.

Endorsements play a crucial but enigmatic role in local politics, with limited research available on their influence at the local level. It is often difficult to determine whether powerful endorsers lend their chosen candidates credibility and viability or if they simply back already promising candidates. With the decline of newspapers and the rise of television as a primary source of local news, media endorsements have lost some of their significance. Last year, hedge fund Alden Global Capital announced that none of its papers would endorse candidates for various seats. Nevertheless, surviving newspapers and alt-weeklies can still wield considerable influence, especially in odd-year elections like in Washington, where many elected offices are nonpartisan. In the absence of party affiliations, endorsements serve as a signal for voters to determine a candidate’s alignment.

Seattle is known for its defined “lanes” when it comes to endorsements, with The Stranger representing the progressive left and The Seattle Times representing the more moderate standpoint. This distinction has persisted over the years despite the decline of institutional media. Hudson’s district, which stretches from Capitol Hill to the Lake Washington waterfront, is heavily influenced by The Stranger’s endorsement. This district is predominantly young and left-leaning, and there is a desire among leftists for a candidate who can carry on the legacy of City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, known for critiquing the Democratic establishment. The Stranger’s endorsement holds significant weight in this district but does not guarantee success for the endorsed candidates. In 2021, a portion of voters who supported The Stranger-endorsed candidates for city attorney and city council also voted for the Seattle Times-endorsed mayoral candidate, demonstrating a mix of endorsements in their decision-making process.

Hudson faces stiff competition in her district, with six other candidates primarily positioned to her left. The Stranger’s endorsement could potentially catapult any of them to the forefront of the race. Political consultant Anderstone has observed this scenario occur multiple times. He affirms that the day The Stranger’s endorsement is announced, the landscape of the race can dramatically change. However, as Hudson anxiously awaits the announcement, she refuses to give in to sleep. She repeatedly hits the refresh button on The Stranger’s homepage, desperate for any news.

The Stranger has significantly shaped Seattle politics since its inception in the 1990s. Originally targeting the queer and alternative communities in Capitol Hill, the city’s historic “gayborhood,” it quickly became a tastemaker in the local music scene. Over time, The Stranger’s influence on local politics grew, with their endorsements becoming a serious factor in elections. The newspaper’s internal “Stranger Election Control Board,” consisting of staff members who determine endorsements, doesn’t shy away from their impact and rejects the notion of neutrality. Candidates are even expected to bring tongue-in-cheek “bribes” when seeking endorsements. In the past 15 years, The Stranger’s endorsements have garnered equal or more votes percentage-wise than The Seattle Times’ endorsements in odd-year local primaries. The newspaper has influenced voters to support lesser-known, perennial, or even Republican candidates, challenging the mainstream choices in certain races.

The pressure to secure The Stranger’s endorsement is immense for candidates like Hudson’s competitor Efrain Hudnell, who believes that the endorsement is crucial for success. The Stranger endorsement is seen as a signal to the left, a candidate to rally behind. Hudson, fully aware of the significance of this endorsement, feels the weight of the moment as she waits for the announcement, hoping that The Stranger will shape the outcome of her political journey once again.


About Nick Dunn

Meet Nick Dunn, an exceptional author on our blog with a focus on news and politics. With an expertise in covering current affairs, international news, opinion and analysis, as well as politics and government, Nick delivers insightful and thought-provoking posts that are both informative and engaging. With his in-depth knowledge and sharp analysis, he keeps you informed and up-to-date on the latest news and developments around the world!

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