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Elections 2021: No Middle Ground

On the first Tuesday of August, the last ballots were placed into ballot boxes or marked for postage as a period of counting commenced, dwindling down the candidates for the general elections. Across the county, a growing polarization in national politics can be seen impacting even the local races. Progressive challengers won a sizable voter base in the primaries, but will need to put in work to win the general.

The good news for progressives is that a strong affinity was shown among the voter base for progressive candidates. Three candidates endorsed by Renton Progress had about one-third of the primary vote: Carmen Rivera (37%), Joe Todd (32%), Joe Nguyen (32%). Both conservative and progressive factions have immediately jumped into the general race, preparing for what will likely be close or even challenging elections for progressive candidates.

On the downside, conservative candidates had a strong turnout with only marginally smaller voter bases. Reagan Dunn maintained a strong lead in his county council district with over half the primary voters supporting his campaign. In Public Hospital District No 1, the hospital commission which runs Valley Medical, Katie Bachand, a candidate who might be described for sharing QAnon-like conspiracies, made it through to the general against Monique Taylor-Swan, a union/labor candidate. Other races across King County share similar results, such as with Nikkita Oliver, an attorney and abolitionist, and Sara Nelson, an anti-accountability business owner, both receiving about 40% of the vote in the Seattle City Council district.

Progressives will be put into a challenging place appeasing their traditional base, concerned about police accountability, with opposing voters who are emboldened and demanding even more investment into police officers. We might describe this moment as white backlash to the demonstrations initiated by everyday people across the country participating in a large scale civil protest for racial justice.

What can be said from these primary results is that today it is not easy to be a middle-of-the-road politician. The results are also sending warning signals to progressive activists who continue to see less voter turnout in local elections which may drive conservatives to continue to hold local authority even in areas where progressive Democrats win in state and federal elections. The challenges are there and progressives will need to work hard, but they can win!

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