Though Seattle has four citywide races on the ballot this year, there’s only one with incumbent vs. challenger dynamics: Seattle City Council Position #8. Current Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda is squaring off against bridge engineer and first time candidate Kenneth Wilson in the general election, in a race that so far has received far less attention than the city’s other three races.
But perhaps that will change in the final two weeks of voting, because our general election survey of the Seattle electorate finds Mosqueda with just an eight point lead over Wilson, despite having captured nearly 60% of the vote in August.
39% of 617 likely 2021 voters in Seattle said they were voting for Mosqueda for Council Position #8, while 31% said they were voting for Wilson. 26% said they were not sure and 3% said they would not cast a vote.
In our July 2021 survey of the Seattle electorate, Mosqueda received 26% support, while Wilson received only 1%. It appeared, at the time, that Kate Martin could be Mosqueda’s likely general election opponent, with 6% support.
But then something very interesting happened: voters across the city collectively took notice of Wilson after checking out the voter’s pamphlet statement, and decided to back his candidacy. Wilson surged past Martin during the voting period, capturing 16.21% of the vote for the second place spot in the August election.
Now that Wilson is Mosqueda’s general election opponent, voters appear to be taking even more notice of his campaign… and they’re very intrigued. Mosqueda is still the favorite to win in November, but a Wilson victory is also a possibility.
This new poll, which was conducted by Change Research for the Northwest Progressive Institute, has a modeled margin of error of 4.1% at the 95% confidence interval. All 617 respondents participated online. The poll was in the field from Tuesday, October 12th, 2021 through Friday, October 15th, 2021.
Here are the exact questions that we asked, and the responses that we received:
QUESTION: The candidates for City Council Position #8 this year are listed below in the order that they will appear on the November general election ballot. Who are you voting for?
- Not sure: 37%
- Teresa Mosqueda: 35%
- Kenneth Wilson: 27%
FOLLOW-UP QUESTION ASKED OF UNDECIDED VOTERS ONLY: If you had to choose, who would you vote for?
ANSWERS FROM UNDECIDED VOTERS:
- [Still] Not sure: 73%
- Teresa Mosqueda: 8%
- Kenneth Wilson: 10%
- Would not vote: 9%
COMBINED ANSWERS, BOTH QUESTIONS:
- Teresa Mosqueda: 39%
- Kenneth Wilson: 31%
- Not sure: 26%
- Would not vote: 3%
As mentioned, Mosqueda is the only incumbent appearing on this general election ballot, with Mayor Jenny Durkan having decided not to run again, Council President Lorena González having left the Council to run for Mayor, and Pete Holmes having been ousted in his bid for a fourth term as Seattle City Attorney.
Mosqueda was first elected to the Council four years ago with a big margin of victory and is running on several key accomplishments, chiefly the city’s JumpStart revenue plan, which has so far held up in court and which is backed by a robust majority of Seattle voters, according to NPI’s research.
Mosqueda also cites public safety investments and equitable, affordable housing investments as major accomplishments of her first term.
“In the face of growing unaffordability in Seattle, I chaired the Housing Committee and passed bills and budget priorities to build more housing options and affordable homes throughout Seattle, and am proud of the important progress we have made to improve affordability across Seattle, and know that there is much more to do in terms of funding and zoning changes to build the 418,000 new affordable units our region needs,” Mosqueda writes on her website.
“I am proud that JumpStart secured an additional roughly $135 million per year for affordable housing, shelters, homeownership opportunities and more to address the housing and homelessness declared states of emergency by building more housing, preventing displacement, improving access to services, and protecting public land for public good.”
With respect to public safety, she writes: “Safe communities are healthy communities. That’s why I have prioritized health, safety, and well-being over investments in systems that have proven to cause disproportionate harm, especially to our Black and Brown communities. I am so proud of our accomplishments towards stronger communities, but there is much more to be done to reverse harm caused, invest in community solutions, and move funding upstream to invest in public safety and infrastructure that saves lives.”
Wilson is a first time candidate who barely raised or spent any money in the elimination round. Nevertheless, he put together a voter’s pamphlet statement that clearly appealed to voters who looking for an alternative to Mosqueda.
Drawing on his experience as a bridge engineer, Wilson is championing what he says are practical transportation solutions for the city along with causes that often don’t get top billing but nevertheless are strongly supported by Seattle voters… like tree protection, which NPI’s research has found massive enthusiasm for.
“Enforcement by Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) of [the] passed Tree Protection Ordinance sounds straightforward and obvious, but it is not working to create the smart City-wide Plan we need,” Wilson writes on his website. “Fee-in-lieu of options and limitations to three trees a year per lot are not providing actual accounting and value for trees lost nor meeting our goals necessary to maintain critical green canopy.”
“It is also false to assume that even at 6 to 1 replacement of new to mature creates a realistic alternative to the mature trees’ benefits. Count the leaves on six tiny new trees or considering the fact that small trees die or require replacement within three years, which makes them unequaled to a critical mature tree.”
“The tree ordinance must be clarified to protect all mature trees, except in designated arterials and urban development zones, including and especially those on public property,” Wilson’s commentary goes on to say.
“The value of the trees within the allowed zones to be removed must be inventoried, retained if practical, but again valued in a tracking system for monitoring our area’s critical green canopy. Protecting Seattle’s urban trees is a priority. Environmental impacts begin in our own backyard. Critical green space and tree canopy needs to be protected from poorly planned development.”
These kinds of specific, rich substantive analyses are rare on a candidate’s website. But then, Wilson is not a conventional candidate.
That could explain why he’s getting all this traction.
To go from 1% to 30% in polling in three months is a pretty incredible accomplishment. Wilson’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric. And if it continues into the final days, Mosqueda’s once comfortable lead could evaporate, creating a close contest that few people could have ever anticipated.
Our team and the analysts we work with at Change Research believe that Wilson’s Top Two surge wasn’t detected in our last round of polling because it happened after our July survey had fielded. We know that the poll correctly anticipated nearly every dynamic in the Top Two election, and we know that Wilson was an unknown who spent no money to reach voters, so it’s logical to conclude that Wilson did not catch fire until people sat down at the kitchen table with their voter’s pamphlets, where they finally had an opportunity to be introduced to him.
Three months later, Wilson is no longer an unknown and currently has about the same level of support that Lorena Gonzalez has in the mayoral race… which is somewhat incredible given that Gonzalez has very high name recognition and has (along with her allies) invested huge sums in voter outreach.
The bottom line? Wilson has become a credible candidate even without having a big campaign war chest. A few months ago, Teresa Mosqueda faced a large field of forgettable challengers. Now, she faces a single challenger who has managed to attract attention and interest. This race has significantly changed, and it’s one worth paying attention to. A win for Mosqueda remains the most likely outcome, but it’s not the only possible outcome: as stated, Wilson could also prevail. He’s nicely positioned for a stunning victory if he can continue his surge.
NPI is not aligned with either Mosqueda or Wilson and does not have an endorsement for Seattle City Council Position #8, or any involvement in an independent expenditure supporting or opposing either candidate.
Voting in the November 2021 general will end on November 2nd. Ballots must carry a 11/02/2021 postmark or be in a dropbox by 8 PM to count.