Matt Driscoll

Five things we learned from Tuesday night’s election results

Finality, with one refresh of a website.

For candidates across the state, months of hard work, campaigning and door-belling culminated abruptly on Election Night.

Some emerged victorious Tuesday. Others emerged defeated and deflated.

Still others, including here in Tacoma and Pierce County, remained in limbo — with their respective races too close to call.

Here’s an early look at what we learned on Election Night 2019, with a few lessons still forthcoming.

Razor-thin Port race

If you were hoping for proof that Pierce County voters want the Port of Tacoma to move toward a greener, more sustainable future, Tuesday night’s initial election results instead served as a cold dose of reality.

Kirstin Ang, a fierce critic of Puget Sound Energy’s liquefied natural gas project, represents the kind of voice that has been forever missing on the Port of Tacoma Commission.

Dave Bryant, on the other hand, represents the kind of traditional, pro-business, pro-LNG voice that has become customary.

As of Tuesday night, the two very different candidates were looking at the same results: a very close race, and one that’s probably too tight to call.

While there are no moral victories in politics, whatever happens from here on out, one thing should be clear:

Ang’s viable candidacy — and the traction she received, evident in endorsements and fundraising — proves her message is anything but fringe. That means, in the years to come, heated environmental stewardship and fossil-fuel debates surrounding the port aren’t going away, even if some would like them to.

There will be more candidates like Ang, and that’s a good thing.

It’s worth remembering that, not terribly long ago, Port of Tacoma Commission meetings flew under the radar, with few taking notice. The Great Methanol Debate changed everything, of course, and Ang’s candidacy is the clearest indication yet that the community’s concern about the port’s future wasn’t a one-off.

At the same time, for those who’d like to see the port continue to evolve, Tuesday night’s results show plenty of work remains.

Status quo in Tacoma

There were relatively few major surprises in Tacoma Tuesday night.

For those accustomed to calling the shots at City Hall, that was largely a good thing.

As expected, Conor McCarthy — the heir of the McCarthy family political legacy — was well ahead of challenger Courtney Love in his attempt to retain an At Large seat on the Tacoma City Council for the next four years.

In District 3, incumbent Keith Blocker was decisively defeating David Combs, a Hilltop small business owner and first-time political candidate critical of the city’s response to issues like affordability, homelessness and displacement.

And in the race to fill Ryan Mello’s at-large seat, Kristina Walker appears to be voters’ choice.

Though she’s also a first-time candidate, Walker was able to secure the endorsement of most of the current City Council as well as regional players like U.S. Reps. Derek Kilmer and Adam Smith. John O’Loughlin, the former head of Tacoma’s Environmental Services department, ran a strong campaign, but ultimately, it appears Walker ran a stronger one.

For voters, the The Downtown on the Go executive director’s strengths and priorities — namely, advocating for improved public transportation and sustainable growth — obviously resonated and should serve as a strong follow-up to Mello’s time on the council.

Sometimes, more of the same isn’t a bad thing.

If there was a surprise, it came in District 1, where John Hines — who was unsuccessful in his attempt to unseat Anders Ibsen back in 2015 — was comfortably ahead of Nathe Lawver this time around.

A gutting in the making

Speaking of transportation and decisions that could very well impact it for decades to come in the Puget Sound, Tim Eyman continues to be Tim Eyman.

The anti-tax, initiative crusader’s latest bad idea — “gutting” Sound Transit “like a pig” in the name of lower car tabs — was unsurprisingly popular with voters, including in Pierce County, where early “yes” votes more than doubled “no” votes.

Statewide, Eyman’s Initiative 967 staked out an early, sizable lead Tuesday night.

For Tacoma and Pierce County, there’s plenty at stake. After waiting patiently for the regional promise of mass transit to reach us, a guy in a dayglo T-shirt and a stolen chair has effectively jeopardized it. So that’s obviously awesome.

Of course, for a good many in Pierce County, if the initiative survives the courts and one day makes it far cheaper to license an SUV, that will be seen as a victory. Outside of Tacoma, Sound Transit — and particularly ST3 — has been unpopular since the beginning.

But for the region as a whole — Tacoma and Pierce County included — Eyman’s latest endeavor could be yet another setback in a public transit history with far too many of them.

Six more years?

The first of two Bushes was just getting settled in the White House. Milli Vannili was climbing the charts.

And, in 1989, Debbie Winskill — though few could have predicted it at the time — was embarking on what would become a three-decade tenure on the Tacoma School Board.

As of Tuesday night, whether or not Winskill will get another term remained to be seen — but it was certainly trending in that direction.

In early results, Winskill held a slim lead over challenger Lisa Keating, a longtime equity advocate who has spearheaded anti-bullying initiatives and earned significant institutional and community support in her run.

If these early results came as a surprise — and with Winskill’s name recognition in a school board race, they might not — it’s only because a call for change would have been unsurprising, especially given the tumult in Tacoma Public Schools over the last few years.

The teachers strike strained relationships and community trust, while the layoffs that followed frayed nerves.

A call for new blood on the school board would have seemed natural — and Keating would have been a natural choice to deliver it.

Instead, we’ve got another race that will bear watching over the coming days.

And, quite possibly, we’ve got six more years of Winskill’s already long tenure on the horizon.

Feeding the children

The slogan was catchy.

The substance was unnerving.

“We need to give the inmates their last meal so we can give our children their first meal,” proclaimed the bearded Brock Carroll in this year’s voters’ guide, easily making the childless 26-year-old massage therapist the lone Puyallup School Board candidate to advocate for the return of the death penalty.

Sure, the inspiration for Carroll’s unusual platform — making sure kids don’t go hungry at school — is a worthy goal. But his proposal for making it happen — bringing back the death penalty and then using the purported savings to pay for school lunches — left much to be desired.

So, perhaps it’s no surprise that Puyallup voters were unsold, even after Carroll told The News Tribune that his voters’ guide catch phrase was merely a “figure of speech.”

As of this writing, Carroll was trailing Turan Kayaoglu by a substantial margin.

So sometimes sanity prevails.

On the other hand, Carroll did receive more than 6,000 votes.

Matt Driscoll is a reporter and The News Tribune’s metro news columnist. A McClatchy President’s Award winner, Driscoll lives in Central Tacoma with his wife and three children. He’s passionate about the City of Destiny and strives to tell stories that might otherwise go untold.
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