Which Seattle candidate most agrees with you? Take the all-new Alignvote quiz.

Which candidate most agrees with you in the Seattle 2021 general election? Take the all-new Alignvote quiz to find out.

I’ve just released a brand new version of Alignvote, completely rewritten and updated for the 2021 November Seattle General Election:

alignvote.com

There are four voter-candidate matchmakers for key Seattle races: Mayor, City Council 8, City Council 9, and City Attorney. And, assuming forums and questionnaires continue to develop in the race for King County Executive, there will likely be one for that race soon as well.

Are you just getting up to speed on some of the big issues in these races, and curious where the candidates stand on some key questions? Drop by Alignvote, and take the quiz. Then share it with your friends.

https://alignvote.com

Questions are sourced from candidate forums, direct questions placed to the candidates, and their positions as outlined on their campaign websites, on-the-record statements and elsewhere.

Know any undecideds?

In a poll released today, some 65% of voters were undecided in the City Attorney race, and 27% were undecided for Mayor:

Here’s a sample question, for the Mayor’s race. This question was posed at a recent forum, and answered by both general election candidates. Which one do you agree with? You can move the “Importance” slider between seven values, from “irrelevant” to “essential.”
Example question from the Mayor’s race, which was asked in a recent forum

All candidates were notified last Thursday and invited to provide additional elaboration if they’d like.

New Features

  • The voter-candidate matchmaker is now embeddable on any website, and I’d be happy to have this embedded on your site or blog. If you have a news site or blog covering city politics or the Seattle election, grab the snippet of code to embed the Alignvote Quiz on your website.
  • There’s a new “Evidence” section at the end of the stack-rankings. That section will include links to relevant news stories, tweets, commentary and more which are directly related to the candidate’s own views on the question at hand. This will likely be growing between now and November. If you have relevant stories or links to include, jot a tweet or Direct Message to @alignvote on Twitter.
  • Easier administration. A great deal of the effort was put into easier administration on the back-end. I have rewritten the code entirely from Angular/Material to React/NextJS.

On Controversy and Bias

In the 2019 cycle, Alignvote delivered over 20,000 voter-candidate rankings, and certainly generated some controversy.

Alignvote measures the level of match between you and the eight candidates in the four races above. You and the candidate are answering the same question. Alignvote simply scores the distance, weighted by the importance that you assign on these questions. The candidate with the least overall distance, weighted by importance to you on each issue, comes out on top.

How are questions sourced? Of course, these aren’t the only questions which should matter to a voter, but they are ones where the candidates often have differing viewpoints and ones in which they have made their stances clear.

As for me, the guy behind this project, like all voters and writers, I have political views. I have expressed them here on my blog, and I will continue to do so. I am not unbiased. My own views may not match your own. This is true of any blogger, tweeter, activist-blogger, TV personality or mainstream journalist covering politics.

For what it’s worth, on political quizzes and by Gallup polling, I generally score as a centrist, and I have supported Democratic, Independent and Republican candidates with varying ideologies over the years. And, since it seems a highly relevant indicator to Seattleites, I’ve never voted for Trump.

But I also realize that the term “centrist” is a subjective label. I value great public schools, affordable and convenient transit options, help for those who need it, good and accountable government, green parks, limits on services for those who refuse to partner, transparent metrics for the public which funds services, more affordable housing inventory, better solutions for those experiencing mental health or substance use crises in their lives and improved health and environmental outcomes for all.

I think that’s in part because (a) some political writers/tweeters with relatively large followings really, really don’t like when policy tradeoff questions are framed in any other terms other than the favorable ones they prefer, and (b) many candidates like to “tack toward the center” in the general and therefore do not want to be pinned down in multiple-choice options. They want the freedom to be all things to all voters for a general election.

But leadership, including civic leadership, is often about tradeoffs. If there were solutions to long-term controversies that had easy “no cost” answers, they’d have been done by now.

I think voters deserve more clarity.

To be sure, the selection of any set of questions in any poll or survey or candidate forum can absolutely result in bias.

Controversial issues can be framed in a number of ways.

Alignvote simply shows the level of match between you and the candidates on the questions. There are many opportunities to hear open-ended answers to questions (interviews, forums, meet-and-greets and more.) By design, to help voters quickly identify closest-match-to-them, Alignvote relies upon closed-ended questions, where both you and the candidate must commit to one of the answers.

And Alignvote offers candidates an option to elaborate on why they chose the option they did. Campaigns were all emailed these questions for elaboration on Thursday, September 23rd, and I would be happy to put their elaborations in for voters to hear. (They should allow up to 72 hours for their elaborations to go live.)

Find it useful? Share it, and follow on social media.

I’m very gratified to hear directly from many of you that it’s been very helpful. It’s an entirely free civic project, and is not funded by any campaign or political organization — its very modest costs are solely funded by me.

If you like it, please share it with fellow Seattleites. Options include email, Twitter, Facebook, Nextdoor, Reddit and word of mouth. Or just jot me a follow on social media. You’ll find me at @stevemur and alignvote at @alignvote. And please vote in November!

photo credit: Nitish Meena

Candidate Questions for the 2021 Seattle Election: Prosecution for Misdemeanors

Part II in a three-part series, in which I ask questions of the eight campaigns in the Seattle November 2nd General Election and hand the microphone to them. Today’s question: Should Seattle essentially end criminal prosecution for misdemeanors, including shoplifting, property destruction and misdemeanor assault?

This post first appeared on Post Alley on September 4th, 2021.

This is the second of a three-part series on key issues in the Seattle November 2021 general election. In Part I, we took at look at what candidates had to say about altering single-family residential zoning and explained the methodology for this series.

Question: Should Seattle essentially end criminal prosecution for misdemeanors, including shoplifting, property destruction, prostitution, and misdemeanor assault?

In 2021, perhaps the most consequential office up for election is City Attorney. Voters will be making a big decision about how we wish to change our approach on crime, particularly misdemeanor offenders. What should the Seattle City Attorney’s office (and the City Council) do about misdemeanor offenders, such as those arrested for shoplifting, misdemeanor assault, drug possession, property destruction, prostitution, and more?

Note that felony offenders (e.g., those accused of homicide) aren’t under the auspices of the Seattle City Attorney’s office; that’s handled by the King County Prosecutors Office, a position currently held by Dan Satterberg.

Buzzwords often found in this debate: “diversion,” “decriminalization,” “frequent offenders,” “decriminalize poverty,” “crimes of poverty,” “affirmative defense,” “permissive policies,” and “carceral approaches.”

Arguments in favor of decriminalization: The current system punishes people for living in poverty. Rather than spending millions on approaches involving incarceration, why not spend those dollars toward services to help offenders rehabilitate and become more productive members of society? When we jail people, they lose housing, jobs, relationships, and other things they need to stay out of trouble. Baltimore and San Francisco have taken such approaches, and Baltimore experienced a decrease in violent crime.

Arguments opposed: Seattle is already one of the most progressive cities in the nation with respect to diversion-from-jail programs, yet it has a serious frequent offender problem. In February 2019, the System Failure Report chronicled 100 of Seattle’s top offenders. These 100 individuals were responsible for 3,562 bookings. Just nine months later, these same individuals were responsible for another 220 bookings. Under outgoing three-term City Attorney Pete Holmes, the city declined to file charges in almost half of all non-traffic-related criminal cases that Seattle police referred for prosecution. Compassion needs to consider victims of crime, not just the offenders.

Candidate Responses

Below are the complete and unedited responses. As noted in Part I, the Lorena González mayoral campaign did not respond to multiple inquiries:

Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, City Attorney Candidate

“Essentially end? Some things yes, some things no. I seek to prioritize survivor safety and healing, utilize non-jail systems of accountability, and support community needs so that harm can be prevented, not just punished after the fact.”


Ann Davison, City Attorney Candidate

“I am not in favor of ending the prosecution of misdemeanors. When there is talk of abolishing prosecution, we are forgetting about the victims of these crimes.  This includes domestic violence victims, small business owners who are forced to close their businesses in neighborhoods due to repeated thefts, and individual people who are frequent victims of crime are often our vulnerable. I am strongly in favor of smarter prosecution that doesn’t have double standards and also to divert people into robust programs that can offer meaningful rehabilitation with measurable outcomes; but abolishing prosecution altogether shuts off these interventions and alternatives and promotes more and worse offenses.”


Bruce Harrell, Mayoral Candidate

“The City must view every misdemeanor prosecution with a lens of restorative justice and evaluate every case individually and comprehensively. The City should neither prosecute nor waive prosecution for all crimes as a blanket policy, but rather balance the rights and history of the accused and consider the needs and the lens of the victim. I support alternatives to prosecution in situations where existing programs are proven to lead to better outcomes and where those programs are appropriate for the specific offender. However, in many cases, the City still needs the ability to prosecute as a way to both encourage participation in alternatives and to maintain public safety.”


Kenneth Wilson, City Council Candidate (Seat 8)

“No. Small crimes and mistakes still required correction, and are not harmless. Just as a coach acts to correct a mistake during practice before it occurs in a critical setting or the problem escalates. Specifically, misdemeanors becoming the norm are extremely harmful to our society as a City of equal people. I also agree with Bret Stephens’ article in a recent The Seattle Times, “Our ‘broken windows’ world,” that proper correction of misdemeanors prevents disorder that becomes the normal and the allowance for increasing crime and violence. Most importantly, misdemeanors must be dealt with compassionately and consistently in justice commensurate with the problem.”


Teresa Mosqueda, Incumbent City Councilmember and Candidate (Seat 8)

“Criminal prosecution at the misdemeanor level often exacerbates the same factors that are at the root cause of crime. Creating barriers to economic stability and mobility and social inclusion through negative interactions with the legal system too often does not rehabilitate or affect long-term change in the person who committed a misdemeanor crime. Let’s do our best to stop the upstream of folks being swept into the criminal legal system by expanding post-arrest diversionary programs and other proven tools to reduce misdemeanor crimes.”


Sara Nelson, City Council Candidate (Seat 9)

“Absolutely not! As reported and analyzed, Councilmember Herbold’s proposed legislation would enable defendants to have their case dismissed if they committed these crimes out of “need” or because they were suffering from a mental health disorder, including addiction. I support diversion programs that aim to keep offenders of low-level crimes out of jail initially, but this legislation would be a signal that virtually all misdemeanors are permissible under a very broad and vague excuse and it would pave the way for more serious crimes because many offenders of misdemeanors end up committing repeatedly or moving on to felonies.

“Herbold’s proposal was strongly opposed by residents and small businesses who’ve grown increasingly frustrated about repeat thefts and property damage that go unpunished. To my knowledge, Herbold did not meet with or listen to the neighborhood groups and small business organizations who voiced their loud and unequivocal opposition, not even the Mayor’s Small Business Advisory Council which recommended against it. This is yet another example of the tone-deafness Council repeatedly displays toward the real struggles of Seattle’s residents and businesses who are just plain fed up with the City’s laissez-faire attitude toward crime in general. Herbold’s proposal is on the backburner during the campaign but it’s not officially dead yet.”


Nikkita Oliver, City Council Candidate (Seat 9)

“Seattle’s criminal punishment system costs nearly $48 million a year. Almost NONE of that money helps address individuals’ poverty or helps them meet their basic needs. Instead, the system criminalizes poverty. In 2017, Seattle caged individuals for 63,000 nights in jail cells.

“Over 90% of cases in the municipal court end up qualifying for public defenders – this means that Seattle spends millions every year prosecuting poor people. And even though Black people make up less than 7% of Seattle’s population, Black people made up 27% of the cases prosecuted by Seattle Municipal Court in 2017-2018.

“Misdemeanors are generally considered low-level law violations. There is evidence to suggest that reducing the number of misdemeanor prosecutions and investing in communities and community-based supports decreases crime. Seattle needs to stop punishing poverty, mental health struggles, and drug use, and instead invest in our communities. Punishing people who are experiencing poverty and trying to meet their basic needs is foolish and immoral. It does not address the root problem—poverty. And instead, it makes things worse, forcing people into cycles of incarceration and court supervision that make it even harder to achieve financial stability.

“For the above stated reasons, Seattle should end or at minimum dramatically reduce prosecution of misdemeanors.”


Which Candidates Align With You?

If you say “yes, let’s end most misdemeanor prosecution; our approach for the past 12 years has failed in part because it’s been too tough on offenders and emphasized carceral (jail) approaches too often,” Favor Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, Nikkita Oliver, and Teresa Mosqueda.

If “no, do not end most misdemeanor prosecution,” favor City Attorney candidate Ann Davison, council candidate Sara Nelson, Mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell, and Councilmember Mosqueda’s opponent Kenneth Wilson.

In the final piece of this three-part series, we’ll look at the candidates’ attitudes toward the “Compassion Seattle” charter amendment.

The Stranger’s Political Endorsements Have Been Disastrous for Seattle

The Stranger’s recommendations have occupied the key policy setting positions in Seattle, other than mayor, for quite some time. They’re no longer the outsiders; they’re the insiders. If you love the Seattle City Council, you should follow The Stranger’s endorsements yet again.

Endorsements from The Stranger are arguably the most powerful in the city. Crosscut’s David Kroman estimates their endorsement can carry at at least a 2% boost:

That doesn’t mean they’re good recommendations.

The current City Council is The Stranger’s City Council

It is accurate to say the current Seattle City Council is The Stranger’s Council. That’s because 8 of the 9 current sitting Seattle City Council members were strongly endorsed by the far-left political writers at The Stranger: Kshama Sawant, Andrew Lewis, Dan Strauss, Lorena Gonzalez, Debra Juarez, Teresa Mosqueda, Tammy Morales, and Lisa Herbold. They now think the current President of the City Council has done such a bang-up job she should have a much bigger position, overseeing the entire executive branch of Seattle as our next mayor. How is City Council doing? How well is it run? Do you view the Seattle City Council favorably?

It is accurate to say that the Seattle Public Schools Board is The Stranger’s Public School Board. That’s because the current President of the Seattle School Board, Chandra Hampson, as well as key School Board member Zachary DeWolf, as well as other members earned the glowing endorsements from the political writers at The Stranger. This past year, Seattle Public Schools locked out K-12 students from in-person learning longer than any other city in the free world other than San Francisco, and these two specifically don’t care that a homeless encampment continues to expand near an elementary school, which caused school lockdowns twice in two of the only days they were open last year.

It’s accurate to say the prosecutor’s office of Seattle is The Stranger’s prosecutor’s office. That’s because City Attorney Pete Holmes, who plays the Sam Watterston role for Seattle and decides what to prosecute, what not to, and how, has been endorsed by The Stranger not once but for all three of his terms. Pete Holmes has overseen the utter dismantling of prosecution in Seattle. Holmes’ twelve year leadership, applauded by The Stranger in election endorsements past, has resulted in frequent offenders cycling through Seattle’s judiciary system, in which the 100 most frequent offenders committed over 3,500 bookable offenses, and 87 of those very same 100 people were booked another 220 times in just 9 months following that initial report. Is his strategy working? How well is Seattle’s public safety working for all Seattleites?

The Stranger’s track record provides an easy guide for you as a voter.

Do you love the results of the current City Council, Seattle Public Schools, and Seattle’s public safety strategy overall? If so, the geniuses at The Stranger provide your perfect voting guide, because the people they wanted compassionate and progressive Seattleites to vote for have now been in charge for years.

Other than Mayor Durkan, The Stranger has had its preferred candidate elected to just about every key municipal position in the City of Seattle and much of King County for at least the past six years, especially when it comes to public safety and education policies. Vote for their slate in 2021, and you’re saying you love their “Election Control Board’s” discernment for leadership, their commitment to excellence, and the results. Follow their lead, and you are saying want to double down on it all.

Conversely, if you don’t love the direction of Seattle, do not vote for the candidates they find appealing.

The Stranger is just out with their endorsements for the 2021 election.

They really want you to vote for Lorena Gonzalez, Teresa Mosqueda, Joe Nguyen, and Nikkita Oliver, but there are more candidates listed for other positions too.

The folks at the Seattle Times on the other hand would prefer that you vote for Bruce Harrell, and Sara Nelson, and presumably also Ann Davison (whom they endorsed in a prior election) for a different approach to City Attorney’s office than the one we’ve had for the past 12 years with Pete Holmes. [UPDATE, July 17 2021: Seattle Times Recommends Ann Davison for City Attorney]

Look. The Stranger hates moderate candidates, and even progressives who don’t go all in on the far left agenda of urbanism, decriminalization, addiction enablement and more. It’s an uphill battle for them. But even if the long-shot happens and a couple moderates win in 2021, moderates would still be in the extreme minority in city governance, but at least there would be a couple. Regardless of what you think of her, Mayor Durkan was a moderating influence in city governance. She is departing, so come November, there is no guarantee whatsoever there will be any moderation. (The Stranger outright says as much in their endorsements this year.)

As for City Attorney, note that The Stranger this time endorsed the even further-left-than-Holmes candidate for City Attorney, who quite LITERALLY wants to abolish the police department. That they would endorse her at all says all you need to know about their endorsement board, the quality of their judgment, and who they find desirable. (Can you name a single city that has ever successfully permanently “abolished” the police? She wants Seattle to take a flyer and be the first.) It is also quite likely The Stranger’s endorsers reason that Holmes is a lock to make it through the primary anyway, and they want the November race for City Attorney to come down to ultra-left vs. quite-far-left, so you don’t have much choice.

The City Attorney is supposed to represent you — us, the citizens — in Seattle courts. That’s a very important role which sets policy around how we handle frequent offenders, which crimes to prosecute and which not to, and how.

Stranger Danger: Drop The Stranger’s Political Picks

The folks at The Stranger would like you to believe they’re more compassionate, younger, fresher and more open to great new ideas.

But how are those ideas working out? Are they truly more compassionate? Seattle hit record highs in overdose deaths, shootings, and police response times in the past year. Frequent offenders continue to revolve through the system. Seattle Public Schools remained closed longer than any other school district in the free world other than San Francisco, harming disadvantaged students most of all.

Want more effective city governance? Spend a few minutes talking with a friend about how The Stranger might make great movie and live entertainment recommendations, and is snarky and fun to read, but is absolutely a leading indicator of candidates who are bad at governing. Name me a candidate they’ve gushed over that’s actually done a great job to make the city more livable or who has helped government more transparent and accountable to its people, or run better in any way.

Decades ago, they were the rabble-rousers, the iconoclast outsiders. They’re no longer the outsiders. Their recommendations won, at position after position in Seattle. The Stranger is now the political insider, and often, kingmaker. We’ve seen the results of the leaders they recommend. They own the results of Seattle’s public safety, green spaces, approach to homelessness, addiction, and education.

The Stranger writers are exceptionally good at creating highly readable, entertaining snark. But it’s very hard to justify that the candidates they’ve recommended to you really -have- made things better.

Related: Ten Reasons I’m Not Voting for Lorena Gonzalez