Justin Dylan Renney/Krist Novoselic
Krist Novoselic's column on music and politics runs every Tuesday on the Daily Weekly. He writes his latest vinyl finds every


Is the Election Debate Any Better Without the Incumbent Mayor on the Ballot?

Justin Dylan Renney/Krist Novoselic
Krist Novoselic's column on music and politics runs every Tuesday on the Daily Weekly. He writes his latest vinyl finds every Friday on Reverb.
I had a great time at the music-community candidate fundraiser last week at the Crocodile. The Maldives rocked, and I had the opportunity to join The Presidents of the United States of America onstage. We did a couple of surf tunes, and I played bass on "Peaches." We also continued a time-honored ritual at the Crocodile--closing the bar!

I want to talk about Seattle's mayoral election this week, but not in terms of the horse race between the two remaining candidates. This is a perspective about the rules the election is conducted under. With the short time remaining until voters head to the ballot booth that is their envelopes, it is odd that incumbent Mayor Greg Nickels isn't on the ballot - even though he sought a third term.

Remember last August? I'm sure most of you were enjoying your summers, not thinking about politics. This fall Seattleites will be joining their fellow Washingtonians with voting on domestic partnerships and government budget caps, but they won't get to have a say on their incumbent mayor.

I know what you're thinking: Voters had their say in the primary, or could have participated in August and chose not to. You've got a great point, and rules are just that--the rules. But is the election debate any better without the incumbent mayor on the ballot?

Apparently not, as many in the city's political establishment thought there needed to be more choices on the fall mayoral ballot. They were so shocked at the incumbent failing to qualify for the November election that there was a real consideration of a write-in candidacy. Again, the rules provide for such an option.

This time the insiders needed a second choice different from the primary election results. Sen. Ed Murray emerged as the possible write-in. The state senator lamented over what he deemed a narrow dialogue regarding the remaining candidates in the race. But Sen. Murray ultimately declined to run. And that's disappointing, only because I'd like to see him actually campaign for office. Like the rest of Seattle's 43rd district delegation to Olympia, Murray never really campaigns for election. Indeed, incumbents file for office, and voters get a ballot, but it's only a rote election in which hardly anyone takes the competition seriously.

But I'm sure Sen. Murray will run an actual campaign for office--when he joins the line around the block for the seat eventually to be vacated by Rep. Jim McDermott. The winner of this rarely contested race will be Seattle's next U.S. Representative-for-Life. (I'm sure Murray would serve well if elected, by the way.) State election rules create this poor dynamic. The committee in Olympia that draws the district boundaries has basically settled the election for one party or another.

I think we need to change the rules for the way we elect our government representatives. I say competition and more choices are good. With uncontested or uncompetitive races, these offices tend to fall off the public's radar. And as I've said many times in other articles, the special interests know how to fill the vacuum.

If Seattle had an election system like neighboring Pierce County's, there wouldn't be a separate summer primary election. Nickels would still be on the single fall ballot, at a time when voters naturally start paying attention to elections.

Seattle's mayoral race is an anomaly because the top two remaining candidates are political outsiders. Ironically, it's Nickels' supporters in the primary whose second-choice votes will help determine the winner. There will also be more voters, as the turnout will be much larger in November than it was in the August primary.

The rules may prohibit Nickels from being on the fall ballot, but he, or rather his policy proposals, loom over the election. It's kind of as if he's on the ballot anyway. Too bad the rules keep him off.

Krist Novoselic is blogging up to the November election in Pierce County. Vote No on Three - Keep Ranked Choice Voting in Pierce County. He is also the chairman of FairVote.

Pictured - Chris Ballew, Krist Novoselic & Jason Finn with PUSA rock the Croc for McGinn! Photo: Asher Hershey
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