History, politics, people of Oly WA

Category: Thurston County Democrats (Page 1 of 10)

How crossover votes doomed Bud Blake (and more maps from the election weeks ago)

Something I started noticing the last few months is how the geography of Independent and Democratic crossover voters seemed to follow a certain logic.

For example, if you took the precincts in Thurston County that voted for both Hilary Franz for lands commissioner and Gary Edwards for county commissioner, they seemed to generally fall into the geography that I’ve described as a general suburban belt between downtown Olympia and the rural south county.

Now for a second, I want to remind you how weird it is that there are places that voted for a guy who literally does not believe in land use regulation and also Hilary Franz.

In the same way that these neighborhoods combined their votes to support a liberal statewide candidate and an independent conservative candidate in 2016, a lot of the same places combined to support both conservative Independent Bud Blake and Democrat Maria Cantwell this year. But, they weren’t the same places. And because these crossover precincts shifted, Bud Blake wasn’t able to pull out a victory.

Just looking at the raw numbers, Bud Blake did worse. There were 21 precincts that voted for the Independent/Democratic combination in both years and 42 that only went for Edwards and Franz in 2016. Blake was only able to pick up 34 Maria Cantwell precincts to replace those Edwards/Franz districts he lost.

When you look at the geography, it gets clearer why Bud’s crossover precincts weren’t able to pull him over the finish line. They represent a shift in how voters arranged themselves on the map. In this map of crossover precincts orange is both 2016/18, red is only 2016 and blue is only 2018.

So, while it seems there is a lot of flipping (neighboring precincts going one way in 2016 and another in 2018) when you get down into the blue precincts that Bud Blake won alongside Maria Cantwell this fall, they have a slightly more rural flavor than Gary Edwards’ exclusive crossovers in 2016. While it could mean that Democratic voters were more enthusiastic this year, making places that had been Independent/Republican in 2016 Independent/Democratic this year, I don’t think that happened.

I think the action was more on the Democratic side of the commissioner race. And, while it seems close geographically, I think Bud’s Democratic opponent Tye Mesner moved the battle lines ever slow slightly further out towards the rural part of the county. While only being a few blocks here and there, by moving the crossover precincts that Bud Blake was able to win further away from the center of the county, he gained more votes in liberal precincts.

And yes, I know its been almost a month since election day and I’m usually much better about getting these maps out. I apologize.

In recent episodes of the Olympia Standard and OlyTalks, I talk about a few of these maps. Both these episodes are worth a listen if you want to hear me break these down. Or, if you have a question, just drop me a line.

Thurston County Commissioner
Thurston County Prosecutor
Thurston County PUD
Intercity Transit Prop 1

5 things to take from this year’s Thurston County primary election, mostly in map form

1. Holmes got smoked.

This doesn’t take much explaining, his overall percentage (32 percent) of the vote being what it is, seeing Stuart Holmes mapped out doesn’t give you much more insight.

At the very least, he follows the same north to south, liberal to conservative pattern that we usually see in Thurston County. Conservatives work from south to north, liberals the other way around. But is the independent label magic gone? I mean, I can’t expect he did much better as an Independent than he would have done as a Republican.

2. Where did these Minjares precincts come from?

One thing you can say about the Hall/Holmes race for auditor, is that it followed the typical south to north, conservative to liberal track of Thurston County. The Tunheim (as the conservative) and Minjares (as the liberal) results follow the same track.

But, Minjares won a handful of precincts both in the far southeast part of the county and out in Lacey. Alternatively, Tunheim won a lot of precincts inside Olympia that I would have assumed stayed on the liberal side of things.

There are different dynamics in play in this election than we’ve seen in local elections recently. Things like diversion programs and how prosecutors choose to advance cases aren’t your typical county-level land use questions we deal with. So, I’m wondering if we’re going to see a new map emerge.

3. Bud Blake lost in no small part because he lost ground in rural precincts

Bud Blake lost this primary even though he got the most number of votes. He finished with less than 40 percent of the vote, while the rest was largely split between two Democrats. You can say he lost because he wasn’t able to get distance from two Democratic challengers and as an incumbent, he trailed the 50 percent mark by a large margin.

But, I say the biggest reason he lost is that he lost to himself four years ago.

Most surprising in this map was how poorly Blake did against his own results in the primary four years ago. Sure, he lost votes in Olympia (not so many in the water facing districts, more in the newer neighborhoods). But he lost a lot of votes in the rural precincts, especially in a handful around Rochester. In some of these precincts, he ran twenty percent better four years ago.

4. What kind of voters are Denton voters?

Being able to predict what will happen in a few months in the general election depends on how the voters for a failed primary candidate decide to act. In this case, the voters who chose Melissa Denton will decide whether to support Blake or Menser. And where they decide to go depends on how they saw Denton. If they made the choice for her because they saw her as more moderate than Mesner, then Blake might actually pick up some of those votes. Even though I’ve heard people say she’s the more moderate choice, I’m not sure.

The most Denton precincts in this map seem to be a straight line from the outside of the Olympia westside into Tumwater, which gives some credibility to her being a moderate candidate or at least a moderate candidate from the voters’ point of view. But, she also won College, which is the most liberal precinct in the county. So, who knows?

5. Can Blake make it back?

This is a non-map segment, mostly just an explanation of how difficult I think it will be for Bud Blake to win in November.

So, we start with three things we know: Bud Blake got 35 percent in this primary, 48 percent in the 2014 primary and won the general in 2014 with about 55 percent of the vote. Because primaries for county commission are run in one of three districts and general elections are county-wide, you can assume that Blake found an increase of support in the other two districts in 2014. But that is not what happened.

If you pull apart the 2014 general results, he did slightly better in the third district (his home district) in the general with 55 percent than he did in the other two (54 percent). So, it isn’t like there is a new, untapped well of support out in those areas that haven’t weighed in yet. As it stands, he’ll have a harder time of it when the geography expands, if only slightly.

And, this year, he’s starting well further behind than he did in 2014. If you take the returns from the 2014 primary and general and extrapolate primary returns for the other two districts (like on the back of a napkin for example), Blake only finishes at around 45 percent in a 2018 general. But, that is only we consider his comeback in 2014 as the limit of his ability to climb.

Which, since we’re likely looking at a “blue wave” election this time around as opposed certainly not a blue wave in 2014, that ceiling for Blake might well be a hard one.

Four things to think about the 2016 Thurston County commission races (2014 all over again, sort of)

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been rolling over how an independent candidate with conservative values was elected in a usually safe Democratic county. Bud Blake’s win in 2014 over Karen Valenzuela took a lot of folks by surprise, so a double repeat of that victory for the other two commission seats by Gary Edwards and John Hutchings was supposed to be preventable.

I was thinking that a larger electorate in a presidential year and more awareness of the nuances of an independent campaign would help seal a Democratic win. Anyway, that didn’t happen. Let’s look at how.

1. Just like 2014, it was a matter of beating the typical Republican

In 2014, Blake was able to beat a typical Republican in every precinct, from the most conservative to the most liberal. In most of these districts, even the very most liberal, there was a layer of voters that would not for a Republican in a down ballot race (attorney general, lieutenant governor) but would vote for an independent against a  Democrat in the county commission race.


2. Unlike 2014, core Olympia liberals did not abandon the ballot 

Something I noticed later was that if you looked at 2014 results in terms of turnout, the closer you got to Budd Inlet, the more likely you were to not fill out your ballot when it came to the county commission race. While these lost voters would not turned the campaign to Valenzuela then, it made it practically certain she would lose. Countywide, dependable liberal neighborhoods in Olympia need to turn out for Democrats to win.

While there was a geographically based drop off in voting, it seemed to have happened not in the home base of the more liberal candidates, but in the in-between area of the two camps. In the map of above, higher turnout for the county commission races are darker. So, in my reading, the lighter placemarks are mostly in either politically stratified neighborhoods around south county (Republicans and conservatives) and Budd Inlet (liberals and Democrats). Both camps did a good job getting their base to vote. And, the suburban tweeners stayed home. Well, we all stayed home. It’s vote by mail.

3. BONUS: Kelsey Hulse did not improve her mark from the primary

If you take just the precincts that were involved in the Hulse Edwards primary back in August (commissioner primaries are just in the district they represent), she did just a percentage worse. Which isn’t bad. Standing pat in the more conservative east district (Yelm to the eastern portions of Lacey) isn’t a bad strategy for a liberal candidate.

And, of course, since I have place information for these precincts, here’s a map of where she did better.

The darker the pins, the better Hulse did compared to her primary finish.

Looks like a lot of nothing to me. Not that there wasn’t some moving around, there certainly were some places that she did better in (and worse in) November to August. But, I don’t think it makes geographic sense to me. I’m mostly sharing it because I want to see if anyone else sees a pattern I don’t.

4. SUPER BONUS: Hulse did better than Cooper in Olympia

From the brand spanking new Green Pages (which makes it a super special bonus), Steve Salmi writes:

One could argue that this occurred because Edwards was the tougher opponent — but only outside the liberal Democratic stronghold of Olympia. 

By the same token, one might suggest that Hulse’s campaign materials did a better job than Cooper’s of energizing liberals. This, in turn, may have partially been because Hulse raised roughly $74,000, a good $12,000 more than Cooper, according to the Public Disclosure Commission

One might also wonder whether a robocall that attacked Cooper had an impact. But again the question arises: Why did he outpoll Hulse everywhere else except for Olympia — particularly if the robocalls targeted south county residents? 

Perhaps other factors may be at play. For example, did Hulse more aggressively doorbell in Olympia because, unlike Cooper, she needed to introduce herself to a core voter base?

Where Jim Cooper, Allen Miller and John Hutchings got their support

Glen wrote about how Allen Miller’s candidacy for county commissioner was some sort of shield against fellow non-partisan John Hutchings, benefiting Jim Cooper. His point was that Miller would take votes from Hutchings and possibly force a Cooper Miller run-off in November.

At least on the top line results, that is sort of what happened. Cooper took over 35 percent of the votes in the five way primary while Hutchings and Miller fought it out for second at just under 20 percent. After all the voters were counted, Hutchings survived Miller and came out on top.

This map shows each candidate’s strongest dozen or so precincts, where I could assume each candidate had their strongest support.

On the surface, you see something really interesting, Cooper did well in the inner northern Thurston precincts, Miller did well further out in the less walkable neighborhoods while Hutchings had his strongest support either much further out or right up next to Miller.

This suburban band around the edge of the northern Thurston urban areas that Miller won is also lit up against Sue Gunn in her election.

And, I suppose whether you believe Miller was a Cooper patsy is whether you believe Miller had more of an impact on Hutchings or Cooper.

For me, election returns not-withstanding, I doubt Miller jumped into the race to support Cooper. Knowing Miller, his number one priority in public life is somehow preserving Capitol Lake. This isn’t a massive secret.

Cooper made a brave move recently on the city council to build in a position of pro-Deschutes estuary restoration on the city’s primary planning document. If Miller enter the arena as some sort of pro-Cooper tank, he would have ignored his primary civic goal.

Undervotes in 2014 didn’t cost Karen Valenzuela the race, but they would’ve made it super close

It turns out that people not making a choice made the 2014 county commission race less close than it really should have been. And, these voters, if they weigh in this year, could tilt the county commission altogether.

I learned something interesting when I started backtracking on my old post about how Bud Blake and how he won an county commission seat in 2012 as an independent. This was interesting to me because in any other year, I think, Blake would have run as a Republican. So how much did party labeling matter?

Did Democrats give themselves permission to vote for a conservative independent just because the label wasn’t Republican?

In my first run, it sure did look that way. I compared percentages of the returns of an aggregate 2012 Republican by precinct compared to Blake’s percentages. The chart that was produced showed a narrow band of what would’ve been Democratic voters in 2012 voting for an Independent (would’ve been Republican) in 2014.

But, that analysis ignored a few things:

1. Off year elections in Washington State are not presidential (or gubernatorial elections). There’s lower turnout since top of the ticket partisan elections aren’t there. In an email Matt Huot even pointed out that there was no federal Senate election in 2012, so the voter pool really had no top of the ticket partisan talisman.

 2. Therefore, voting percentages are not voting totals. It really matters how many actual voters fill in your bubble, so comparing a low turnout race to a high turnout race really wouldn’t work.

So, what I did was backtrack and compare Bud Blake’s election in 2012 with what I could put together as a partisan comparison, the combined WA 3 and WA 10 congressional races in Thurston County.

And, what I found was amazing.

Almost 6,000 voters that made a choice in their congressional election didn’t choose between Bud Blake or Karen Valenzuela in the county commission race. And, this is in a year that congressional Democrats dominated congressional Republican candidates in Thurston county, 48k to 33k.

The bad news for partisan Democrats is that even if you add all of those undervotes to Valenzuela’s totals, she still would have lost by a just over a thousand votes. But, you could imagine if a few things when differently, a thousand votes out of more than 80,000 cast is a distance that can be traveled.

So, this year when we’re likely seeing two Democrats in county-wide commission races against candidates who esque partisan labels, where would the undervote problem matter most?

Good news is that it matters in the precincts that already skew Democrat.

This chart ranks precincts by their partisan weight (most conservative to the left). The blue line is Bud Blake’s percentages across this spectrum. The red line is Karen Valenzuela’s plus undervotes. You can see the problem of undervotes becomes more pronounced in the more liberal precincts.

If this year’s crop of Democratic commission candidates can convince otherwise Democratic voters to come out, then the independent label problem becomes much smaller. And, in a presidential/gubernatorial/senate year, we can almost be assured that’s going to happen.

And, just to visualize it another way, you can see that these precincts also focus on Olympia. If these voters come out in the commissioner’s race, we’ll have a much different ball game than 2014.

EDIT: Emmett, do more research. Gary Edwards should tell the truth about who is responsible for the Tyson Seafood plant purchase

Well, when I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I was wrong about this one.

From the Olympian in 1999.

My research stopped in 1998 soon after the purchase of the property when Oberquell and O’Sullivan both made steps to move forward and Edwards was largely silent. If I took one more step into 1999, I would have seen organized and vocal opposition by both commissioner O’Sullivan and Sheriff Edwards.
I still think there’s a point to Commissioner Oberquell being involved in the original purchase of the old seafood plant. And, I think Edward’s implies too heavily that the plant was purchased under the leadership of the current commission. But, that said, I was wrong.

Gary Edwards, now candidate for county commission, gives a long-winded interview to a local conspiracy theorist. It includes this small little gem about a listless county commission, stumbling into a multi-million dollar problem:


Gary, you’re so smart. Only if we’d listen to you then. Or your supporters.

But, it turns out that not only was Edward’s complicit in the purchase of the Tyson Seafood plant in the late 1990s, but two of his supporters help guide the purchase and early development.

First though, I should back up and say that Edwards glosses over the legal situation the county was in at the time, by simply saying “I was running an overcrowded jail.”

Back in the late 90s, the Thurston County jail wasn’t just overcrowded. It was beyond that, it was inhumane. To the point that the ACLU was pressuring the county to improve the conditions in the jail. Edwards was running a bad jail.

In a letter from that era from the ACLU:

As long ago as 1996, we reported to you some of the complaints that inmates relayed to us. These included:

  • severe overcrowding, with many inmates forced to sleep so close to toilets that they were stepped on or urinated on by other inmates
  • poor sanitation and lack of access to hygiene supplies
  • infrequent changes of clothing and linen
  • denial of prescribed medications and lack of treatment for health care
  • limited indoor or outdoor exercise areas
  • lack of access to a law library
  • inmate kites or grievances not answered
  • broken plumbing and poor ventilation

Most of these problems were directly attributable to overcrowding. We received complaints from corrections officers as well as inmates, who also expressed their concerns that the dangerously overcrowded situation made their jobs unreasonably dangerous due to the enhanced risk of injury from assault, fire, and communicable disease.

So, as a way to push back against overcrowding, the county commissioners spent $3.8 million to buy an old fish processing plant only a few miles from the current county jail.

So, who was on the county commission then? Diane Oberquell, who is listed as an Edwards supporter, Judy Wilson and Dick Nichols (both Republicans). When Edwards was serving as county sheriff at this point, he was also a Republican.

And, since even satellite jails take time to develop, the Tyson plant (though purchased by this point) was still a topic in 1999. By this time Nichols had retired from the commission and had been replaced by Kevin O’Sullivan. Commissioner O’Sullivan was part of the county commission (along with Wilson and Oberquell) that continued to push for the use of the Tyson plant as a jail. O’Sullivan also currently endorses Edwards.

I can’t find anything in the record during those years Edwards speaking up against the Tyson plant purchase. In fact, what I did find was advice by the sheriff’s office to move forward despite growing public opposition to the plan.

Here is a portion of county commission minutes that show not only one of Edwards’ undersheriffs pushing for the Tyson plant, but also Oberquell.

When it came time to decide whether to purchase the seafood plant that Edward’s now criticizes, it was his supporters and employees were at the helm. Also, as county sheriff, he was in a choice position to publicly call out what he says now was a horrible waste of money.

By being vague about it now Edwards seems to hint that the current commission (the longest tenure of which didn’t begin serving until 2000) is at fault. But, when you scratch the surface just a little bit, the people now surrounding Gary Edwards first dug the Tyson Seafood plant money pit.

Where an independent dies in Thurston County (part 1 of more than 1 hopefully)

One of my favorite all time posts here is the one I did wrote about a year and half ago about how Bud Blake won in Thurston County.

It’s my favorite because it showed something new and interesting to me.

For one, it blew up my idea of political party labels and how voters use them. In fact, I could see, voters really did react to a relabelling of a conservative local politician. In recent years a lot of Republicans have taken well funded runs at sitting Democrats on the county council, but have come up short.

But, Blake won, mostly it seems because he decided to label himself as an Independent and not a Republican. The data seems to bear this out. In almost every precinct, from the most liberal to the most conservative, a portion of voters who would not vote for a Republican would vote for an Independent who happened to be conservative.

Since the start of the new campaign season, I’ve heard more than a few times from liberal folks up here that: “We won’t be fooled again. This time we know Independent means Republican.”

There are also two new Independents running for county commissioner who seem like they’d probably be Republicans in another setting. Obviously since one of them used to run regularly as a Republican.

So, my question is, how far out from the central, more liberal, part of Thurston County does this story need to travel before an Independent (really Republican) needs to lose.

Turns out, pretty far.

What I did here was sort precinct results by usually most liberal to most conservative (based on 2012 election results) and started replacing the vote totals from Bud Blake’s 2014 campaign with an aggregate for a Republican in 2012.

That’s a really rough experiment, but it was an interesting practice. I assumed that the map wouldn’t extend much further than the main urban core of the county, but it really did pick up most of the peninsulas (if I can call those neighborhoods that) and some precincts in south county (mostly around and in towns though).

And, here is why I think I can do a lot better than this map. I think turnout is going to have a big part to play. Not only was Blake’s party label a factor, but turnout dropped a lot in 2014. For the next post I’m going to play around with trying to find out how an increase in turnout this year will change the dymanic.

Anti-Tim Sheldon bill would make Joe Hyer choose a position

While SB 6588 (pdf warning is aimed at Mason County commissioner/State Senator Tim Sheldon, it would also force Joe Hyer to choose to be a city council member or county treasurer.

Hyer, who sits on the Olympia city council, is also running for county treasurer. He also might be applying to temporarily fill the position that is already being vacated by the sitting treasurer.

The proposed bill does have some built in wiggle room:

Any elected official holding two positions prior to this bill’s effective date may continue to serve out the remainder of each term. At the expiration of each term, that elected official may subsequently only hold one elected office at a time.

So, if the law becomes effective this summer, Hyer is appointed to fill out the remainder of the open treasurer term and is elected in November, it sounds like he’d need to resign the city council soon after that.

One county commissioner, 10 city council-members, three school board members (and some more) come out for Stew Henderson

The list is long and deep and it looks like local Dems are lining up behind Stew Henderson for the 22nd LD:

The full list of endorsements announced today include:
• Karen Valenzuela, Thurston County Commissioner
• Doug Mah, Olympia Mayor
• Karen Rogers, Olympia City Council
• Joe Hyer, Mayor pro tem, Olympia City Council
• Cynthia Pratt, Lacey City Council
• Andy Ryder, Lacey City Council
• Mary Dean, Lacey City Council
• Ron Lawson, Lacey City Council
• Joan Cathey, Tumwater City Council
• Betsy Murphy, Tumwater City Council
• Ed Stanley, Tumwater City Council
• Eileen Thomson, Olympia School Board
• Mark Campeau, Olympia School Board
• Allen Miller, Olympia School Board
• George Barner, Olympia Port Commissioner
• Chris Stearns, Public Utility Commissioner
• Jay Manning, Chief of Staff to Gov. Chris Gregoire and former Director of Ecology
• Karen Messmer, former Olympia City Council Member
• John Cusick, immediate past Chair, Thurston County Democratic Party
• Debby Pattin, WA State Democratic Party Committeewoman for Thurston County
• Roger Erskine, WA State Democratic Party Committeeman for Thurston County

Here’s what Jay Manning has to say:

“I’ve known Stew for years, both personally and professionally. He will be an outstanding legislator, bringing excellent judgment, honesty and a great work ethic to the table,” said Jay Manning, former Director of the state Department of Ecology and current Chief of Staff to Governor Chris Gregoire.

Here’s his full list of endorsements.

Some Coug from Tumwater files for the open Brendan Williams legislative seat

I’ve never heard of this guy, but he sounds like a pretty qualified and uhmmm… ambitious fellow.

Via email:


CONTACT: Chris Reykdal
December 30, 2009
(360) 790-3151


OLYMPIA – Last night, Tumwater School Board member Chris Reykdal announced his candidacy for the 22nd District House seat being vacated by incumbent Representative Brendan Williams.

“There is something lacking in the politics we see today,” said Reykdal, a Democrat who resides in Tumwater with his wife Kim and their 5 year old son Carter and 3 year old daughter Kennedy. “I am running for State Representative so that all of our children are handed a community that is better than the one handed to us.”

Chris Reykdal was first elected to the Tumwater School Board in 2007, and previously served for three years on the City Planning Commission. He is a former legislative staffer, High School teacher and the current Deputy Executive Director of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. Chris will bring with him to the legislature a comprehensive knowledge of education issues that is second to none.

“Our state is facing unprecedented challenges,” continued Reykdal, “We have avoided critical conversations for too long – from education funding, to environmental protection, to tax reform. I pledge to the citizens of the 22nd District that if they send me to the Legislature, I will take the tough votes and work tirelessly to secure the values that make our community a wonderful place to raise our families.”

Chris Reykdal understands the struggles so many families across the 22nd District are facing because he’s faced these challenges himself. The youngest of eight kids, Chris was raised in Snohomish. With the help of food stamps and Government assistance, the Reykdal family persevered. Through the hard work of both Chris and his family, he was able to attend Washington State University, where he was the President of the College Democrats. He met his wife Kim at WSU and they attended graduate school together at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

In the legislature, Chris Reykdal will work every day on behalf of families struggling to make ends meet, just as his family struggled in his youth.

“I am heartbroken at the thought that my kids and their generation may be the first in American history to experience a lower standard of living than the generation before them. One person, one legislator, one dad can’t turn this around by himself, but I am deeply committed to adding my talents and passion to a body of distinguished legislators who do have the power to make a historical difference in the lives of future Washingtonians.”


The only thing that makes me wonder about announcements like these is their impersonal nature. Its written the same way most press releases are, as faux news stories, quoting in this case the obvious author. If you’re quoting yourself, why not just write a nice message?

“Hey, I’m Chris, I’m running for state representative.”

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