Local experts share their insights on election results and trends

By: Maggie Wilson Posted: 11/14/2018

Chamber members discussed the 2018 elections with EMC Research and a panel of political reporters

At our November Business Issues Forum Tuesday morning, Chamber members discussed election outcomes, demographic and geographic trends, and the implications of national and state-level results.

We began with an overview of election results from Andrew Thibault with EMC Research and then moved into a striking panel discussion with three local political reporters: Chris Daniels with KING 5, Hayat Norimine with Seattle Met and Essex Porter with KIRO 7.

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Highlights by speaker:

  • Andrew Thibault, Senior Principal at EMC Research

Thibault began with the national picture. He re-titled the blue wave “the blue shift,” which he noted was substantial. On average, districts moved 10 points to the left and over 300 House Districts moved left, data from EMC Research showed. 

On the drivers of this shift, Thibault observed that Democrats are winning women more and losing men less. Voters of color also voted heavily Democratic. Compared to the last midterm election, he said the electorate was younger, more diverse, more educated and less rural. He also pointed to Politico's coverage of the role of older voters in flipping U.S. House districts as well as the “suburban surge.”

Thibault also addressed turnout. This year saw the highest midterm voting turnout in 50 years. In some counties, more people voted in the midterms than in the last presidential elections. Importantly, younger voters showed up. This healthy youth voter turnout was “good news for democracy,” Thibault said.

Turnout also had implications for the blue shift: Data reflected voters between 18 and 29 years old supported Democrats at historically high levels. Voters between 30 and 44 years old voted for Democrats by an almost 20-point margin.

Thibault then spoke to some specific races that underscore the shift, including the Senate race in Arizona. Kyrsten Sinema’s victory marked the first Democratic triumph since 1976 in a battle for an open Senate seat in the state. Thibault noted 110 women won seats so far in Congress.

Thibault then moved to the local picture. He discounted the idea of tax fatigue in Seattle, noting that the midterm electorate indicated a willingness to impose taxes, pointing at the passing of the FEPP levy. This, Thibault said, also indicated that the disapproval of the head tax on jobs was related not to tax fatigue but other issues.

Additionally, Thibault spoke on the impact of money in races this midterm. In issues-based races, money has a larger impact and frames debates more effectively than it does on candidate races, when voters have candidates to like or dislike.

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  • Chris Daniels, Chief Reporter at KING 5

Daniels spoke of what he was comfortable calling a “blue wave” that swept through during this year’s midterm elections.

He noted a multitude of diverse candidates coming through races with success, highlighting Kyrsten Sinema's victory in Arizona as well as that of Sharice David, a Democrat, who made history by becoming the first openly LGBTQ Native American woman elected to Congress. This year's midterm elections brought a series of history-making votes that marked major accomplishments for women and LGBTQ candidates; read a CNN rundown of the history made at this link.

Daniels touched on the rural-urban divide, citing the I-1634, Yes! To Affordable Groceries Act results as a statewide example. The numbers were dramatically different in eastern and western Washington state, with eastern Washington more highly favoring the passing of the initiative.

He said he felt the divide was both economical and philosophical.

"When you put something on the ballot, an anti-Seattle initiative, I think that plays into results (outside of Seattle)," Daniels said.

Daniels said he felt it was likely, looking at the lack of opposition when it came to passing I-1639 gun control legislation, that we may see additional gun control measures and reflection on safe gun ownership and purchasing.

“2019 will be fascinating in the city of Seattle,” he said, looking ahead at Seattle City Council elections.


  • Hayat Norimine, Associate Editor at Seattle Met
Norimine said her top two takeaways from midterms were:

  1. There’s a lot more bipartisan support for certain things that Republicans like to label as partisan issues, like gun control and safety. Washington state voted overwhelmingly for gun regulations that included enacting waiting periods and background checks on the purchase of semiautomatic weapons and increasing to the minimum age for purchasing semiautomatic weapons from 18 to 21.
  2. Women have become a major force in this election.


During discussion of the divide between King County and surrounding Washington state, Norimine said, “I think there’s resentment around Seattle having all the wealth and dictating what the state should do or not do."

She said a contributing reason why the carbon tax initiative lost voter support may have been the vagueness around where the  money would go.

On the future in Washington state, Norimine hypothesized about the possibility of revisiting a capital gains tax and wondered if more Seattle City Councilmembers would step down or announce they would not run for re-election, as Rob Johnson has. She also predicted more attention, and development of proposals, on targeting carbon emissions in Washington state and reducing environmental harm.

She spoke on a desire to see more reporting from local reporters in rural areas of Washington state on thoughts on issues, elections and what’s impacting them. Such coverage is important, Norimine said.

  • Essex Porter, Political Reporter at KIRO 7

Porter began by noting his biggest surprise was the margin in the 8th district race, and the speed with which the race was called.

He also spoke on the impact money has on the success of initiatives in elections. When it comes to initiatives, Porter said, “Money really matters.”

Porter noted that while King County rejected I-1634, much of the rest of the state accepted it – and that the campaign to endorse the initiative was so well funded that even after voting, he was receiving flyers that urged him to vote yes.

On staggering Democratic victories, he said if we don’t want to view them as culminating to a “blue wave," we could instead view them as a “blue tide."

Porter heralded the significant number of women victorious in the midterms – and said he’s noticed that a galvanizing energy that began at the Women’s March in Seattle and around the country in 2017 has been sustained.

Movement participants he’s encountered while reporting in the field have said that they “got active for the Women’s March in Seattle and just stayed active.”

In future Washington elections, Porter suggested the possibility of addressing transparency issues in financed political initiatives – and a push for corporate logos to be added to political flyers when they’re primarily paid for by major companies.

On confirmation of the Seattle police contract (which had not been confirmed at the time of the event, but has since been approved by the Council by an 8-1 vote), Porter said it would have been very tough to reject the contract and send all work back to square one.

And Porter said that, as Mayor Durkan once noted, confirmation of the police contract is not the end. Work will continue with community members, the city and its officers to improve public safety and labor structures.

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A benefit available only to members, these meetings include informational briefings on current public affairs issues from guest speakers, as well as structured discussion with fellow members.