On November 5, 2013, Washington voters reject Initiative 522, which would have made the state the first in the nation to require labels on food products containing any genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Voters also reject Initiative 517, which would have eased requirements for getting initiatives and referendums on ballots. In Seattle, incumbent mayor Mike McGinn (b. 1959) is defeated by State Senator Ed Murray (b. 1955). King County Executive Dow Constantine (b. 1961) is re-elected with the largest margin ever recorded for the office. Republicans Brian Dansel (b. 1983), Sharon Brown, and Jan Angel win special elections for three open state Senate seats.
Initiative 522 asked voters to approve a measure that would have required labeling most raw or processed foods -- as well as seed or seed stocks -- if they were produced using genetic engineering. The measure was defeated with 51.09 percent of the vote opposed to 48.91 percent in favor. The defeat wasn't a foregone conclusion: I-522 was widely supported in early polls, with two-thirds of respondents voicing approval.
Opponents of the initiative received more than $22 million in donations, which set a state record for money raised on one side of an initiative campaign. Businesses and industry interest groups including Monsanto, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, DuPont Pioneer, and Bayer CropScience provided substantial financial backing, with only $550 of the $22 million coming from state residents. Supporters of requiring labels on GMO foods raised more than $8 million. Seventy percent of that total came from out-of-state companies and organizations, including Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps and the Center for Food Safety, but nearly 10,000 individuals also contributed to the campaign in support of I-522.
Initiative 517, sponsored by professional initiative promoter Tim Eyman (b. 1965), was handily defeated at the polls, with 62.71 percent of voters opposing it. The initiative contained several provisions designed to make it easier to get initiatives and referendum measures on ballots. They included changing the filing period from 10 months to 16 months prior to an election, which would provide six more months to gather signatures. Other provisions would have changed how violations for interfering with signature gatherers were dealt with, making violations subject to anti-harassment procedures, civil penalties, and disorderly conduct prosecution. Violations would also have been considered a gross misdemeanor, a harsher classification than the existing misdemeanor violation. And the measure included a provision that would have allowed signature-gathering efforts in places like sidewalks or walkways of store entrances or exits, and inside or outside of any public building, including stadiums or convention centers.
Republicans Win Legislative Races
Although it was off-year election (statewide and legislative races are generally held in even-numbered years), there were special elections for open state Senate seats in three districts, and all three went Republican. Indeed, two of the three races featured face-offs between two members of the party. In Northeastern Washington's District 7, Brian Dansel defeated fellow Republican John Smith and South Central Washington's District 8 voted overwhelmingly for Sharon Brown over her opponent Phillip Lemley, both also running as Republicans.
On the southeastern Kitsap Peninsula, District 26 voted for Republican Jan Angel to take over the seat to which Democrat Nathan Schlicher (b. 1982) had recently been appointed. The race became the most expensive legislative race in state history to that point, with more than $2 million raised, as Democrats fought unsuccessfully to hang on to the seat formerly occupied by Derek Kilmer (b. 1974), who had been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012.
Seattle Incumbents Ousted, Council Districts Win
In one of the more headline-grabbing elections, incumbent Seattle mayor Mike McGinn was ousted from his seat by State Senator Ed Murray. The first-term mayor received 47 percent of the vote to Murray's 52 percent. In the August primary, McGinn had faced eight challengers and received only 28.6 percent of the vote. Murray ran on a platform of a more collaborative governing style, in contrast to McGinn's well-publicized disagreements with city and state leaders over his objections to plans for replacing the Alaskan Way viaduct with a tunnel. Murray cited his 18 years as a state senator as beneficial experience in working across the aisle.
Murray did not complete the mayoral term that he won by defeating McGinn. In April 2017, a lawsuit was brought in King County Superior Court alleging that Murray raped and molested a teenager for a period of years beginning in 1986. The Seattle Times published an interview with the accuser and detailed other allegations of sex abuse in Murray's past. While Murray vehemently denied the accusations, he announced in May 2017 that he would not seek a second term. After a September 2017 Seattle Times story revealed a younger cousin's accusations that Murray molested him in the 1970s, Murray resigned his position within hours, while continuing to deny all the allegations. City council president Bruce Harrell temporarily filled the mayoral position for five days, but declined to fill the role through the November 2017 election. On September 18, city council member Tim Burgess was chosen by the city council to become the interim mayor and was sworn in that day to serve until the results of the 2017 mayoral election were certified.
McGinn was not the only Seattle incumbent to lose a seat in the November 2013 election. Kshama Sawant (b. 1973) defeated incumbent Richard Conlin (b. 1948) in their race for the Seattle City Council seat that Conlin had held for 16 years. Sawant became the first socialist candidate elected in Seattle in 100 years. It was a very close race: Not until 10 days after election day, on November 15, did Conlin concede to Sawant when late ballots placed him behind by a full percentage point. Incumbent city council members Nick Licata (b. 1947), Sally Bagshaw, and Mike O'Brien (b. 1968) all handily won their races.
All of the 2013 city council races were for at-large seats representing all city residents, as every council race in Seattle had been for more than a century, since a coalition of progressive Republicans, labor organizations, and business groups in 1910 won approval of a city charter amendment changing city council seats from representing local geographic areas then called wards -- a system that the reformers believed led to party machines dominating local politics -- to a system of at-large seats, which allowed every city voter to vote in all city council races. However, the 2013 election was the last one in which all voters could vote on all council seats. In that election, Seattle voters overwhelmingly approved Charter Amendment 19, which reverted to electing most of the council from geographic areas, now called "districts" rather than "wards." Under the amendment, which took effect with the 2015 council elections, seven of the nine city council seats were elected by district, with only two positions elected at large.
King County and Around the Region
In King County races, County Executive Dow Constantine was re-elected by what remained in 2017 the largest margin ever recorded for that office. Constantine received 78.16 percent of the vote in defeating Tea Party candidate Alan Lobdell. Only two of the four King County Council members seeking re-election faced challengers. Both of those incumbents -- Reagan Dunn (b. 1971) and Rod Dembowski -- were re-elected, as were Kathy Lambert and Pete von Reichbauer, who were unopposed in the general election. State Representative Dave Upthegrove (b. 1971) won the only open seat on the council, defeating opponent Andy Massagli with 68.22 percent of the vote.
In some notable votes around the region, voters in the city of SeaTac approved a $15 minimum wage measure after a recount was certified in December, foreshadowing the eventual adoption by Seattle of a $15 minimum wage. Two dead candidates also managed to win their races, in a King County Water District position and an Aberdeen City Council spot, as their deaths occurred before their names could be removed from the ballot.