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2021 election results—Olympia Council and Port of Olympia

City Council: incumbents—5, real estate—0

The challenge by real estate to take direct control of the City Council failed as City voters rejected the candidacies of Spence Weigand, Robbi Kesler, Cory Gauny and Candace Mercer in the general election, as well as Wendy Carlson’s candidacy in the primary.

The real estate candidates’ general position of more developments like West Bay Yards, more police downtown and the idea that homelessness is caused by drug addiction and mental illness did not play well enough for victory. Olympians may be worried about the current City Council’s direction, but not worried enough to hand the Council over to direct real estate control.

All incumbents won easily in the general election: Jim Cooper over Spence Weigand, Yen Huynh over Robbi Kesler, Clark Gilman over Candace Mercer, Lisa Parshley over Talauna Reed. Dontae Payne, not an incumbent but with the full support of all incumbents, won over Cory Gauny.

While the majority of Olympia’s 37,038 registered voters didn’t vote, approximately 41% (15,400) did vote. This was about 1,500 more votes cast compared to the August primary. Olympians also made a total of $326,372 in cash contributions to the five races, for an average of $65,268 per race.

The Spence Weigand/Jim Cooper race was the most expensive. Cooper raised $37,817, the most of any incumbent, and Weigand raised $81,795 in cash contributions. However, Weigand also received an additional $20,646 of independent assistance from the National Association of Realtors Fund, making Weigand’s total $102,441. Despite the Weigand campaign’s heavy investment in signs, newspaper, radio and cable TV advertising and the endorsement of The Olympian newspaper, his $64,624 advantage over Cooper didn’t translate into votes. Weigand lost 6,956 to Cooper’s 8,322.

The only non-real estate challenge to an incumbent was the race between Council member Lisa Parshley and challenger Talauna Reed. Parshley, like all her colleagues on the current City Council, is a supporter of more market rate housing in the downtown core and in neighborhoods, subsidized by a variety of exemptions from property taxes and environmental regulations where final decision-making is in the hands of a Hearing Examiner from Centralia. Parshley supported a modest increase in low-income housing, but only outside the downtown core, like the 62-unit LIHI project on Martin Way.

Reed, an organizer/activist with SURJ and BLAST, advocated challenging this policy by requiring developers to pay for affordable housing and by prioritizing community investment over policing and mass incarceration, but her campaign was not strong enough. Parshley won with a margin of over 2,600 votes.

Port of Olympia: real estate–1, environment–1

There were two open seats for the Port of Olympia’s three-person Commission. County wide, 37% (approximately 74,110) of the County’s 195,645 registered voters participated in the election

In one race, Kidder Matthews Vice President Amy Evans ran on a platform of “Getting Stuff Done” against business developer Josh Hansen. Hansen advocated for affordable broadband, local agriculture and clean energy. Hansen raised $42,010 while Evans raised $50,964. In addition, Evans received independent assistance of $24,531: $20,000 from the Washington Realtors PAC and $4,531 from Concerned Taxpayers of Washington. With this assistance, Evans total campaign fund was $75,495.

Evans won 134 out of the 145 rural precincts, as well as Lacey, Tumwater, Yelm, Tenino and Rainier, while losing to Hansen in Olympia. She won by 7,710 votes or 55.4%.

The other Port race featured Bob Iyall, a Nisqually business leader, against Jessie Simmons, an Army veteran. Iyall raised $36,196 in cash contributions; Simmons raised $27,032. However, Simmons’ campaign fund was matched by independent assistance of $28,000 from two political action committees. The Washington Realtors gave $20,000 and the “Coalition for Family-Wage Jobs”—an entity set up solely to support Simmons in this race—gave $8,000. The largest contributor to this “coalition” was the Weyerhaeuser Company’s $5,000 followed by $2000 from the Thurston County Realtors, with another $1000 from the International Longshore & Warehouse Union Local 47.

Iyall won 93 of the 145 rural precincts, 48 of Olympia’s 55 precincts and 14 of Tumwater’s 22 precincts while losing Lacey and splitting Yelm’s four precincts with Simmons. Iyall won by 2,712 votes or 51.7%.

Note: All voting statistics are as of November 10, 2021 with 1,500 votes yet to be counted.

Dan Leahy reports regularly for WIP on Olympia elections.

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