This story was originally published by KOMO 4 on Nov. 8 2023.
SEATTLE — Rob Saka sat at a playground in West Seattle Wednesday, and admitted it even surprised him.
“I was not expecting an 18-point day one lead, I’ll be honest,” said the first-time candidate, who is leading the District 1 Seattle City Council race to replace Lisa Herbold, who is not seeking reelection. Saka maintained that lead with the release of more results Wednesday afternoon.
He had finished second in the August primary to Maren Costa, and she went on to grab the endorsements of every other challenger. The political winds seemed to be going against Saka, who had received an early endorsement from Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell.
So what happened?
“Public safety was always the number one issue that drove me to run in this race. I’ve been very consistent this whole time about my plans on public safety, restoring common sense, recognizing the role of policing and enforcement, police reform and officer accountability,” he said.
In fact, it was a similar campaign pillar for candidates like Tanya Woo in District 2, Joy Hollingsworth in District 3, Maritza Rivera in District 4, Cathy Moore in District 5, and Bob Kettle in District 7. All of them were leading on election night and were continuing to lead with the latest results Wednesday.
“I think Seattle is still a very much progressive town. But voters want actual progress on the issues that matter,” said Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) President Jon Scholes, who distanced himself from the incumbent Andrew Lewis in District 7 after the council member flipped on the key drug possession law vote.
“The level of frustration is up, the level of trust is down,” said Scholes.
It should not be missed that business groups poured thousands of dollars into the races, through Political Action Committees, and helped fund negative ads and sent out flyers in many of the races. The leading candidates all benefitted from the boost.
But Scholes countered, “Everybody’s got a right to invest in candidates and campaigns, the issues that businesses care about are very much the same.” He continued, “I think the business community and the voters in Seattle are very much aligned. That’s what the polling has shown. I think that’s what this election has shown as well.”
“I don’t know what a business backed candidate is, I’ll be honest,” said Saka.
After all, Harrell was a big proponent of an almost billion dollar housing levy, increasing property taxes again for homeowners. Voters approved that too. The platform of be tax friendly, and warm to public safety and business concerns almost sounds like a pillar for a civic campaign more than a decade ago.
Or as some might call it now: Moderate.
Saka laughs, “Only in Seattle politics, would I be considered a moderate? But look, I’m here to help. I’m here to serve and ready to roll up my sleeves.”