The first wave of general election polling is upon us. Lester Black
It’s officially summer until Wednesday, but the bone-cold chill in my apartment and the publication of the umpteenth Seattle Times editorial about how stuff just ain’t what it used to be means that it’s election season again, baby!
Campaigns and PACs have put polls out in the field—some real, some basically just shitty campaign ads—giving us dorks in the media a sense of “where people are at.”
And so, last week, after Crosscut released an Elway poll on the mayor’s race showing former city council president Bruce Harrell leading current city council president Lorena González by 15 points, the González camp released part of an internal poll showing a tied race — 45 to 45. (The González camp also criticized Elway because his poll didn’t weigh the results against the primary election. His polls have been off in the past.)
Today, in an apparent effort to continue to combat the narrative from the Elway poll, the González campaign released a little more from its own survey of likely 2021 Seattle general election voters.
The baseline, according to an internal poll from González’s camp.
Campaign spokesperson Alex Koren said their pollster, GQR Research, tested negative and positive information on both candidates to simulate what the race would look like as campaigns and PACs and media outlets dump a bunch of information on voters in the coming weeks.
According to the poll, about 60% of respondents said they were more likely to support González after they heard that “Bruce Harrell’s campaign is benefitting from hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash from big corporate donors and some of Donald Trump’s most loyal donors in the region.” González’s support rose to 70% when the pollster included in that tally only undecided voters and voters with mild support for either candidate, meaning the corporate/Trump donor thing could be a potent talking point.
The two lines of criticism that move the masses.
That line of criticism stemmed from a Seattle Times column from Danny Westneat, which showed that Trump’s biggest donor in the region, Goodman Real Estate CEO George Petrie, was also the biggest donor to “Bruce Harrell for Seattle’s Future,” an independent expenditure supporting Harrell. (That PAC is full of Republican donors—8 out of 10 of its top funders donate to the GOP, and that’s being kinda generous to Jordan Selig, who donated to Ari Hoffman in 2019 and who’s expected to take over a real estate company from her father, Martin Selig, a Trump booster who’s also ICE’s landlord, but I digress.)
Respondents reacted similarly when the poll told them that “Bruce Harrell has a history of discrediting and dismissing sexual harassment and assault victims,” and that González was “the first member of city council to call for Ed Murray’s resignation.”
That negative messaging statement said Harrell “defended” Murray in 2017 when he said that Seattle residents “did not ask us to judge anyone for something that happened 33 years ago or maybe didn’t happen,” after the Seattle Times revealed records showing that the former mayor allegedly sexually abused his foster son in the 1980s. Ultimately, five men accused Murray of sexually abusing them as kids.
Harrell told the International Examiner he didn’t consider his statement at the time a defense of Murray, but he also never called for Murray’s resignation. In a podcast interview with the Times published after the 5th accuser came out, Harrell said, “People were well within their rights to ask for his resignation loudly. I did not… He did resign, and I think that was wise… The lens through which I looked at these issues was spot on.”
The poll question also mentions that Harrell allegedly told a nonprofit board to “launch a campaign to discredit accusers” after a supervisor was accused of sexual harassment. Lola E. Peters, who said she served on the board of that nonprofit, relayed that story in a column for the South Seattle Emerald last month. I’ve written to Peters and Harrell’s campaign for comment.
Anyway, after hearing all of that stuff, 60% of the survey-takers said they’d be more likely to vote for González, and 71% of soft/undecided voters said the same.
The spokesperson for González wouldn’t share on the record the results of the election simulation after running respondents through these positive and negative messages, but he did say “positive information moved the poll to a point where it was in the margin of error, and then when negatives were tested against both candidates, Lorena had a lead outside the margin of error.”
He added: “The negatives against Bruce are far more effective than the negatives against Lorena. Most voters likely do not remember the Ed Murray saga, or they didn’t live in Seattle at the time, so when faced with this information the race turns decidedly in Lorena’s favor.”
As the Elway poll suggests, however, most voters aren’t tuned in yet. (A quarter of them said they were undecided in the mayor’s race.) González’s poll ran early last week, and there’s plenty of time for these campaigns to saturate the markets with their messaging and make embarrassing gaffes at debates, so it’s unclear what’s really going to stick.