By Vivian Luu
Northwest Asian Weekly
Dow Constantine slowly weaved through a crowd of supporters at the Edgewater Hotel in Seattle, smiling and shaking hands with supporters as he scrambled for the podium. He claimed victory in the race for King County Executive on Tuesday night. Election results rolled on TV screens.
“My goodness,” he said, laughing a little. “That was over quick, wasn’t it?”
Constantine’s audience laughed and cheered with him as voting results revealed his 14-point lead over opponent Susan Hutchison, whose election-night party was held at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Bellevue.
But the race isn’t over for Hutchison. In front of her supporters at the Hyatt Regency, she reminded everybody that it could take days for officials to count mail-in ballots and officially name a winner.
“We still have days ahead to count votes,” she said on election night. “I believe the people of King County are making a choice, and we’ll watch and see what that choice is.”
At press time on Wednesday, Nov. 4, Constantine’s tally was 171,006 votes, or 57.53 percent. Hutchison’s tally was 125,607 votes, or 42.26 percent.
Hutchison conceded defeat Wednesday afternoon.
“This election was about who was in the best position, who is best suited, who was the best person to bring us forward to real reform to King County,” Constantine said. “The voters had a clear choice, and they have spoken loud and clear tonight.”
This change, he added, isn’t just any change. Voters were looking for solutions to local issues, and that’s where the changes will occur.
“They were looking for change that was consistent with our values here in King County,” Constantine said.
These issues included creating a clean environment, modern transit choices, and pro-choice legislation, as well as an “economy that provides opportunity to all our people.”
As County Council Chair, Constantine’s experience in legislation was often seen as adherence to the old ways of King County — means of business that, according to Hutchison, led to what she called the county’s “budget mess.”
Hutchison, a former broadcaster for KIRO, said change was needed, and that a bipartisan administration would remedy current problems.
To alleviate the county’s $56 million budget deficit, Hutchison proposed reviewing employees’ union contracts and raising taxes to pay for human services that could be axed. Constantine said furloughs were the solution, as the county should honor union contracts and begin negotiations once they expire.
Both candidates proposed cutting executive and county council budgets.
The King County Executive position is officially nonpartisan. But while Hutchison advocated for a bipartisan administration, liberals labeled her as a Republican and cited the strong conservatives backing her.
Constantine has been a long-time Democrat. He campaigned as a fighter for liberal causes.
And some fighting he’ll have to do. As King County Executive, Constantine faces potential flooding in the Green River valley, as well as a potential global flu outbreak. All this lies in the midst of a $56 million county budget deficit as the light-rail system continues to grow and as the fate of the Seattle waterfront — notably the Alaskan Way Viaduct — remains uncertain.
“We are undaunted,” he said to supporters. “We will face these [challenges] with level-headed, serious leadership. … We are going to do what’s right, not merely what’s expedient.”
Constantine must muster support from Hutchison’s supporters.
“She ran a very rigorous campaign, a very strong campaign,” he said. “To her supporters, I say this: Give us a chance. I share your concerns about the future of King County. I share your concerns that we need an efficient government and an efficient recovery. I have made it clear that I am bringing that reform to King County. … You watch us, we’re going to do it.”
When asked whether she would run for office again, Hutchison said she didn’t know. Hutchison is currently executive director of the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences.
She is active in the community and volunteers on several local arts boards. Though widely known for her work as a news anchor, Hutchison has also produced documentaries.
Constantine has named Korean American InterIm Executive Director Hyeok Kim to his transition team.
Japanese American and community activist Ruthann Kurose has been nominated to be on the team, but has not been confirmed as of press time. ♦
Vivian Luu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.