I know this defies the weathered arguments of Seattle's political old-guard, but Seattle is not through-and-through blue. Some of us are pretty conservative. And those conservative voters—gasp-o-rama!—vote for more conservative politicians.
Exhibit A: Crosscut's Benjamin Anderstone has an excellent, data-driven analysis piece (WITH REALLY PRETTY MAPS) that breaks down precinct results in Seattle elections since 2008. He examines several issues—partisan political races, votes on taxation, social justice ballot measures, and local politicians—and he confirms something sentient humans have been saying all along: Even though Seattle may lack radically conservative politicians (compared to trolls like Sarah Palin), the voters in the outer ring of the city consistently back conservative laws and conservative politicians:
I have argued before that candidate races in Seattle regularly come down to competition between two blocs of voters: the “liberal bloc,” which tends to be younger, lower-income, and reside in urbanized neighborhoods; and the “conservative bloc,” which skews older, wealthier, and is concentrated in highly residential areas, often ones with nice views and pricy real estate.
Unsurprisingly, I received push-back on this from people who asserted that Richard Conlin, Ed Murray, and other “conservative bloc” candidates are hardly personally conservative. True enough!
However, let the map here put to rest any doubt that “conservative bloc” voters are not, by Seattle terms, conservative. In fact, support for “conservative bloc” candidates was the single strongest statistical predictor for a precinct’s partisanship. If you’d like to estimate a Seattleite’s willingness to vote for a Republican, don’t ask them how they feel about same-sex marriage or public financing. Ask them if they voted for Joe Mallahan. (Mike McGinn's opponent in the 2009 Seattle mayor's race.)
Before everyone poops their keyboard: Nobody is saying that Richard Conlin or Ed Murray or Joe Mallahan came from same ideological litter as Senator Tom Coburn. Nor is anyone saying that Republican voters are a massive part of the electorate. But it is safe to say this: Those candidates rely on votes from more conservative precincts—and those candidates must appeal to those conservative voters to win. I called Anderstone to ask more about his findings. It turns out, he said, that there's a stronger correlation between voters who backed former council member Conlin this past election and Republican voters than even Mallahan (who had a .74 correlation). There was a .79 correlation between precincts approving Conlin and precincts voting GOP, said Anderstone. "Conlin relied disproportionately on voters who are Republican and are willing to vote Republican," he said. "The straight-ticket Democratic voters almost certainly voted very heavily for Kshama Sawant." (A socialist, Sawant won the city council race.) He said conservative histories were also "extremely predictive" of siding with Mayor Ed Murray—with a .70 correlation. "There is a big correlation between areas willing to vote for conservative candidates and willing to vote for Murray."
Again, because I can hear their consultants howling that these guys aren't Republican—duh—I'd argue that Anderstone's work is useful in dispelling a common election-time myth, particularly from more moderate voters, that Seattle is homogeneously liberal. It's just not homogenous. There are clearly two teams in Seattle politics: Call them what you will, the wealthier, older moderates/conservatives and the working-class, younger liberals.
And more conservative politicians in any given race need—and seek—backing from Seattle's conservative voters to cobble together a majority (which includes more conservative precincts and more liberal precincts). For example, Murray's campaign repeatedly stoked fear about a citywide crime epidemic (which is not only a conservative talking point but was largely untrue), about the danger associated bicycle lanes, and about the divisiveness of advocating for light rail. He used those conservative dog whistles to help him get elected. As this Seattle Times precinct analysis shows, the Murray voters were predominantly in wealthy outer-ring neighborhoods with water views, which Anderstone's analyses show are the same neighborhoods that back Republicans and more conservative laws. Likewise, the same Seattle Times maps show Conlin's trend was even stronger. Inversely, Seattle's central, working-class neighborhoods—which tend to vote for the more progressive candidates and issues—went with McGinn and Sawant.
Seattle can squabble over terminology to describe politicos on the right hand side of the local spectrum—conservatish?—but there's no doubt they represent more conservative agendas than their lefty counterparts. Take the city council: The conservatish bloc has backed bills that target panhandlers with fines, build freeways, nix homeless shelters, scuttle legislation to make homeless encampments safer, and undertake other conservative goals. Their lefty counterparts (and lefty voters) oppose those conservative agendas, perhaps because they don't rely on conservative voters as a key component of their their base.