Seattle City Council District 7 candidate Jim Pugel speaks with supporters at his election party in Miner’s Landing on Tuesday, Nov. 5
Seattle City Council District 7 candidate Jim Pugel speaks with supporters at his election party in Miner’s Landing on Tuesday, Nov. 5

Seattle City Council candidate Andrew Lewis responded positively to Tuesday night’s general election results, even though they showed him slightly trailing his District 7 opponent Jim Pugel.

In the days that followed, the assistant city attorney went from 49.14 percent to a 6-percent lead. Without enough votes left to count for the former police chief to catch up, Queen Anne News is calling the District 7 race for Lewis.

King County Elections reported two counts on Friday, with Lewis ahead by 2,049 votes that night. Elections reported a rough estimate of District 7 votes left to count the following week at 300-400, with 200-300 signature challenges to sort. Even at the high end of 700 votes to be accounted for, Lewis was assured to succeed. Voter turnout in District 7 was at 49.43 percent on Friday.

“He’ll be the fresh start that we need here in this district,” said Katherine Sims, Lewis’ campaign field director, during the candidate’s Nov. 5 election night party.

Sims had volunteered during the primary, and joined the campaign as field director in mid-September. She first met Lewis when he was a students lobbyist at the University of Washington; she was lobbying in Olympia.

“I think that Andrew’s message is something that’s going to appeal to folks in this district,” Sims said.

She likes Lewis because he’s strong on environmental and transportation issues, she said, and Sims believes he will approach a green new deal and replacing Magnolia Bridge with practical solutions.

Barbara Oakrock was a Lewis supporter before he took a stance on saving UpGarden from being closed at Mercer Garage. She spent 40 years as a landscape architect, and said she often worked on city projects under contract.

“I learned that city council is where it happens,” Oakrock said. “The good stuff that Seattle thinks about and does, the rubber hits the road with city council.”

Seattle is behind on maintaining its public spaces, she said, and needs more community centers and capital investments in open and green spaces.

“People are taking care of their neighborhoods, but we’re not thinking about the big picture,” Oakrock said.

Had Pugel been running a campaign in another district, Oakrock said she might have supported him, but she found the former law enforcement officer focused too much on public safety during the campaign and didn’t have a stronger platform when it came to other issues.

“He doesn’t think as complexly and as deeply and in a nuanced way,” she said, “and I think that’s who he is.”

Pugel had not conceded the election as of Sunday, and Lewis declined to comment until all of the ballots were counted.

The District 7 candidates agreed on a number of issues during the campaign, but had differing strategies, and they were civil throughout a lengthy season of candidate forums.

Pugel told Queen Anne News on election night, when he was 200 votes ahead, that he would ensure that the city’s response to homelessness, addiction and mental illness is closely coordinated with King County and the state of Washington, and emphasized regional partnerships as the way forward on other issues, such as replacing Magnolia Bridge.

Pugel joined the Seattle Police Department in 1981, and was appointed interim chief by former mayor Mike McGinn in April 2013. When Ed Murray beat McGinn and took office, he replaced Pugel with another interim chief. Pugel retired in 2014, and went on to work for the King County Sheriff’s Office as chief deputy until 2018.

Pugel’s public safety platform included gun-violence prevention.

“Let’s start really paying attention to the so many guns that are lawfully owned, but unsafely stored within the city. I want to start working on that,” Pugel said.

Both candidates came out in support of preserving municipal golf courses as open spaces, returning to neighborhood planning and Mayor Jenny Durkan’s increase in no-notice removals of unsanctioned homeless encampments without a significant increase in shelter capacity, citing public health and safety as the reason.

Neither supported the city council’s short-lived head tax.

Pugel served on the county’s Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force, which in September 2016 released a report that recommended safe drug consumption spaces or Community Health Engagement Locations be created.. Despite his opposition, he voted to approve the report.

Lewis supporter Aaron LaPointe told Queen Anne News on election night that he was bothered that Pugel would vote for something he didn’t support.

Lewis said during a Seattle CityClub forum in September that he believes some people in addiction would benefit from a safe drug consumption site, and it would result in fewer needles in public restrooms and people “dying in alleys.”

Both candidates sought the endorsement of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy during the primary. The large amount of funds poured into the council races by the political action committee, punctuated by a late injection of more than $1 million by Amazon, dominated election coverage for weeks leading up to Nov. 5. Five of the seven district candidates CASE supported did not win in the general election.

CASE spent nearly $320,000 in independent expenditures in support of Pugel, and did not put any funds toward ads targeting Lewis. The PAC spent the most on the District 3 campaign, in an attempt to unseat Kshama Sawant, whose Socialist Alternative party continues to pursue taxing large corporations to fund public services and infrastructure.

The largest independent expenditure in support of Lewis was $453,145 from the UniteHere Local 8 PAC, which mostly covered online and TV ads.