Everett mayoral candidates Cassie Franklin (left) and Judy Tuohy.

Stage is set for a female mayor in critical Everett election

EVERETT — The stage is set for a November to remember as voters in Everett will be electing the first female mayor in the city’s 124-year history.

Cassie Franklin and Judy Tuohy secured the top spots in this week’s primary, earning the City Council colleagues a match-up in the general election.

Franklin led with 31.7 percent through Friday’s ballot count. Tuohy, with 29.5 percent, trailed by 288 votes. Brian Sullivan, a Democratic Snohomish County Councilman, is in third at 29 percent and is 67 votes behind Tuohy. Shean Nasin is in fourth with 9.6 percent.

It will be the first time a woman has reached this plateau in the city since former councilwoman Connie Niva narrowly lost her bid for mayor in 1989.

“I’ve been waiting for a woman to get in,” Niva said Friday.

Then, noting the two finalists for mayor in Seattle also are women, she added, “It seems to be a trend right now.”

Franklin, 46, said she met many voters in the primary excited at the prospect of two women advancing to ensure the city gets a woman mayor.

“I’m excited about both of us being trailblazers,” she said Friday. “The city is ready.”

Tuohy, 63, said Friday the thought of her or Franklin breaking this glass ceiling in city politics “hasn’t even entered my mind.”

“It just happens to be that we’re both women,” she said. “I’m thankful that nowadays (gender) is not an issue with voters. It is not a handicap as it used to be. Hooray for us for moving forward.”

There are elected women mayors in cities like Mukilteo, Lynnwood, Sultan and Arlington. As of February, of the 1,408 mayors of U.S. cities with populations over 30,000, 292, or 20.4 percent, were women, according to data compiled by the Center for American Women and Politics in New Jersey.

Joyce Ebert is the only woman to occupy the mayor’s job since Everett incorporated in 1893, and she wasn’t elected.

She was a city councilmember when Bob Anderson resigned as mayor in October 1977. She agreed to fill the post for the final two months of his term. She served as interim mayor from Oct. 11 to Dec. 21, according to a plaque in City Hall.

Twelve years later Niva would lose a hard-fought mayoral race to Pete Kinch by 288 votes.

“In the past, it seemed as though a woman had to continuously prove that she was up to the tasks of the position’s ‘business’ and ‘management’ requirements,” she said Friday.

“Men were presumed to possess these even though we know that there was great variability from one male candidate to the next, let alone in male-female comparisons.

“Since that time, it seems as though gender disparities are not seen as great by the voters, so I guess progress is being made,” she said.

In this election, Niva endorsed Tuohy. But she said she knows and respects Franklin. Voters, Niva said, will need to do their homework on the strengths of these two accomplished candidates.

“We have seen what each of them has done in the community,” she said. “It’s going to be very hard.”

Odd man out

Electing the first woman mayor isn’t the only story line emerging from the primary. Another is Sullivan’s failure to advance.

He got into the race in December, two months before any of his opponents. By the time Franklin and Tuohy did announce in February, he had locked up endorsements from unions representing Everett firefighters and police, Boeing machinists and city workers.

He also had garnered the sole endorsement of the Snohomish County Democratic Party and the 38th Legislative District Democrats. The district includes Everett. Franklin and Tuohy, who also are Democrats, were disappointed with party activists’ decision to not also support them.

It wasn’t just endorsements. The unions, especially firefighters in Everett and around the state, and those pistons of the Democratic Party machine provided Sullivan with plenty of financial resources.

He raised $126,307 in the primary, with Tuohy totaling $67,653 and Franklin’s $62,616. He spent $107,476 which is more than Franklin and Tuohy spent combined.

Sullivan wound up spending roughly $28 for each of his votes compared to $12 for Franklin and $9 by Tuohy, based on reports filed with the Public Disclosure Commission.

“We won every battle,” he said Saturday, referring to the campaign’s financial resources and alliance of supporters. “We lost the war. It just wasn’t my time. Of course I wish both candidates the best.”

Continuing, Sullivan said, “I am humbled by the experience. There are things that you have to relish, like the fact that we made district elections an issue in this campaign and we made public safety an issue. They are going to have to talk about those issues. To that extent, our campaign was a great success.”

Sullivan said he hasn’t decided on whether to endorse a candidate for the general election.

“At this point someone is going to have to call me,” he said, adding that he’ll want to talk with them about the specific policies they’ll pursue if elected.

Sullivan’s message resonated in many areas of the city as he finished first or second in 69 of Everett’s 95 precincts, according to a Herald analysis of Friday’s ballot count. He generally did better in the city’s south end.

Tuohy and Franklin were strongest in Everett’s north end, but they also had support to the south. For example, Franklin did well in the neighborhoods near Cascade High School; Tuohy near the Everett Mall and Silver Lake.

Overall, Franklin captured the most precincts, 40, followed by Sullivan with 28 and Tuohy with 21. Of the remainder, four ended in a tie between two candidates. Results in two precincts were counted in overall totals, but not broken out to protect the privacy of the handful of voters who cast ballots there.

“We were hitting on all eight cylinders,” Sullivan said. “We knocked on more doors than the number of people who voted. A low voter turnout wasn’t good for me.”

Another reason seems to be that what Sullivan figured to be his strengthhis political experience — isn’t what some voters wanted.

On the campaign trail, Sullivan touted his lengthy tenure in elected office, including stints as Mukilteo mayor, state representative and a county councilman the past decade. By comparison, Franklin and Tuohy are both in their first full term on the City Council. For both, it’s the first elected office they’ve held.

“My sense is people were looking for change,” Sullivan said. “Having a woman mayor was a top priority for many voters.”

Voters did not seem to be seeking a person with a lengthy resume, said Dean Nielsen, a principal with Cerillion N4 Partners in Seattle, which is Sullivan’s campaign consultant.

“We’re in an era of fresh faces. I think we’re seeing that in many cities around Puget Sound,” he said, specifically citing the Seattle mayor’s race in which a former mayor and two state lawmakers did not finish in the top two.

Another factor may be his lack of longevity as a city resident. Sullivan has represented Everett for a decade on the County Council but only moved into the city in 2015.

That matters to longtime residents who consistently vote in primaries, suggested Niva. A related concern is some of Sullivan’s past political positions, such as opposing commercial air service at Paine Field, ran counter to what Everett desired.

The leader of the Snohomish County Republican Party said she was pleased by the results and intended to make congratulatory calls to Franklin and Tuohy once results are set.

“We were wanting either one of the women to advance. We certainly did not want Brian Sullivan,” said Debbie Blodgett, chairwoman of the county GOP.

The reason, she said, is he tied himself too tightly to the Democratic Party and its labor members. This caused Republican voters to be concerned about whose interests he would serve in the nonpartisan job, she said.

Blodgett said she would invite Franklin and Tuohy to address a meeting of county party leaders in October, though no endorsement is expected. She said she wants to give them a chance to interact with GOP officers, including some from Everett precincts.

It could prove important as Republican voters will influence the outcome in this race as, she said, they did in 2015 when they helped Dave Somers defeat John Lovick in the race for county executive. Both men are Democrats.

“Whoever acts and sounds more conservative will win more Republican support,” she said.

In the meantime, Sullivan has two years remaining in his current council term. He vowed to continue working on issues impacting Everett, such as the increase in gang violence, opioid addiction and homelessness.

“I am, of course, extremely worried about the future of Everett,” he said. “I am not going anywhere. I’ll be more and more involved.”

Scott North contributed to this report. Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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