Trump voters hiding in plain sight in King County

Even in Seattle, one of the bluest cities in the country, just about everyone’s got a neighbor or two who voted for Donald Trump. Most likely they are in hiding.

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When I told Tod Steward that seven people in his Seattle neighborhood voted for Donald Trump, he was shocked.

Not because that’s such a tiny number. He figured he had to be the only one.

“I’ve never met anyone up here, not a single person, not friends, family, anyone, who said they were voting for Trump,” says Steward, who lives in a condo on First Hill. “I guess now I can walk around on my block and know I’m not completely alone.”

It’s no surprise that Seattle was hostile territory for the president-elect. A precinct analysis by Seattle Times data guru and reporter Justin Mayo found that Trump is on track to get only 8 percent of the vote in the city – a historic low for a major-party presidential candidate.

Even the liberal-loathed George W. Bush got 20 percent and 18 percent in Seattle the two times he ran, in 2000 and 2004.

Seattle’s distaste for Trump ran deeper than in most any other big American city, including San Francisco (where Trump got 10 percent), Chicago (13 percent), Philadelphia (15 percent) and New York (18 percent). Only Washington, D.C. – Trump’s new home! – topped Seattle for Trump animosity, blasting him by an epic 93 percent to 4 percent.

But despite all that, it’s also true that there are Trump backers everywhere in Seattle. With the vote still only partially tabulated, 18,372 Seattleites have voted for Trump – enough to fill KeyArena plus another 1,000 waiting outside.

Of the city’s 962 voting precincts, only two contain no Trump voters at all. The biggest anti-Trump vote so far, 153 to 0, took place in Wallingford (it’s SEA 43-1379, if you’re looking for bragging rights as the most Trump-free part of town).

Precincts are areas of five to 10 blocks with 300 to 500 voters each. Five of the precincts recorded just a lone Trump vote. In my own precinct, in Madrona, 10 people backed Trump. I have to admit that as I walk or jog around now I find myself wondering: Who could they be?

Steward, who has been out and proud about his Trump support for months, said the postelection environment in Seattle is surreal. He’s a lifelong Seattleite, but at age 52 he says he’s never felt so alien.

“It’s always been a liberal city, which is great,” he said. “But the vitriol right now is off the charts. People are completely pissed off.”

He said he hears it wherever he goes, like in the line at the grocery store. When people start venting, they assume he must agree with them.

“I’ve been hiding out in my house,” he said. “Other than to go to work, I haven’t gone out. I’m waiting until the hard feelings die down a little bit. Then maybe I’ll go back out to the pub.”

The highest percentage Trump got in the city, 28 percent, was in Madison Park, in the apartments built out over Lake Washington next to Madison Park beach. Even the city’s one consistently red precinct of Broadmoor, the gated community near the Arboretum, turned deep blue this time, voting against Trump by 42 percentage points.

Still, on average there are 19 Trump voters per precinct in the city. This means that even in homogeneous Seattle, most people have at least one or two Trump voters as neighbors.

The precinct totals also show we have our own swath of Trump Country right here in King County. May Valley, a past hotbed of anti-government protest outside Renton, voted for Trump. Of 39 cities in King County, two voted for Trump – the towns of Enumclaw and Black Diamond, down in the southeast corner.

Rich Elfers, a history teacher who writes about politics for the Enumclaw Courier-Herald, said his town fits the Trump demographic pretty well.

“I wouldn’t say it’s that conservative here, but we’re mainly white and we’ve got a more rural mentality,” he said. “I think there’s a feeling there’s been too much cultural change, too fast. I think that likely includes some discomfort about a woman president.”

He said the towns aren’t suffering that much economically. So Enumclaw and Black Diamond are not King County’s “Rust Belt,” so much as our Kansas.

When I covered politics for a South King County newspaper in the early 1990s, these areas tended to vote Democratic. We used to joke that the Democrats of South King were more conservative than the Republicans of Bellevue.

Now, there are scarcely any liberal Republicans left. Bellevue, once the state’s capital for the moderate GOP, voted for Hillary Clinton by a whopping 45 percentage points. And what conservative Democrats were still hanging around in the South End probably went for Trump.

Meanwhile, as recently as 2004, Sammamish was the state’s “swing town,” an exact 50-50 mix. This year it went dark blue by 42 points. The new swing towns are in places like Maple Valley, Pacific, or Pierce County.

Elfers, of Enumclaw, said that for a populist uprising it was strangely quiet. There were maybe three signs up for Trump, total.

“Nobody went around talking about it, maybe because they thought they’d be judged,” Elfers said. “If we continue being so separate, we’re heading toward civil war.”

The good news is that if the two sides really want to talk, they don’t have to go much farther afield than their own blocks.

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