Letter to the editor: What really happened in the election of City Council Position 5


As this election season draws to a close, it has become clear that Edmonds may not be ready to lift its veil of racism. In this election year we had a race for mayor and four city council positions. The Progressive Voters Guide endorsed Mike Nelson for Mayor; and Alicia Crank, Susan Paine and Laura Johnson for their respective positions. The guide also had a “you can’t go wrong” stance on the Buckshnis/Nand race. Nelson, Johnson, Buckshnis and Paine have all been elected. There seems to be a trend there: The majority of Edmonds voted on the progressive end. Yet the trend that carried the progressive city council and mayoral results somehow broke down and flipped when it came to the Crank/Olson race. We need to ask ourselves why.

Why did Edmonds vote progressive on all other races except council position #5? On paper, out of all eight city council candidates, Ms. Crank is arguably the most qualified. She has been a community, non-profit and business leader for over 20 years. She currently holds the position of Corporate Relations Officer for the YWCA. She has served on several boards and commissions in and around the city, including the Edmonds Senior Center, Edmonds Chamber of Commerce and the Edmonds Sister City Commission. She is currently serving on the Edmonds Planning Board and is Vice Chair of the Snohomish County Airport Commission. Her resume is very impressive. But she still lost. To a candidate whose professional experience does not quite measure up. Why?

It is unbelievable to me that Edmonds chose to be represented by someone who conducts themselves so carelessly. Someone who used a high school girls soccer team photo in campaign material, without parental consent  for those minors and against WIAA rules- an ethical lapse that could have had real consequences for those girls. Someone who thought nothing of exploiting a local cultural event for their own political advantage. Someone who clearly lacks the understanding that behavior like that is not acceptable. The entitlement Ms. Olson showed throughout her campaign was appalling. It was showcased for all to see at the end of the My Edmonds News‘ Facebook Live interview when Ms. Olson asked Ms. Crank, “Why did you chose to run against me?” As if once Ms. Olson had declared her intent, no one had the right to challenge her.

Edmonds residents had the chance to elect four people of color in this election: two on city council, and two at the county court. I’m not saying race was 100% of the reason Alicia and other people of color were not elected, I’m just asking that we acknowledge it very well could be. It sure looks that way on paper.

If we are really going to have an open and prosperous community, we need to take a hard look at our own actions. Our biases clearly show in the results and that will negatively impact the welfare of our city. Please join me in encouraging Alicia Crank in applying for the vacant council seat left by Mike Nelson. Edmonds needs her leadership.

Erin Ornes

Publisher’s note: We gave Vivian Olson an opportunity to respond to this letter. Here is her written statement:

My opponent and I ran positive campaigns. Although my intention was only to work hard and do what I could to get the word out, shortcomings in my knowledge led to missteps including ads highlighting different hats I have worn over the years (the “Soccer Mom” one with my daughter and her t-shirted teammates among them). I hope those hurt will accept my sincere apology and give me a chance to re-earn their trust.

My pledge to representative government — and the trust the citizens have in me to follow through on this promise — generated widespread support throughout the city. I am grateful for it and am so excited to take on this role.

Citizens should weigh in with their elected officials on their choice for the upcoming councilmember appointment and on all things. We are elected to represent you.

— Vivian Olson


36 Replies to “Letter to the editor: What really happened in the election of City Council Position 5”

  1. To be clear, I submitted this letter Tuesday night. Well before last night’s article.

    It was up to Teresa how she wanted to handle it. And she chose to run that one first.

    Making that point clear. This is not a rebuttal to yesterday’s article. This was submitted before that .


    1. The election is over and the results are in. And yet there is a need to berate Vivian Olson because she won the #5 Council seat. I understand this was Vivian’s first time running for office and there are rules for running a campaign. She made a few missteps, was called on them and apologized. Is there no forgiveness for a first time candidate’s mistakes? I for one am tired of the negative response when a group’s candidate does not win.

      So can we let go of the negativity, accept the results and support the new mayor and city council going forward?
      There are plenty of issues ahead that will need our attention, input and support with positive energy.


  2. That’s Vivian’s response! She didn’t address the issues. I’d like to her response to the question she asked Alicia about running. She has now openly admitted to mistakes and shortcomings. Always asking for forgiveness because she didn’t know all the rules! Seriously!? I hope she understands that City Council is a major responsibility and not a weekend activity. She hasn’t even started and is already asking for us to re-trust her! Great!


  3. I find this letter interesting and a bit sad. Sad in the sense I’m sorry we’ve become intolerant of those who don’t vote for a “block” or party. I know both ladies and I commend both ladies for their service to this community – both have served this community. Vivian and her family have more “time in service” in this community than Alicia – which could certainly aid her in name recognition.

    Vivian has also accomplished something that 93% of Americans have not – she served this country in uniform. Her service required her to adapt and think smartly in adverse situations, it required her to work with diverse backgrounds – ethical, political, religious – all with the intent of accomplishing an overall mission. While this doesn’t make her better than Alicia, it certainly provided her with training that most don’t ever get – and for that reason she is certainly qualified.

    For Progressives to adopt this attitude is not very progressive. It is revealing. My hope is that we can move on and work together to better this community on all fronts.

    While I did not vote for Mike Nelson, I would certainly aid his efforts in bettering this city if he asked. Because that is what one does when they believe in community first.


  4. I, too, encourage Alicia Crank to apply for the vacant council seat left by Mike Nelson. I have voted for Ms. Crank in both elections that she has participated in. I feel she would bring such a wealth of experience to Edmonds’ City Council.


  5. Is this the “Progressive” playbook? It must be “racism” if a POC runs for office and does not win? “White Privilege” is to blame? She lost because she is a woman? Perhaps she has not lived here very many years and others have lived here longer and are better known for their years of service. Maybe voters wanted to vote for a more moderate candidate who has lived here many years. This “blame” everyone but yourself is the “victim” mentality of the progressive left, and it is quite frankly, disgusting. Now we are being shamed for the results of an election, and the winner is being maligned and accused of all sorts of evil deeds. These are truly outrageous accusations! I voted for the winner my wife voted for the loser because she thought she was more moderate. It was the only council race we did not agree on. After we both read the “sour grapes” letters and the pitiful victim mentality from the “loser” and her supporters, my wife said she would not vote for Alicia again. Now let’s see if she is “appointed” to the open council seat; does being a “sore loser” pay off? We are from Central America, we have worked hard to make our dream, raising our children, and entered this country after an arduous 7 year wait-in-line immigration program. Progressives are trying to make our government like that of the failing South and Central American countries, which is why we filed petitions of immigration while we were in Universite. There should be more respect given to the voters, not everyone I voted for won, but I respect my fellow Americans and will live with the results until the next voting cycle; I suggest others who lost or whose candidate lost think about applying this same principle, and stop with the victimization of the losers.


    1. James and Teresa Hernandez, as an immigrant myself, I could not have written a better response. We live in a great country where we have an opportunity to vote, and run for office. We are not entitled, nor are we a victim if things do not go our way.


    2. Thanks for your letter. I agree 100% and was getting ready to write my own letter but you did it for me. The points that truly bother me is that every progressive MUST vote for the party, not the candidate. The other point you make is that if a woman of color does not win it’s because the racists kept her out. With attitudes like that, the racial divide will continue to get bigger.


  6. Mike – I believe several candidates had admitted to mistakes and shortcomings. Alicia had hers, Mike had his, Vivian had hers, the list goes on. So – do we continue to bring these up or do we say – the voice of the people has been heard, the votes have been counted, now it is time to unite and become one team?


  7. One reason to vote for a “soccer mom” may have been to get another parents view of our artificial turf issues and our suggested need for more field on which to play. A candidate who is a former Air Force Officer may also be part of a voters thinking. She was trained on the use of weapons including various types of guns. Her personal experience with weapons and being a parent could be vital to a health debated about public safety.

    People vote for the candidate of their choice for a number of reasons. As George B said elsewhere, the voters voted.

    While it may be important to try and figure out how folks voted it may well be more important to figure out where we go from here. The budget is next up in what will shape our city. We should spend some energy on that issue as well.


  8. Vivian Olson was a terrific candidate, is very qualified, and will be a quality representative for the the Edmonds City Council. The honest mistakes she made during the campaign are of no consequence and did not affect the outcome. This is a hit piece by Erin Ornes and it says more about the “progressive” mindset than it does Vivian Olsen. It is obvious that considering herself a “progressive” does not make her any less opinionated than the Edmonds citizens that she accuses of being racist. If, as she states, the other candidates consider themselves “progressive” I hope they will work for the city in a non-partisan way.

    Personally, I voted for the person I considered to be the best candidate. The color or shade of a person’s skin should have nothing to do with the people we elect. I hope that Ms Ornes is not suggesting otherwise.


  9. I voted for Alicia, but this is the most butt-hurt, undemocratic thing I’ve read in a long time. Skin Color > Democracy ?


  10. I find it interesting that the premise of Alicia Crank’s argument is that “Progressives” in other races won but she as a “Progressive” candidate didn’t, so maybe the reason she lost was because of race. The inference therefore is that “Progressives” must be racists. If you listen to “Progressives” like Nancy Pelosi and others, “racist Progressives” is an oxymoron.
    I served 5 years in the Airforce and admire anyone who graduated from any military academy. The rigors of such an education are or should be well known and equip an officer to face many challenges in times of war and peace. Vivian’s further education in the Aeronautical Sciences speak well of her intellect.
    Ms Crank’s education doesn’t even mention whether she finished college and what degree was earned. Ms. Crank’s service is admirable and should be applauded. “Sour grapes” using the race card is not admirable.


  11. I suspect we are all overreacting. Years ago, when I was doorbelling in Snohomish County for a candidate (we lost) I ran into the same reception several times, though most people were pretty decent. With my Norwegian heritage there was no way I could pretend to be anything but white. In my opinion the few oddballs were just that – oddballs. It hurts, of course it hurts, but we have to shrug it off as Alicia has done and try to put it behind us. This is a free country so others can express peculiar opinions if they wish, but we don’t have to agree with them nor apologize for them. It is time to take off our hair shirts.


  12. Please see the posted comment below. I like Alicia Crank very much and find her to be thoughtful and well-spoken. However, I would have given her letter about lack of progressive attitudes in Edmonds more credence if she had submitted it after the vacant council seat had been filled. Its timing makes it seem like a naked bid for that seat.

    Lynne Chelius

    Susan Larson

    November 15, 2019 at 7:30 am

    I, too, encourage Alicia Crank to apply for the vacant council seat left by Mike Nelson. I have voted for Ms. Crank in both elections that she has participated in. I feel she would bring such a wealth of experience to Edmonds’ City Council.




  13. Full disclosure, I’m an ugly, old, bald white guy who could care less what anyone’s skin color is or what political party or religion anyone affiliates with. I’m also not interested in telling anyone here who I voted for, or why, in any election because it’s no one’s business but mine as per our election laws. I found both these two candidates for council to be compelling and wish I could have voted for both of them. I hope Alicia runs again and that she seeks the open position if she decides she still wants it. In my opinion she is an asset to our community and welcome to knock on my door anytime. I probably won’t answer, however, unless I recognize her because I tend not to answer my door at all anymore unless I know who is knocking. It just feels right with all the craziness in the world now and my home is MY castle.


  14. Most of the Council candidates that lost, did so in about the same amount of vote totals.

    If Alicia would have ran head to head vs. Mr. Monroe, Ms. White, or Ms. Nand, its quite feasible she would have Won or been too close to call in my opinion (stress my opinion) the difference is around 1,000-2,000 votes decide who is elected on average within a 15,000 vote total.

    Vivian had more collective votes than Mr. Nelson, Ms. Buckshnis had more votes than everyone. Just an observation. Diane is defiantly the most popular kid in school as the saying goes.

    Regarding who should take vacated council seat could be the next person with most votes (Mr. Monroe) , or have a separate vote runoff for the last 4 candidates and let the people decide would be my preference.

    Congrats on everyone that ran, glad boy scouts cleaned up our town with all these political signs gone feels pretty great, I owe them a donation email them at troop300philmont2020@yahoo.com (Thank you MEN for info)

    Latest vote counts:

    *Nathan Monroe 6,941

    *Diana White 6,809

    *Alicia Crank 6,736

    *Jenna Nand 5,850

    **Diane Buckshnis 9,275

    **Vivian Olson 8,679

    **Mike Nelson 8,656

    **Susan Paine 8,459

    **Laura Johnson 8,383

    **Neil Tibbott 7,649

    Updated results county link below:



    1. Michael, I agree with your logic on this one. It certainly won’t happen this way as the process and those who submit are voted in by the council, as you likely know.

      It will be interesting to see who applies for the vacancy and who the council selects. I believe Erin was instrumental in helping Mr. Nelson get elected and has openly advocated for Ms. Crank to be selected…I’m not sure if that is as a private citizen or as one of the representatives of our incoming mayor.

      Bottom line, I like your process better.


    2. Thank you Mike for the statistical approach! For the record – the 32nd Dems put up a “slate of candidates“ this year and did not endorse me despite the fact I had been endorsed by this group in past elections. Since I grew up in a union family and sat with my dad on picket lines – I was a bit upset and dismayed that my opponent was considered more “progressive or democratic” than me; but my life went on. It was what it was … and there was no explanation as to why.

      It is unfortunate that the outcome of this race has once again divided our citizens and it saddens me; but Ms. Olson should not be diminished for working hard and running a clean campaign. Yes, she made a couple of campaign photo mistakes of which I had to address with her as the Council Tree Board liaison – but she apologized. We all make mistakes and the ability to recognize those mistakes and offering corrective measures or apologies is all anyone can do as we can never go back in time – so let’s move forward together and continue to make this City the great place we all know and love.


  15. The statement Erin wrote: “Edmonds might not be ready to lift its veil of racism”, is exactly what was done, albeit, not quite how you intended Erin, you lifted the “racism veil” to show that if you lose an election, and have only lived here a few years, and are running against an excellent candidate who has served in the military, has lived here many years, and has served the community in many capacities, you can just call the voters racists, and blame it on your vision of racism if you lose. This is not an appropriate response to losing an election, and it will not be forgotten, especially adding insult to injury by trying to malign the person who won. “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time. People know themselves much better than you do. That’s why it’s important to stop expecting them to be something other than who they are”……Maya Angelou


  16. Edmonds would do well to not just reject this argument out of hand. The math points in one direction. Progressive candidates won up and down the ballot but why didn’t this one? Yes, it does mean that some people who consider themselves progressives did not vote for Ms. Crank and only they, each individual at a time, can answer that question honestly. Voting for a candidate because of their long standing history in the community may sound like a justifiable answer to you. In a local election season where new/old, future/past were at the for front of discussion, I think a lot of people need to meet themselves in the mirror and address the elephant in their own room.


  17. Dear Erin Ornes, if there was racism in Edmonds, then Democrats need to look at themselves. “Progressive” is a label that says that Democrats are forward thinking and have no prejudices, and that automatically gives Democrats a pass on being racist. To say one person is less qualified is your personal opinion. And now there is a list that tells which candidates are progressive. Maybe the next election we should have you tell us which candidates are progressive then we do not even need to have an election, you can make the appointments. Democrats also love to use the words, “appalling, micro aggression.” My favorite, “I was offended.”


  18. Mr. Schindler, it is my opinion as a private citizen and not in any way related to Mr. Nelsons opinions. Furthermore, I don’t even know Mr. Nelson’s thoughts on the subject.


    1. Thanks Erin for the clarification; I appreciate it. And as one of our community leaders who does good, I’m glad to hear your advocacy is above scrutiny.


  19. The most distressing part of the whole story is that while trying to legitimately conduct her campaign, Ms. Crank was made to feel afraid for her well-being by a man who answered the door in such a manner as to display a holstered gun. Who does that? Clearly not someone having “an Edmonds kind of day”. Imagine if we as a community had the same level of outrage for this display of violence and intimidation as we do for “progressive politics” and “race cards”.

    Here’s hoping that Ms. Crank will continue undeterred and pursue the vacant council seat.


    1. Quite the contrary; the gentleman was portrayed to be responsible. And what an effective messaging tool, illustrating what the City’s gun storage law looks like: Rather than have the gun staged for easy access if needed, compliance means have it locked in a safe when you answer the door, or wear it! It’s an Edmonds kind of way to answer the door– endorsed by our mayor-elect.


  20. I am curious was the other Women of color candidate given a chance to talk about why she lost? The reason I ask is that it seems that Ms. Crank is being put out there as the only woman of color that lost when there was in fact two. Ms. Nand a non transplant lost as well and to someone who had more against them than Ms. Olson. I am a woman of color as well and this city and I find it shocking that it is being monopolized to one candidate.


  21. I’ve only been an Edmonds voter for a few years now, but I did follow this election pretty closely. I’ve been an active Democrat and certainly consider myself a Progressive, but for the life of me, I had a hard time distinguishing among council candidates on matters of policy. In reality, their policy agendas were strikingly similar. Those “progressive” endorsements must not have been based on purely Edmonds’ issues.


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