Reflecting on her recent loss to Vivian Olson in the Position 5 Edmonds City Council race, Alicia Crank had some thoughts to share about race and politics in Edmonds.
“Overall my experience was positive,” said Crank, a member of the Edmonds Planning Board who also ran for council in 2015, shortly after moving to Edmonds from Mountain View, Calif. (She lost that race to Dave Teitzel, who isn’t seeking re-election.)
However, as an African American woman campaigning in a city where just 1% of the population is Black (according to the latest U.S. Census) — Crank was open about the downsides too. Doorbelling — which many believe is critical for candidates in order to win a local race — “was probably the most unpleasurable,” Crank said. “We keep saying Edmonds is welcoming and everyone belongs, but some of the looks I would get from people when I came up to the door.”
In particular, Crank remembered one man who opened the door to her to make sure she saw he was wearing a gun holster. “Frankly, I was scared,” she said.
And then there were people who closely inspected her name badge indicating she was running for office, “to make sure it was real,” Crank said. “That did not inspire me to be out there as much as I was able.”
“I didn’t want this race to be about race but unfortunately it was becoming that way, even though it was quiet,” Crank said. “The microaggressions were just insane.”
She recalled her experience at a candidate meet and greet event, sponsored in late August by the Edmonds Neighborhood Action Coalition. “There were a number of people that have lived in Edmonds for quite a long time that would kind of stand off in the distance and just glare at me. Then they’d whisper, and glare again.”
“I acted like it didn’t bother me, but as soon as got to my car and started driving home, I started crying,” she said. “It’s the first time that I could remember just feeling helpless. I wish they would have said the n-word instead of giving me those looks.”
Crank said she wasn’t the only one who noticed the behavior. “Others around me saw it too,” she said.
“Everyone picks a side — I get that,” Crank said. “You don’t have to hate one person to support another. It just seemed so rampant. I tried to stay above board and keep it positive.”
When the general election results started coming in Nov. 5, Crank said she was “definitely disappointed.” But she said she became angry when she looked at how the other two council candidates running for open seats were doing against their opponents. Despite the fact that all of them — Crank, Laura Johnson and Susan Paine — were considered progressive candidates, Crank was the only one who was losing. She also noticed that several other candidates of color across Snohomish County — including Superior Court Judge Edirin Okoloko and Superior Court judicial candidate Cassandra Lopez-Shaw — were being defeated.
“Maybe our county, our city isn’t as progressive as they think they are,” Crank said.
Crank also pointed to mistakes on the part of her opponent Vivian Olson that she said deserved to be highlighted, including Olson’s use of an Edmonds Citizens Tree Board photo in campaign literature (Olson wrote a letter to the editor in October apologizing for that) and her plan to use a photo of her daughter’s high school soccer team, wearing game day t-shirts and holding her campaign sign, without the permission of their parents.
In an interview Wednesday, Olson apologized for both incidents, stating her intent was to show through the photos various aspects of her community involvement. “I regret that — I should have taken more time plowing through the rules and learning what the rules were,” she said.
Another incident Crank cited involved face painting at a recent Edmonds Day of the Dead celebration, when Olson said she asked a school acquaintance of her daughters — who was doing traditional face painting at the event — to paint her campaign symbol on the face of her supporters. Olson was criticized for cultural appropriation after she displayed a photo on her Facebook page of one child wearing the painted logo, and so she removed the photo.
“Again, I regret that,” Olson said.
“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),” Olson added in a written statement. “I hope those hurt will accept my sincere apology and give me a chance to re-earn their trust.”
Despite the challenges Crank faced during the campaign, she said she appreciated supporters who had her back. “I created a new family and group of friends,” she said. That support was especially important, Crank said, because she was undergoing chemotherapy for cancer — her second battle with the disease — while campaigning.
As for her future political aspirations in Edmonds, Crank said she’s not sure yet if she wants to throw her hat into the ring for appointment to the council seat that will be vacated when Mike Nelson becomes mayor. She has a demanding job as corporate relations officer at the YWCA Seattle King Snohomish County and plans to refocus on her work there now that the campaign is over.
“I just want to enjoy being cancer free and celebrate the holidays,” Crank said. “I’ve been done with chemo for seven weeks now. I’m just trying to catch up with life.”
— By Teresa Wippel