In the hotly contested race for Everett mayor, Judy Tuohy took a slim lead on election night. If that lead holds, an outspoken write-in candidate may have played a significant part.
A lifelong gear head, Gary Watts likes to tinker with things. This fall, it was an election.
"You don't have to be a politician to play politics," he said.
Watts made headlines over the summer by posting a sign outside his Everett auto repair shop proclaiming the city "Tweakerville" and live-streaming the seedy activities of a homeless camp across the street on YouTube.
He now concedes that was a political stunt designed to call attention to his "get tough" views on addicts.
"We can't keep the welcome mat out for them," said Watts. "They are ruining the quality of life in this city."
Using the Tweakerville campaign as a platform, Watts invested $50,000 of his own money into a write-in campaign for mayor.
He also met with both front runners, offering his endorsement to whomever would embrace his philosophy. Late in the campaign, Tuohy appeared to do just that, calling Everett's efforts to tackle the drug problem a "failure."
"Judy made a strategic move that made the front page of the local paper," said Watts. "I think that pulled a significant number of votes in her favor."
Early results showed Watts with more than 10 percent of the vote, about 10 times the usual number for a write-in. That, coupled with low voter turnout could sway the election, according to Snohomish County Elections Manager Garth Fell.
"With a 10 percent write-in vote and the closeness of the race there certainly would be an impact there for the write-in candidate," said Fell.
Watts plans to use his newfound status in future elections – possibly creating a political action committee to target politicians he thinks are weak on crime.
More tinkering under the hood to come.
"That's a warning to folks running the city today," said Watts. "They know me well enough to know that when I say something, that's what I do."