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Seattle Mayor's Race Insights
May 27, 2021
by William P. Meyers

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Bruce Harrell and Jessyn Farrell are my favorites.

Last Sunday I spent my day at the 46th LD Democrats endorsement meeting for 2021 local races, on Zoom. This article will focus on the race for Seattle Mayor. Democratic Party grassroots organizations are set up in the State of Washington by Legislative Districts (LDs). The 46th is essentially north-east Seattle plus the suburban cities of Lake Forest Park and Kenmore. Not being in Seattle, if you are a member of the 46th, does not preclude you to voting on Seattle election endorsement, and vice versa. The district voted about 85% for Biden, 15% for Trump, but is also noted for having

Some insights are to be gained from Sunday's meeting, but further down I will also give you my views of the leading candidates and how they might fare in the primary and general election.

We considered eight candidates for Mayor: Lorena Gonzalez, Colleen Echohawk, Andrew Houston, Bruce Harrell, Casey Sixkiller, Jessyn Farrell, Don Rivers, and Lance Randall. They had filled out questionnaires and members were supposed to read them before the meeting, but there was a glitch on the web page. In any case I think most members are very active, so already had made their choices. [Disclaimer: I had already made donations to both the Farrell and Harrell campaigns.] Candidates were each allowed to speak briefly. I should mention that a good guess for voting members is 80% women, 20% men, but I did not count that up, though I could have using the Zoom list of participants.

We started with a round of RCV (ranked choice voting). Under our new endorsement rules, if there are more than 6 candidates RCV will be used to reduce the number for the next round to 6. We had not used RCV before, so time was taken to explain how to vote. The result was the field was narrowed to the 6 best known candidates, with most votes divided among the top 4: Lorena Gonzalez, Colleen Echohawk, Bruce Harrell, and Jessyn Farrell. Jessyn had a commanding lead. She lives in the district, is our former representative in Olympia, ran for mayor once before, and is very progressive.

Normally with RCV you would just get a winner from the one ballot, as those with the lowest amount of votes get eliminated, and their 2nd or 3rd or etc. Choices getting their vote. But our rules now went to two more ballots. The first eliminated the bottom two remaining candidates. The third ballot was inconclusive, because you need 60% to win an endorsement. Jessyn Farrell had just less than half the votes, Echohawk was second, Gonzales third, and the one male remaining, Bruce Harrell, brought up the rear. I made a motion to suspend the rules and allow for another round of balloting, but that was opposed and so we adjourned.

I gave input to the rules committee, and have to admit to substantial fault here. Many members wanted to use RCV for the entire process. I opposed that, because I have seen (in California, and in the Green Party) how RCV can be manipulated. And I was not alone. In any case the compromise was 1 RCV round and 2 additional elimination rounds. If the RCV round had been allowed to reduce candidates to the top 4, that would have worked out. If we added another round limited to the top two, or did that on the final round, that would have worked out. Instead, in a very important primary election, the 46th Democrats endorsed no one.

Democratic LD group endorsements are very important in Seattle. Each group publishes them, and to some extent take fliers with recommended votes door to door.

The umbrella group is King County Democrats. They have not announced their endorsements yet. Many of the other LDs have not yet endorsed. Here is a list of Dem LD organizations (note King County is much bigger than just Seattle), which also has a link to a map of them.

So now my views on the major candidates. I reserve the right to change my mind, because the issues are complex and things may come up that I am not yet aware of.

Bruce Harrell is the oldest of the candidates, but he is just 62, younger than I am. In any other city except perhaps Berkeley, CA, he would be considered lefty, but in Seattle he is a centrist. He is African-American, got accepted at Harvard but decided to attend the University of Washington where he was a football star. He went on to get a law degree and then worked for a telecom company. He was elected to the Seattle City Council in 2007 and served there until becoming acting Mayor briefly in 2017. He comes across as seasoned and balanced. Unlike the "Defund the Police" slogan spouters of the City Council, he has seen the negative impact of crime in poorer communities. So while he want to maximize funding of affordable housing and other help for the homeless in Seattle, he also wants the police to do their job, fairly, of protecting people against crime.

Jessyn Farrell is my favorite of the candidates vying for most-progressive. She has a strong legislative record and was a leader in getting a massive transportation plan passed. She has a plan for a massive housing project. Seattle needs not just to house our roughly 10,000 homeless people, we need more affordable housing for those who are hanging on. We built too much office space, brought in too many highly paid tech workers and corporate managers, and they bid up the prices of rentals, condominiums, and especially single family homes. It is a big job but perhaps Jessyn could get it done.

Colleen Echohawk is also vying for most progressive. She constantly reminds us she is a Native American Indian, though not from one of the local tribes. She has experience running a non-profit to help and house Native Americans. She is a good person and I might give her a chance if she were running for city council or mayor of a smaller city, but she often says things indicating she may not understand certain complex issues, or really care about anyone outside her core constituency. She will be well-known by the end of this race (she certainly has a good chance of winning), so watch her for future races, perhaps for State Legislature or City Council.

Lorena Gonzales is an at-large city council member and Council President. Yet another lawyer, she will let you know her parent were undocumented immigrants. She knows the secret to winning a Seattle primary is to position yourself as the most progressive, and from a sympathetic minority group, but she has presided over 6 years of chaos in Seattle. She has a plan for homelessness, but it has gotten much worse under her reign. She thinks crime will go away if you don't give criminals jail sentences; clearly she has never hung out much with criminals. She endorsed the slogan "Defund the Police." Which in Seattle, was smart politics, at least at that moment. Still, she would probably be a good mayor. She is smart, energetic, has a fair amount of experience, and would likely want to do well if only to position herself for a run for governor or Senator or perhaps President of the United States. If you are going to be ambitious, being a good political leader is a good ambition to have. If Bruce and Jessyn do not make it to the general election, I could get behind Lorena.

There is much more to be said about Seattle and its political candidates. Given that we were used by Republicans as an example of how not to govern, you would think we could try a bit harder to solve our problems. Watch this space for more details on local issues, the mayor's race, and other local races.

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