There’s a lot on the menu in Seattle mayor’s race, but voters may just want some comfort food


In local politics, the tension between the “old Seattle” and the “new Seattle” is a long-running issue, even becoming a cliché.

However, things become clichés because they are often true.

The race for Seattle mayor’s office, which despite its importance has not yet really got off the ground, is turning into the race, according to the first independent poll.

On the primary, which has already started, the poll shows former city council member Bruce Harrell at the top, with by far the best chance of surviving the general election (though he’s still registered at 20% in the poll). Current city council member M. Lorena González at 12% seems most likely to follow suit there, with former nonprofit director Colleen Echohawk just behind at 10%.

After those three, no one got more than 6% in the huge field of 15 candidates, according to the poll of 617 likely Seattle voters conducted July 12-15 by Change Research for the Northwest Progressive Institute, a left-wing nonprofit has been.

What is striking is a gap between voters. Harrell scored 36% of voters aged 65 and over, but only 5% of the younger group (defined as voters between 18 and 34 years of age). Meanwhile, González is doing roughly the opposite: she grabs 22% of the young voters, but only a paltry 4% of the city’s elders.

“That’s the biggest rift in town right now,” says Andrew Villeneuve, who heads the institute (which does not sponsor a candidate). “Younger voters don’t choose Harrell, they don’t care about him. But even younger voters have not banded together around a candidate as much as older voters. “

I see it this way: Harrell is Joe Biden in the Seattle Mayor’s race. As in: familiar, old school, prone to slip-ups at times. At 62, Harrell is barely Biden-old. But, like Biden, he speaks in sepia tones, often raving about how he grew up on Garfield High and the Central Area in the 60s and 70s and that the modern city of ideological crusades amid shocking inequalities “is not the Seattle in that I was born ”. . “

González, 44, and several other candidates are now fighting more for the votes of Seattle’s socialist and restless progressive group – the Berniekrats, young urbanists and Kshama Sawant supporters.

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This “new Seattle” is a powerful force that has kicked the “old Seattle” in the butt a lot in recent years (at least in relation to the elections). One example is Harrell himself, who ran for mayor’s office in 2013 and finished fourth as the candidates above him all waved more and more to the left. Then, with 344 votes, he narrowly won re-election in his own southern borough against a left-wing challenger (Tammy Morales, who later won the seat). Harrell retired in 2019 instead of facing this emerging new left in a rematch.

But bourgeois moods are softening and shifting. Given the pandemic, last year’s turmoil, or perhaps the ongoing general mania of the Trump-era, Seattle voters normally adventurous, risk-takers might want to order a little comfort food.

The other thing to note here is how unpopular the incumbents are. Usually the established providers are home cooking, but now it’s more like something in the fridge has got a little rotten.

Of the two incumbents seeking re-election to their current seats, City Councilor Teresa Mosqueda received 26% for an unnamed box, while City Attorney Pete Holmes, who is seeking a fourth term, got a staggering 16%. His challengers – Ann Davison, who ran for Republican lieutenant governor last year, and former public defender Nicole Thomas-Kennedy – were almost level with him at 14% each (about half of the voters undecided).

I’m not saying neither Mosqueda nor Holmes will lose – both remain strong favorites, especially Mosqueda given the weak competition on the ballot. But these are red flags for well-known greats like these two. This could signal wider dissatisfaction with local government performance that could weigh on any incumbent this year (warning to Dow Constantine aspiring to a fourth term as King County Executive).

There are no incumbents in the other citywide race, for the city council, where Nikkita Oliver appears to have a big lead at 26% versus 11% for Sara Nelson.

Back to the Mayor of Seattle, the good news is that overall this is an impressive field – probably the largest selection of candidates I’ve seen. What I look for in a mayor first is political organizational skills, followed by experience in running something (although I am personally skeptical of business rescue agents, as mayor is a highly political job). On that front, both former State Representative Jessyn Farrell and former Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller, beyond the top three, appear to have the political skills for the job.

It might only take 18% or 20% of the total vote in the primary to make it to the main event, so this race is wide open.

One thing that is new, compared to the sleepy days of old Seattle, when the city often seemed to be on autopilot more often, is how much the mayor matters now. We all experienced that in the past year. So start voting, Seattle like your city depends on it because this time it could be easy.

Danny Westneat:; Danny Westneat takes an opinionated look at the news, people and politics of the Puget Sound area.