Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who a year ago compared the month-long occupation of the Capitol Hill (Seattle) police station to a street fair, is not running for reelection. Democracy is at work. Fifteen candidates have filed to replace her. Whether the city will get a better mayor is not so clear.
Consider their statements in the Voter’s Pamphlet. These are prepared statements, many of them examined word for word by consultants. They show the candidates exactly as they want to be seen.
Note also that the office of mayor is a nonpartisan position here. Seattle is a progressive city, Democrat and leftward, mostly higher income, and racially 65% white, 14% Asian and 7% black; the candidates span the political spectrum, at least as it exists in Seattle.
At the other end of the political spectrum is a railroad worker in jacket and tie who is a self-professed member of the Socialist Workers Party — in other words, a Trotskyite.
Start with the namesake and descendant of Seattle’s Republican mayor of 80 years ago. He wants “a balanced, pragmatic approach to bring our diverse community together and solve problems. Misguided proposals like defunding the police without a plan make us less safe. Solutions to complex problems, not simple soundbites.” These statements put him at the far right end of the political spectrum in this city. Moreover, he is white, and the vice-president of a large electrical contractor. Of the 15 candidates, he is the only officer of a for-profit company, and he has zero chance of becoming Seattle’s mayor.
At the other end of the political spectrum is another white guy, a railroad worker in jacket and tie who is a self-professed member of the Socialist Workers Party — in other words, a Trotskyite. He begins his statement: “The working class faces the deepening economic, social and political crisis of capitalism.” He probably copied that word-for-word from Leon Davidovich. He has zero chance, too, and thank goodness for that.
Next in the rogues’ gallery is a black man who describes his occupation as “the People’s Champion Fighter.” I’ve seen him in the Voters’ Pamphlet before. He denounces “white-minded integrated Negroes like Court Justice ‘Uncle’ Clarence Thomas” and promises to “stop schools from teaching any children that Washington and Jefferson (‘Indian’ killers/slavers) were champions of freedom . . .”
She says, “I’ll build 70,000 more affordable homes.” I try to imagine that. Seventy thousand homes.
All right: these are not serious candidates. You want serious candidates? Here’s one. She’s a former state representative, Democrat, a white single mom with three kids in the public schools, and vice-president of a non-profit called Civic Ventures. If you work outside the public sector and expect to be elected in Seattle, it had better be a nonprofit, or else a business no bigger than a cupcake shop. (Civic Ventures describes itself as “serial innovators in the civic sphere who favor the kind of big ideas that challenge conventional thinking.”) This woman’s past claim to fame is that she headed a group that promoted Sound Transit light rail, which eats nine-tenths of a cent on every taxable retail sale in the central Puget Sound area.
Her promises are clear: “I’ll make sure every kid in every neighborhood has safe parks, streets and sidewalks — and is free from the threat of gun violence.” And she says, “I’ll build 70,000 more affordable homes.” I try to imagine that. Seventy thousand homes. That’s 80 times the number of public-housing units (887) the city’s housing levy funded in 2019.
We have another candidate, a white guy, who describes his occupation as “physicist.” I recognize him, too. He runs for office year after year, and always says something bizarre. This time he’s got a plan to create 288,000 units of public housing — 144 high-rises plunked hexagonally across the city and connected by an “inductrac gymballed SkyShip” to be run on cables 100 feet above the ground. It’s “like in the Jetsons,” he explains.
Sorry — I said I’d stick to serious candidates, and I didn’t. Let us turn, then, to the candidate leading in polls of younger voters. She’s a Latina, a “first-time mom and proud first-generation American who grew up as a migrant farm worker.” She’s a member of City Council — not Seattle’s famous socialist councilwoman, but another one of the lefties. “Housing is too expensive,” she declares. “Wages are too low. Big corporations have too much say. Police are not being held accountable nearly enough. As mayor, I’ll change that.”
Really? How will you raise wages? (The minimum is $15 here.)
Could this man have some way of getting federal money that the others don’t? I doubt it.
The candidate favored by older voters and much of the city’s political establishment is an attorney and former city councilman whose black father was a union electrician and whose Japanese mother was interned during World War II.
“The homelessness crisis is our first priority,” he writes. “My plan includes minimum $140 million in federal relief funds for immediate housing and individualized services.” (Could this man have some way of getting federal money that the others don’t? I doubt it.) He promises to use city money to build housing (he carefully doesn’t say how many units) and “transit,” which in Seattle means rail. (Sound Transit is not under the jurisdiction of the mayor.) This candidate is against defunding the police, an idea that is trendy among the woke but not deeply popular. Instead he wants to “reimagine policing.”
Of the 15, he has the best chance to win. We could do worse.