In Seattle’s wide-open mayoral race, which flavor of progressive will win out?

In Seattle’s wide-open mayoral race, which flavor of progressive will win out?

Filing closed on Friday for the Seattle mayoral race, which is an open seat after incumbent Jenny Durkan’s surprising retirement after just one term. Fifteen different candidates are seeking the Emerald City’s highest office despite the job’s long track record of being a destroyer of dreams: No Seattle mayor has managed to get reelected since Greg Nickels in 2005, and before that, Norm Rice in 1993.

The race is officially nonpartisan, with the top two candidates advancing from the Aug. 3 primary to the Nov. 2 general election. Conventional wisdom holds that the two frontrunners are City Council President Lorena González and former City Council President Bruce Harrell, who also served as interim mayor for five days in 2017 following Ed Murray’s resignation.

While both candidates are very much left of center by national standards, Harrell, a former University of Washington football star with an African American father and Japanese mother, had a reputation as one of the council’s more business-friendly members. González, meanwhile, is situated to Harrell’s left, though even she could be viewed as occupying the council’s “center” in relation to other more vocal members, like self-declared socialist Kshama Sawant. González, who grew up with farmworker parents in eastern Washington and was the first Latina elected to the Seattle City Council in 2015, briefly ran for state attorney general in 2020 but reversed course when Democratic incumbent Bob Ferguson decided to run for reelection.

Two other candidates who haven’t held elected office before but got an earlier start in the race than González or Harrell, however, currently enjoy a sizable edge over González and Harrell in fundraising thanks in large part to Seattle’s “democracy voucher” program, which allows residents to give public funds to candidates of their choice. The candidate who’s raised the most is Colleen Echohawk, the executive director of the Chief Seattle Club, which focuses on providing services to homeless Native Americans. In second place is Andrew Grant Houston, an architect who is also interim policy director for City Councilor Teresa Mosqueda. (Mosqueda, however, has endorsed González.)

Contrary to what you might think based on their job descriptions, though, Echohawk has a reputation as more of an establishment candidate; she’s also a board member of the business-aligned Downtown Seattle Association, for instance. Houston is probably the leftmost of the major candidates based on policy positions (such as on policing issues) and endorsements, and by virtue of having the anti-establishment left lane largely to himself, he may be the best-positioned candidate to sneak into the top two in place of either González or Harrell, taking a similar path as 2017 second-place finisher Cary Moon.

Also jostling for the top tier is former state Rep. Jessyn Farrell, who’s the only returning candidate from the 2017 race, where she finished fourth in the primary. As with last time, Farrell is focusing on the environmentalist/urbanist niche in the field. One other potentially notable candidate is Casey Sixkiller, who entered recently and hasn’t posted financing numbers yet. Sixkiller is Durkan’s deputy mayor, which, while not an elected position, can be helpful in terms of establishment connections.

Finally, there are two other contenders who aren’t likely to advance but are interesting wild cards, partly in terms of who else they might take votes away from. One is Art Langlie, who despite his name is not Seattle’s mayor and Washington’s governor from the 1940s; he’s a businessman who is the grandson of the similarly named historic figure. As an ex-Republican, he seems to be the closest the race has to an actual moderate (by national standards), so if he gets any traction on backlash-based rhetoric on policing or homelessness, that’s likely to come out of Harrell’s vote share. He’s also the only white male among this group.

The other interesting hopeful is James Donaldson, a former Seattle SuperSonic from 1980 to 1983 (and an All-Star with the Dallas Mavericks in 1988) who’s now a local businessman. At 7 feet, 2 inches tall, Donaldson would also easily be the nation’s tallest elected official, though he’s failed twice to win office in the past. Donaldson ran for Seattle mayor in 2009, finishing fourth in the primary despite lacking previous political experience, but he took just 3% of the vote in a City Council race a decade later.

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