Take 3: Rating the Seattle Mayor’s Race (PLUS Special Bonus: City Council Races)


Image by Clarence Alford from Pixabay

Time for another morning line on the key Seattle political races (Round 3). But first, two new wild cards that will affect the outcomes.

The first new development is that the mayor’s race is getting crowded — maybe as many as seven serious contenders — assuming the very likely candidates take the plunge. A dense race means that a candidate only needs to get 17-20 percent of the vote in order to survive the August primary. In turn, that means that a generous independent expenditure infusion ($250,00 or so) can likely propel a candidate into the finals. There is no candidate so far who could really consolidate the race, as Mayors Ed Murray and Jenny Durkan both did. Durkan’s open seat has created a very open race.

The second wild card is the possibility of an initiative campaign aimed at addressing the homelessness problem, still the biggest issue in town. Advocates of this effort would likely mix carrots and sticks into the initiative. Its effect on the mayor’s race could be significant, forcing candidates to choose sides, declare allegiances, or waffle. From what I can learn, the polling is encouraging: it’s a huge problem, getting worse, the city council is blamed, and the absence of a plan is a big negative with voters. Those on the council seeking the mayor’s office (Lorena Gonzalez) would be affected, and those long working the problem (Colleen Echohawk) might also take flak.

So, let’s do the numbers (including the city council races). The first number in the rating (10 being the highest) refers to likelihood of running. The second number is likelihood of surviving the August primary.

Off and Running

City Council President Lorena Gonzalez (9/7). Gonzalez has worked the left coalition well and is the likely front runner. Much depends on whether labor unions, wary of Gonzalez as a reliable ally, jump in heavily with endorsements, money, and volunteers — or hold back. Her strengths are name familiarity, ethnic cred, ambition, and social-justice achievements. Weaknesses: city councilness, unsteadiness as an ally, ambition.

Colleen Echohawk (9/5). Native American head of the Chief Seattle Club (addressing Indian homelessness), Echohawk is on many boards, known to partner well on projects, and has a warm personality. She seems reluctant so far to criticize Gonzalez enough to pry off support, or to take on the city hall mindset. Echohawk is running as a full member of the social-justice Left but eager to partner with small and big business as a consensus-seeker and problem-solver. Main weakness: lack of big-organization experience and hasn’t held public office, so may come off as not ready for prime time.

Bruce Harrell (8/6). Harrell, who is Black and Asian (and a Husky football star), served on the city council until 2019, ran quite well for mayor in 2013, and is said to be keen on running. His main support would come from the older Black community and the business world, which is rallying around him in this exploratory period. He was not greatly admired as a councilmember or at city hall, where he could seem detached. But as a business-friendly moderate, he would have a clear lane and good financial support. He may prove gaffe-prone or unfocused on the stump.

Jessyn Farrell (7/6). She is a former legislator who ran moderately well and from the left for mayor in 2017, and now works for Nick Hanauer’s economic-populist policy shop. She says she is “seriously considering running. This is a critical moment for the city and I am not taking this decision lightly.” Business would likely snub her, but she does have a claim to the urbanist/transit voters. She would have mayoral stature and campaign moxie, but she will have trouble prying off labor support from Gonzalez.

Still Pondering

Casey Sixkiller (6/5). He’s currently a deputy mayor for Mayor Durkan, relatively new in Seattle, blessed with a famous name (Husky quarterback dad), and could lay claim to the business-friendly, moderate lane, where he would contest for votes with Harrell. Sixkiller has been a lobbyist in D.C., has impressed with his negotiating skills with the council (the recent city budget). Disadvantages: the Durkan connection, too moderate for these times, modest public profile.

Nikkita¬†Oliver (4/6). Talk about a wild card! Oliver, a charismatic campaigner, is the AOC of Seattle politics who came in a close third in the 2017 mayor’s race (trailing Durkan and Cary Moon). From what I can discern, she is pondering a mayor’s race (as long as it stays crowded on the Left) or running for the open city council seat vacated by Gonzalez. She would pull significant votes away from Gonzalez and galvanize The Stranger crowd. She would be too defiantly Left to win the general election, so the pragmatic Left might hesitate.

Tim Burgess (4/8). The former councilmember (and briefly mayor when Ed Murray resigned) is being pressured to run by his admirers and the business community, but says he is unlikely to run against his council ally Bruce Harrell. Burgess could be the Joe Biden of Seattle politics — very experienced, liberal but moderate, effective as a dealmaker, an older white guy (three fatal words, for now, in Seattle’s political weat,her). Burgess is intrigued by the get-in-last strategy (which worked for Mayor Norm Rice in 1989), but a lot of the key constituencies would already be committed. The above-mentioned homelessness initiative, where (Elizabeth Warren-like) Tim has PLAN, might be a propellant.

Taking a Pass

Greg Wong, Dow Constantine, John Wilson, Bob Hasegawa, Cary Moon, Sen. Joe Nguyen, Peter Steinbrueck, Brady Walkinshaw, Tina Podlodowski, Solynn McCurdy, Teresa Mosqueda.


Lance Randall (10/2). An amiable economic-development leader, Randall was the earliest to get in but hasn’t raised much money for a long-shot campaign.

Andrew Grant Houston (9/2). Running as “a Queer, Black, Latino architect,” on that once-potent Seattle theme of good urban design.

Lorena Gonzalez’s open seat (Position 9, citywide).

Sara Nelson (9/5), a Fremont brewery owner, former city council aide for Richard Conlin, and former candidate for the council, is a declared entrant, who may be too earnest for Seattle’s overheated politics. Nikkita Oliver (4/6) is eyeing the race, but may have trouble appealing to North End moderates and be too much an echo of Kshama Sawant. Gonzalez’s chief of staff Brianna Thomas (7/8), an accomplished Black operative, is now leaning toward running and a likely front-runner. Emily Cantrell (5/5), director of Seattle’s World Trade Center and survivor of the Las Vegas rock show shooting, is rumored to be a surprise candidate with business-friendly credentials.

City Council Position 8 (citywide)

The incumbent is Teresa Mosqueda (10/8), who is running again and has super-solid labor backing. She would be very difficult to beat, so this is likely to be a thin list of challengers. This week, Mike McQuaid (9/3), a public affairs consultant who once worked at Amazon, got into the contest. He would be a long-shot — unless the political backlash that the city council is tempting were really to set in.

City Attorney

Pete Holmes (9/9) has declared his candidacy for a fourth term. Holmes is well rooted in Seattle lefty politics, but he has built up opposition to his soft-on-homeless stances. His opponent last time, Scott Lindsay, who is much tougher on public safety issues, says he’s not running. Holmes’ opponents have sought trying to find a viable candidate, but none so far. The position has a lot of influence at city hall and can be a significant brake on foolish positions. And it’s a good launch pad for higher office (previous occupants Doug Jewett and Mark Sidran both ran for mayor). Lawyers don’t like the pay cut and the up-against-the-wall style of current Seattle civics. 

David Brewster
David Brewster
David Brewster, a founding member of Post Alley, has a long career in publishing, having founded Seattle Weekly, Sasquatch Books, and Crosscut.com. His civic ventures have been Town Hall Seattle and FolioSeattle.


  1. Out of that list, I’d be in the Burgess camp, but doubt he’ll do it – one former city council member, who likes Tim, says the timing’s all wrong for white/straight/moderate/non-ideological. Hard to argue…….


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