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Sunday, August 1, 2021

Mayor’s Race Update: Art Langlie is a Likely Latecomer

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The mayor’s race is starting to solidify with three in the pragmatist lane and three in the leftist lane. One close race is likely for one of the two council seats on the ballot.

Art Langlie

The interesting newcomer in the mayor’s race is Art Langlie, grandson of a former Seattle mayor and two-term governor with the same name. Langlie seems eager to run and he is being implored to run by friends and supporters, so it looks like he will jump in a few weeks hence, running as a business-friendly candidate.

The grandfather Arthur B. Langlie was a typical moderate Republican of those days: Norwegian, very young (governor at age 40), shortlisted for Ike’s Veep nominee in 1952, and then lost a Senate race to Warren Magnuson in 1956 and got into the publishing business. 

The grandson is an anti-Trump independent who grew up as an Evans Republican (progressive values, environmentalist, pro-education, tax-averse). Arthur K. Langlie was an Amy Klobuchar supporter who sends money to liberal national Democratic candidates. He’ll have a hard time shedding the GOP stigma in a 90% Democratic town. He says he will run as an expert listener, a team-builder, and a conduit for a lot of the voters’ frustration about homelessness, crime, schools, and the ghost-town downtown.

Langlie is an affable, gregarious Seattle businessman/contractor who has never run for office and still didn’t have a campaign professional advising him as of last week. His professional specialty, and this might translate into a political asset, is turning around troubled companies such as Turner Construction, now a local giant, and Holmes Electric (his current job).

Langlie has a five-point platform. Accelerate cures for homelessness. Make downtown safe and clean, relying on sports, the return of tourism, and finishing the convention center as stimulants. Lend “some support” for neighborhood retail. Reorganize the police department and hire (not defund) more cops. Allocate public resources along the lines of racial equity. In short, a distinctive, contrarian message.

It’s an uphill climb for Langlie, a novice running to the right of Seattle’s current political center of gravity. He’s late in garnering business support, since former city councilmember Bruce Harrell is soon to announce and currently sopping up business support, including from former council colleague Tim Burgess. Langlie’s advantages are a fresh face, NOT being a former city councilmember (the council is deeply disliked), and an ability to say unpopular things that will get free media attention. He will make a nostalgic appeal to the old Seattle way of pulling together (a world’s fair, cleaning up Lake Washington, the waterfront park) that has some residual appeal. Lastly, and this is the big gamble, he hopes to ride the pendulum that might be finally swinging centerward in Seattle. 

As for other candidates, lawyer/businessman Harrell is about to jump in later this month. Christian Sinderman, a winner-picker and winner-maker, is likely to be the professional campaign consultant for Harrell, a power move. Harrell got bored with the city council and quit, so there is a real question about his commitment and willingness to work hard at being mayor, a thankless job. On the council, Harrell was an unpredictable moderate of middling achievements. He enjoys a wealthy lifestyle and barely survived reelection from his southeast Seattle district. His origins are Japanese and African American. Unless he fades badly, he is very likely to survive the primary in August; the real challenge will be the general election, a labor vs. business donnybrook.

Three other candidates are seriously considering the mayor’s race. One is former state Rep. Jessyn Farrell, who jumped into the mayor’s race late in 2017 but didn’t survive the primary. She was executive director of Transportation Choices Coalition (a training ground for politicians and a Sound Transit ally), is a lawyer, a Seattle native, and now works for Nick Hanauer’s populist policy shop, Civic Ventures. In the progressive lane she favors, it’s difficult to see how she can avoid being crowded out by the labor-backed Lorena Gonzalez, unless Gonzalez fades; or by the ethnic appeal and fresh face of Colleen Echohawk. Farrell tells me she will decide by March 15, and seems leaning toward making the race. She wants to position herself as a problem solver, a born-again advocate for basic services, and acceptable (if not the first choice) for the many feuding factions of dysfunctional Seattle politics. She could well run the smartest, most-modern campaign.

A second mayoral contender, still undecided, is Casey Sixkiller, currently deputy mayor for Durkan and signalling that he would occupy the pragmatist lane. Sixkiller, son of the famous Husky quarterback, is relatively new to town and would have the liabilities of Durkan’s deep unpopularity with the progressive Left. The third possible candidate is Nikkita Oliver, a progressive firebrand and arts activist who would have strong appeal to the leftist, Stranger-reading base. (A Stranger endorsement still carries a lot of weight in primaries.) Oliver is said to be still debating between a mayor’s race or running for the council seat to be left vacant by Gonzalez’s decision to run for mayor. She may be waiting too long.

As for the city council races, there are two at-large, citywide seats up this year. Union leader and incumbent Teresa Mosqueda has a lock on her seat, but the open Gonzalez seat already has two candidates. One is Sara Nelson, a brewery owner and former council aide who ran before for the council as a moderate with modest success. Another is Brianna Thomas, currently Gonzalez’s chief of staff, an African American with powerful connections and a good reputation at city hall, though Oliver would give her a good battle. Both Nelson and Thomas are already declared candidates.

Still no challengers, puzzlingly, to city attorney Pete Holmes, seeking a fourth term. Serious candidates for this important post are scared off by the vicious warfare at city hall, bloody from personal attacks, and littered with the setbacks of the Durkan years.

My predictions at this point in a still-fluid race? Mayoral finalists will likely be Harrell vs. Gonzalez, a classic showdown between the two well-funded factions in Seattle politics. Council winners will be Mosqueda and Thomas, cementing the current council status quo; if Oliver were to win, the Sawant bloc would increase to three (of nine) votes. Such an outcome on the city council would make life very difficult for a Mayor Harrell. A Mayor Gonzalez would complete the ideological takeover of city hall by the progressive-agenda council — with the usual dangers of political overreach in a time of economic distress.

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.

Post Alley welcomes comments to our articles. Our guidelines: no personal attacks, stay on topic, add something of value to the discussion. Our editors will edit comments for clarity and to conform with our guidelines. We encourage writers to use their full names.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for the balanced coverage of candidates, David. Langlie’s grandfather was actually the first three-term Governor of Washington State.

    • Good catch, Mr. Wisdom. Langlie was governor 1941-45, then was defeated by Mon Walgren, a Democrat, for one term, and then Langlie served two more terms, 1949-57.

  2. Good sum of the entries to date in a critical election year, with a discouraging forecast of the likely outcome. I’d like to see a Langlie-Gonzalez matchup for November – a real choice for Seattle voters, i.e. the usual v. the possibility of vigorous change.

  3. It’s frustrating that Langlie, a white man with a locally-recognized last name who hasn’t actually launched his campaign, is observed as having the advantage of “NOT being a former city councilmember,” while that same advantage is not listed for Echohawk, a woman of color. She leads in fundraising, number of donors, and is the only mayoral candidate to have completed the Democracy Voucher qualifying process. She should be getting more consideration here than half a sentence.

    An area where I largely agree with the author is my confusion over Jessyn Farrell’s possible entrance. It would be difficult to see a run by her as anything other than a political suicide mission. If she were serious above owning the Elizabeth Warren style practical progressive lane, she could have announced much earlier like Echohawk and Gonzalez. She can’t run a smart campaign if she waits until mid-March or later to jump in the race.

  4. We might stretch the point, Elisha Pyre Ferry might be said to have been a three term governor. As our first State Governor he served 1889 to 1893 BUT he was Territorial Governor for eight years, April 1872 – 1880. that totals twelve years even though Territorial Governors were appointed by the President, in Ferry’s case President Grant. . he must have been a popular politican, a whole Puget Sound fleet has his name.

  5. I find your phrase ” the ideological takeover of city hall by the progressive-agenda council” interesting. If a pro-business slate won the majority of the council, would you label that as “an ideological take over of city hall”?

  6. David, Thanks for this status report. In a future article, could you unpack the paragraph which reads “Still no challengers, puzzlingly, to city attorney Pete Holmes, seeking a fourth term. Serious candidates for this important post are scared off by the vicious warfare at city hall, bloody from personal attacks, and littered with the setbacks of the Durkan years.”

    Some of my questions for you (and your readers) are: “What credentials should a challenger for the position City Attorney have?” “What setbacks of the Durkan years are you referring to?” and

    “Do the City Attorney’s responsibilities include:

    1) Verifying that the laws and policies which the City Council and Mayor propose or adopt are LEGAL under Washington State law, the US Constitution, and US Federal law?”

    2) Enforcing open government disclosure policies and conflict of interest policies?” For example, is the City Attorney responsible for asking Councilmember Morales to leave the Board of a lobbying group which lobbies City Council – because that is a conflict of interest?

    3) Ascertaining that policies like allowing CHOP’s armed militia to take over part of Capital Hill are legal?

    4) Approving policies which take away a landlord’s right to enforce tenant contracts, i.e., take away the right of landlords to evict tenants who stop paying rent – without fairly compensating the landlord?

    To understand what I mean by “Enforcing open government disclosure policies and conflict of interest policies”, please see “City Hall’s Widening Public Records Problem, City Council Edition” and “Another City Council Conflict of Interest?” by Kevin Schofield (and published on postalley.org).

    • Steve Fortney has jumped into the city attorney’s race since this article appeared weeks ago, and one hopes that he makes the case for more aggressive enforcement, as you suggest. We once had a city attorney who operated quite independently of the city council, Mark Sidran, though things have changed a lot and the voters now prefer a city attorney who ratifies the current progressive politics and the majority council positions.

  7. Thanks or the update about Steve Fortney.

    I suspect that Seattleites have no idea what to expect of their City Attorney. I would certainly characterize he job description supplied here (https://www.seattle.gov/cityarchives/seattle-facts/city-officials/corporation-counsel/city-attorney/history) as “vague”.

    I’m curious to know what Mark Sidran (and Tom Carr – another former City Attorney) would say about any advisory emails and texts Keith Schofield can dig up between Pete Holmes, the Mayor, the City Council, and the Police Chief during the pandemic.

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