The race to succeed outgoing Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan gets more crowded by the day, with a growing number of contenders.
On Tuesday March 16, Bruce Harrell declared his candidacy in a open letter Towards the city. The former Seattle City Council member is the only candidate in the growing field to ever hold the job … briefly, anyway.
Harrell was born in 1958 in Seattle to a working-class biracial family (his black father worked for City Light; his Japanese-American mother worked as a librarian). A talented football player, he attended Washington University on a football scholarship and graduated with a law degree in 1984.
After two decades in private law, Harrell ran for and won a seat on city council in 2007. He held that post for the next twelve years, becoming chairman of the board in 2016. During his tenure on the board, Harrell served to the passage of some important ordinances, including the country’s first minimum wage of $ 15, and a law that “banned the boxMaking it illegal to ask questions about a candidate’s criminal record in the hiring process. He was also one of the first elected officials to ask the Seattle Police Department to wear body cameras.
In 2013, Harrell ran for mayor without success, finishing fourth in the Top Two.
But in 2017, he suddenly became mayor when he was hired by the resignation of then-mayor Ed Murray. (Murray faced multiple charges of child sexual abuse and assault in the 1970s and 80s). Harrell, as chairman of the board, was next in line for the job and became acting mayor on September 13 – less than two months before the mayoral election.
The city’s government plan gave Harrell the option of remaining acting mayor or returning to council. Remaining interim mayor would have meant stepping down from the council. Harrell chose to remain on the board to complete his term, and quit his job after five days. In 2019, he elected not to stand for re-election to his seat and returned to his private legal practice.
Now Harrell is back, and hoping the second time around is the charm.
The city’s business community is clamoring for a candidate like Harrell to enter the mayoral race to take on the role of Durkan. Jon Scholes, president and CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association, described him as a figure of “interest and intrigue»Among business leaders in mid-February.
Unlike most of his bigger rivals, Harrell is not a dyed-in-the-wool progressive. Along with his support for causes like the minimum wage, he has taken positions of concern throughout his career. Memorably, Harrell voted against – and then fiercely criticized – the city’s democracy voucher program.
In 2015, he chose Everyday Indigenous Peoples Day to praise Christopher Colombus in a resolution proposing an Italian Heritage Month.
Most disturbing of all, Harrell firmly defended Ed Murray in 2017, claiming that “[Seattleites] didn’t ask us to judge anyone for something that happened thirty-three years ago or that maybe didn’t happen. Interestingly, one of Harrell’s main rivals in 2021 is Lorena Gonzalez, who took a stand opposite to Harrell’s in 2017 as the first board member to call for Murray’s resignation.
In this election, Harrell presents himself as a pro-business candidate. This strategy can clearly be seen in its open letter. Harrell says his vision is for Seattle to be known as “the city that values and promotes jobs, jobs and jobs.”
On homelessness, it emphasizes voluntary civic engagement rather than the city’s investment, and wants to match funding for our most vulnerable residents with money for cleanup efforts, clearly prioritizing wealthy residents who view homelessness as an eyesore rather than a humanitarian crisis.
Harrell criticized the efforts to reform the Seattle Police Department as “arbitrary and divisive.” Harrell prefers to increase police spending and bring in big tech companies to expand surveillance technology – positions that blatantly contradict the views of most progressive activists.
In the 2019 council election, the Downtown Seattle Association donated a $ 2 million unprecedented (half of which was provided by Amazon) in campaigns to support the candidates preferred by the business community.
However, voters responded to Amazon’s power play by cementing the Council’s progressive majority. Due to the choice not to run again, Harrell avoided getting caught in the midst of this dynamic two years ago.
Now that Harrell is a candidate again, voters will be examining his positions on issues such as money in politics and police accountability.
The Top Two election will take place on August 3; the two best candidates will go to the second round of the general elections on November 2.