‘More aggressive, little more ugliness’ in first televised Seattle mayoral debate

Oct 14, 2021, 12:05 PM | Updated: Oct 15, 2021, 8:58 am
Seattle mayoral candidates Bruce Harrell and Lorena Gonzalez. (Ted Warren / AP News)...
Seattle mayoral candidates Bruce Harrell and Lorena Gonzalez. (Ted Warren / AP News)
(Ted Warren / AP News)

The Seattle City Club and Washington State Debate Coalition hosted the first of two mayoral debates between candidates Bruce Harrell and Lorena Gonzalez on Thursday night.

Seattle election preview: Mayoral, city attorney candidates make their case

Thursday’s debate — which focused on the economy — was hosted by KOMO’s Mary Nam. Candidates sparred on a range of issues throughout the night, ranging from whether the city should eliminate single-family zoning to create more equitable housing, to what each candidate hopes to prioritize in office.

Speaking to Dave Ross on Friday morning, KIRO Radio reporter Hanna Scott described the affair as one where both candidates were “more aggressive going after the other” than they had been in past debates this election cycle.

“A little more ugliness in their debate than I’ve seen between the two of them in the past,” she described.

Speaking to her vision for Seattle’s future within the next five to 10 years, Gonzalez’s looked toward more diverse housing options throughout the city.

“The city is going to be a walkable, bike-able city, that has apartments and other kinds of home ownership opportunities that aren’t just limited to million-dollar homes like they are right now,” she said.

“That is not my vision,” Harrell countered. “I grew up in this city — you cannot tell me that every neighborhood is conducive toward having many apartment buildings in their neighborhoods.”

What both candidates did agree on was their number one priority upon entering office: Homelessness.

“I think it’s pretty clear that the next mayor’s biggest opportunity and challenge to lead is solving for homelessness,” Gonzalez said. “Like so many people in our city, I believe that people living in our open spaces and tents is unacceptable.”

“The same issue, homelessness — we understand that. Our approach will be different, however,” Harrell said. “I have a sense of urgency — the first thing we’ll do is publish a plan, you’ll see cost per person, cost per unit, you’ll see a dashboard of where we are now, which is totally unacceptable.”

Still, Scott noted that specifics from either candidate regarding their policies were few and far between.

“It was very much what you’d expect — more of the same,” she said. “I thought we didn’t get a lot of specific detail on any of their plans.”

At one point, Gonzalez also leveled criticism at Harrell regarding several large-scale contributions to his campaign, including prominent Trump donor George Petrie.

“This is a reality of who my opponent is benefitting from are these billionaire-class political donors, one of whom is the unrefuted top donor to the Trump campaign in 2020,” she claimed.

Petrie — who serves as CEO for Goodman Real Estate — was the leading local donor to Donald Trump in the weeks and months following the 2020 election, having given out monthly $2,800 payments to the former president’s “Stop the Steal” cause.

Harrell countered by claiming that “two-thirds of (Gonzalez’s) money is coming from out state.”

According to the latest numbers from the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, roughly 8% of direct contributions to Gonzalez’s campaign have come from outside Seattle city limits.

That said, a PAC supporting her candidacy registered as “Essential Workers for Lorena” did receive a $500,000 donation from a New York-based organization known as Unite Here Tip. UHT operates as a PAC that targets state and city elections across the United States with “contributions and expenditures to elect candidates who support the rights and interest of working people and their families.”

As for who won, “maybe Harrell had the slighter edge,” Scott opined, while also clarifying, “I didn’t think there was anyone who came out that I was exceptionally impressed with.”

A second mayoral debate is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 28, with a focus on health and safety. It will be streamed live at 7 p.m. on KIRO Radio. KIRO 7 TV’s Essex Porter is set to host alongside a panel featuring KIRO Radio’s Hanna Scott, Crosscut’s David Kroman, and Q13’s Hana Kim.

You can submit questions for the Oct. 28 debate at this link.

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‘More aggressive, little more ugliness’ in first televised Seattle mayoral debate