As the ballots arrive for Seattle voters, mayoral candidates M. Lorena Gonzalez and Bruce Harrell clashed in a televised debate Thursday night, emphasizing differences over homelessness, police and corporate campaign contributions.
It was clear from the start that rivals were ready to strike at each other’s perceived weaknesses.
The former city council president, Harrell, attacked current city council president Gonzalez, for his efforts to discredit Seattle’s worsening homelessness crisis and police department, and for advocating for an end to single-family zoning.
Voters are “starving for effective leadership,” Harrell said in his opening statement. “They want people out of parks and sidewalks and tents … They don’t want to be monstrous to say they want parks back because they want them to be kept … We can’t get that from City Hall Used to be. “
In her opening remarks, Gonzalez emphasized her career as a civil rights attorney and council member, saying she has made it her life’s work to “stand up and fight for working families.”
During a discussion of Seattle’s stance toward Amazon and other large corporations, Gonzalez targeted some of Harrell’s biggest campaign supporters, even at the start of the offensive.
She pointed to a political action committee backing Harrell, which has been sued over business interests to overturn the city’s new “jumpstart” payroll tax on companies with payrolls of at least $7 million.
“My opponent… has the support of the same people who are fighting to reverse a progressive tax on the biggest, wealthiest corporations in our city right now. So that’s a huge difference,” said Gonzalez, a Real-estate executive George Petrie, one of the top donors to the pro-Harrell PAC, is also the state’s top donor to former President Donald Trump’s political committee this year.
Harrell opposed what he called a “false narrative”, saying he had never met the big donors González was referring to, and Petrie noted Democrats such as Gov.
While Thursday’s debate was billed as focusing on the economy and businesses, issues of homelessness and policing often took center stage as debate moderators and candidates acknowledged that the topic was the city’s business neighborhoods and businesses. connected with the atmosphere.
Harrell repeatedly brought up Gonzalez’s statements from 2020 in support of cutting the Seattle Police Department’s budget by 50% and directing funding to other services. “If you talk to small businesses … they want strong public safety. And this is why [when] My opponent committed to defame the police by 50%, he missed,” he said.
Gonzalez said he supported the rescue efforts in response to widespread protests against police violence, not from any “animus”.
“I made a commitment to move dollars out of the police department in direct response to the killing of George Floyd and the action our city has seen,” she said.
Hundreds of Seattle police officers have recently left the department, citing poor morale and a lack of support by City Hall. But Gonzalez said staffing issues were “before me” in the council and are a national issue. He also criticized the police department, saying “deeper cultural reform issues” needed to be addressed.
Pressed on how the city should deal with homeless camps in parks and other public spaces, both candidates said they wanted to quickly provide more housing and mental health and addiction counseling.
Asked whether people camping in parks should be forced to leave even if they are denied shelter beds or treatment, Gonzalez said, “We have to be careful about crossing that line,” comparing it to The strategy of the unsuccessful war on drugs.
Harrell said he wants to create better services for people to leave the park voluntarily. But, he added, “the fact of the matter is, I want our parks back and I want our sidewalks back, and I want to give people homes.”
Harrell repeatedly went after Gonzalez to support the “total abolition” of single-family zoning in the city, saying he would involve the neighborhood in zoning discussions. Gonzalez said she wants to create a city that is “not just accessible to the wealthy, with exclusive neighborhoods and million-dollar homes.”
Near the end of the debate, both candidates found themselves in solid agreement on one point.
When asked what they would say to employees who do not want to comply with the COVID-19 vaccination mandate, each answered, in short: Tough luck.
“I strongly believe that it is important for all of our public employees to receive the vaccine,” Gonzalez said.
“It’s a mandate. You’re the first responder. I expect you to take your oath of office to the point where you realize you have to take the lead in vaccination,” Harrell said.
Harrell has raised about $1.1 million for his campaign, while Gonzalez has raised about $914,000.
Each of them has received additional large funding support from independent political-action committees, which have begun bombarding voters with negative TV and digital advertisements.
Bruce Harrell for the Future of Seattle has raised approximately $1.3 million with support from business and real estate executives. The Essential Workers of Lorena has raised nearly $1 million from large unions representing hotel, grocery and healthcare workers.
Harrell won the August primary with 34% of the vote, less than 2% of the vote to González.
The debate was held at KCTS 9 studio with no individual audience. A second debate on public health and safety is scheduled for October 28 at 7 pm. Both debates are organized by the Washington State Debate Coalition and the Seattle City Club.
The debate was moderated by Mary Nam of Como and included questions from the media panel of Daniel Beekman of The Seattle Times, Amy Radil from KOO and Chris Daniels of King 5.