It’s election night in Seattle and King County’s first ballot drop of the election has been published. In the marquee race of the year, for Mayor of Seattle, former City Councilmember Bruce Harrell has a huge, massive lead over current City Council President Lorena González, with 64.63 % of the vote to González’s 35.02%.
While González may narrow that gap as the counting continues, it seems evident that Harrell will be the next mayor of the Emerald City.
City-level elections in Washington are officially “nonpartisan”, meaning that Seattleites – who are overwhelmingly progressive – get to choose between two Democrats as the city’s next chief executive.
Bruce Harrell and Lorena González are both active Democrats and even have relatively similar résumés (both grew up in working class communities of color and had careers as lawyers before joining the city council, each rising to become council president). That being said, these two candidates do have significant policy differences – a reflection of the big-tent nature of the Democratic Party.
On homelessness (the most pressing issue facing the city as identified by voters), Harrell has responded to public safety concerns by promising to take a tougher line on unhoused individuals who do not accept housing offers.
He also plans to appeal to Seattle’s philanthropic community, encouraging Seattleites to donate to nonprofits working to end homelessness.
By contrast, González favors bolder public investments in affordable housing services to give unhoused individuals a choice from options that work for them.
On policing, Harrell has promised to personally address the toxic organizational culture at the Seattle Police Department, interviewing officers and asking them to sign an anti-racist pledge. He is against cutting the police budget.
As Council President, González previously supported a call to cut SPD’s budget by as much as 50% during last year’s racial justice protests. Although she has since backed away from that idea, she still favors alternative public safety investments.
Each candidate has raised a large sum of money and has well-funded allies working on their behalf (as well as against the other candidate).
Harrell has more business support; González has more labor support.
In the final weeks of the campaign, the candidates’ policy differences have largely been overshadowed by a back and forth over campaign tactics and messaging.
In late October, the González campaign released an ad that argued Harrell was untrustworthy and undeserving of Seattle’s highest office, citing his conduct during the final months of former Mayor Ed Murray’s tenure.
Harrell’s campaign, backed by many leaders from the Black and Asian communities, quickly condemned the ad, characterizing it as false and divisive.
This is the first mayoral election in Seattle history in which both of the finalists for the position are people of color, which ought to be cause for celebration. However, the rhetoric used on the campaign trail has not shown Seattle at its best.
The Seattle Times backed Harrell, while The Stranger backed González. Each publication ran an endorsement editorial offering rousing praise for its preferred candidate and strong criticism of the other candidate.
NPI’s October polling indicated that Harrell had a substantial, sixteen point lead over González, with eighteen percent of respondents undecided. 48% of respondents said they were voting for Harrell, while 32% said they were voting for González. The poll was in the field from October 12th-15th and was conducted by Change Research for NPI; it has a modeled margin of error of 4.1%.
Although this election has been fiercely contested, Seattleites are assured of getting a mayor who is familiar with City Hall no matter who ultimately prevails. Both Harrell and González are experienced and qualified.
In addition to electing a new mayor, Seattleites are also choosing a new city attorney and deciding who should represent them in the city’s at-large council seats and on the Board of Directors of Seattle Public Schools. If you’re interested in our coverage of those other races, check out our WA-Cities archive.