Bruce Harrell will be Seattle’s next mayor, defeating M. Lorena González in a race dominated by competing approaches to homelessness and public safety.
As more votes were counted Thursday, Harrell declared victory in a campaign email, thanking his supporters, telling them“We did it” and promising to govern with the “urgency and humility that this moment requires.” González conceded, saying she had called Harrell to congratulate him.
Harrell has 62% of the votes in the mayoral contest, with about three-fourths of ballots tallied as of Thursday. He’ll be Seattle’s 57th mayor, the city’s first Asian American mayor and its second Black mayor.
The 63-year-old former City Council president, who starred on the University of Washington football team and worked as a lawyer before entering politics, is already moving into mayor mode, encouraged by “over 500 emails and text messages” from excited supporters, he said in an interview Thursday from a transition office at the Seattle Municipal Tower.
“I’m high-energy, and I’m up for it,” said Harrell, who ran as more of a moderate, whereas González, 44, the council’s current president, ran as a self-described progressive.
In her concession statement, González said: “With today’s ballot drop, it’s clear that Bruce Harrell will be the next mayor of Seattle. Earlier, I called him to congratulate him on a hard-fought race and wished him much luck in his efforts to make progress on the challenges Seattle faces.”
González had declined to concede on Tuesday night, despite a huge initial lead for Harrell, hoping for a swing from ballots returned just before the deadline. But she gained only slightly Wednesday and Thursday as turnout in Seattle climbed above 54%.
Harrell, who served on the council from 2008 to 2019, cast himself as a political unifier while pledging to ramp up help for unsheltered people and to keep the city’s parks clear of homeless encampments.
He criticized González’s support last year for defunding the police in order to fund community services and alternative solutions, saying he in contrast would push to hire more armed officers and unarmed first responders. His campaign was backed by a number of longtime civic leaders of color, and his candidacy was boosted with political spending by real-estate executives and other business interests.
Raised in the Central District by a Black father who worked for Seattle City Light after leaving the Jim Crow South and a Japanese American mother who worked for the public library after being incarcerated as a child by the government during World War II, Harrell mentioned his parents in his email to supporters Thursday, saying “the barriers they overcame” and their hard work “inspired me to give back through advocacy and public service.”
In his email, Harrell said his mayoral bid was rooted in “principles of equity and justice,” and a belief in Seattle residents’ shared values.
On the campaign trail, “We spent countless hours greeting voters at grocery stores and farmers markets across Seattle, listening to the stories and ideas and priorities of our neighbors. What we heard time and again was a belief in our city despite the many challenges we face – and conviction that we can do better. And now, together, the real work begins,” he added.
González based her campaign on a willingness to tax large corporations and the wealthy for affordable housing, saying she would seek to avoid forcible removals of encampments. With strong labor-union support, she vowed to be a champion at City Hall for workers and renters, and she spoke about her background as the child of farmworkers in Central Washington, with parents who were undocumented when they first arrived from Mexico.
In her concession statement, she thanked her supporters and urged them to stay engaged.
“Our work continues because the struggles people in Seattle face remain,” she said. “Together, we shaped the conversation on our city’s most pressing issues, and Mayor-Elect Harrell made commitments in response … to not criminalize poverty, to expand progressive revenue sources, to demilitarize the police and invest in alternative responses … and to rapidly create appropriate shelter and not forcibly sweep the unhoused from public spaces.”
About 118,000 additional ballots were counted Thursday across King County, including about 46,000 in Seattle, allowing left-lane candidates to gain ground in several contests.
González, who trailed Harrell by 30 percentage points Tuesday night, narrowed that gap to 24 points Thursday, securing 45% of the additional votes. About 67,000 returned ballots still need to be counted in Seattle; González would need to win an overwhelming portion to catch up.
In recent years, Seattle results have swung for left-leaning candidates after election night, due to younger and progressive voters returning their ballots later. No race has swung morethan about 12 percentage points, however.
Harrell will enter office on Jan. 1, with a transition period before that. He’ll replace current Mayor Jenny Durkan, who declined to run for reelection after a tumultuous 2020 that included the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic upheaval, the shutdown of the West Seattle Bridge and mass demonstrations against racial injustice in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
“I’ve known Bruce for over 30 years, and I know as Mayor he will work hard for the people of Seattle,” Durkan said in a statement Thursday, promising a “seamless transition” and thanking González for her service at City Hall.
Durkan added, “Voters showed their commitment to a just and hopeful future for all Seattle residents. I know Bruce wants every family to thrive in Seattle. He will bring people together to tackle the tough challenges we face on COVID-19, homelessness, public safety and climate change. I hope all of Seattle joins to support him in these critical times.”