Bruce Harrell held a commanding lead of almost 30 percentage points over M. Lorena González in Seattle’s mayoral election Tuesday night, making it likely that he’ll claim the city’s top job.
Harrell had 65% of the votes that had been tallied in the highly anticipated head-to-head matchup between familiar figures. He said he was ecstatic about the initial results, and his remarks struck a triumphant note. González said she wanted to see every last vote counted.
“We’ve got to bring Seattle back together,” Harrell said at a party in Belltown packed with supporters and festooned with orange and green balloons. He called the desire for safety a “unifying element” among residents across the city.
The gap between Harrell, a moderate former City Council president, and González, a progressive currently serving as council president, could change as more votes — as many as half the expected total, according to election officials — are tabulated in the coming days. In Seattle races, ballots that arrive and are tallied later tend to favor left-lane candidates.
In their crowded Aug. 3 primary, Harrell’s nine-point lead over González on election night narrowed to less than two points by the time all of the votes were tallied. In recent years, some contests have swung even more — but not 30 points. González may need to secure 63% of the remaining votes to catch up, according to a Seattle Times analysis.
Progressive candidates for city attorney and for an open council seat also trailed their opponents by large margins, though not by quite as much as González, in the first chance for Seattle voters to make their opinions on local issues known since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, the city’s economy was shaken and protesters marched through the streets demanding racial justice in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
Surrounded by family members at a Rainier Valley bar after the Tuesday results were announced, González reassured her supporters, saying more ballots would be tallied before the conclusion of what she called “an extraordinarily long and brutal” race.
“We’re used to being the underdog” in every way, “and this campaign is no different,” she said as the crowd cheered, many attendees wearing González stickers.
Supporter Erin Haick, a service worker whose union phone-banked and door-knocked for the candidate, was holding out hope.
“Progressive voters vote late,” Haick said. “We need to wait.”
Harrell sounded confident Tuesday night, however, as supporters chanted “Bruce!” with their fists in the air.
“We think our message was aligned with what this city needs right now,” he told The Seattle Times, mentioning conversations with voters at supermarkets and coffee shops over months of campaigning. “We feel very good about the results and can’t wait to get to work.”
At Harrell’s party, Norm Rice, Seattle’s first Black mayor and a Harrell supporter, delivered emotional remarks.
“I have tears in my eyes and joy in my heart and a belief that we moved on because someone believes in where we are and what we are going to be,” Rice said.
The mayoral race between politicians who served together on the council for more than four years grew increasingly acrimonious in recent weeks, with assertions of corporate influence and racism.
Harrell, 63, a business-backed attorney raised by city workers in the Central District, based his campaign on a promise to keep parks and sidewalks clear of homeless encampments. He vowed to push for more police officers and more unarmed first-responders, criticizing González’s previous support for “defunding the police” to fund other services.
The Seward Park resident would be the first Asian American mayor and second Black mayor in Seattle’s history. He cast himself as a consensus builder, cited his hometown roots (and University of Washington football stardom) and drew on decades-old connections on the campaign trail.
“Let’s eradicate racism and unreasonable force” in the Police Department, “but I want our children to be safe,” Harrell said Tuesday night. “In a city that has many resources and compassionate people here, we can actually solve homelessness.”
González, 44, a labor-supported attorney raised by migrant farmworkers in Central Washington, focused her campaign on a willingness to tax big businesses and wealthy people to pay for affordable housing and other social needs. She warned Harrell would bow to corporate interests and perpetuate punitive, ineffective approaches to public safety.
The West Seattle resident would be the city’s first Latina mayor. She billed herself as a champion for workers, recalled earning her first paycheck picking cherries as a child, and said she would fight for marginalized people.
During her remarks Tuesday night, González said much work must be done at City Hall to reduce economic inequities and protect renters when the city’s COVID-19 eviction restrictions end.
Whoever is mayor, “There will be an extraordinary amount of work to do to prevent a simultaneous housing, public health and public safety crisis,” she said.
In the race, González argued Seattle should open up all neighborhoods to people with less wealth by allowing multifamily housing to be constructed on blocks across the city. Harrell opposed the elimination of zoning that currently reserves most residential blocks for detached houses, arguing the city should continue mostly concentrating apartments along major streets.
The rivals, who served together on the council from 2015 to 2019, competed for an open job because current Mayor Jenny Durkan, after a tumultuous 2020 that included COVID-19, mass demonstrations against racial injustice and an increase in gun violence, announced last December she wouldn’t seek reelection.
During lunchtime Tuesday, voters outside the Ballard library eyed a tent camp in the park across the street as they stuffed ballots into a King County Elections drop box. Dah-ve Bell, 33, and Remy Coronado, 26, agreed that homelessness drove their votes for mayor but arrived at different conclusions.
“I voted for who I thought would offer immediate solutions,” said Bell, a Harrell voter who lives near the library, park and encampment. “I think he’ll focus more on safety.”
Coronado aligned more with Gonzalez on police accountability and budgeting.
“I just felt like she actually cares about people and has a plan to put more money into housing,” said Coronado, who lives on Phinney Ridge. “I trust her more.”
Harrell’s campaign raised more than $1.3 million, while González’s campaign raised almost $980,000, according to Washington State Public Disclosure Commission records Monday.
Both used Seattle’s unique “democracy vouchers” program, which allows each qualifying resident to donate $100 in public money to candidates who abide by the program’s rules. Redeemed vouchers represented about 43% of Harrell’s haul and about 66% for González.
A pro-Harrell political action committee funded by real estate executives and companies, plus other individuals and business interests, reported more than $1 million in independent spending on advertisements for Harrell and against González. A pro-González PAC funded by unions that represent hotel, supermarket, health care and custodial workers reported nearly $1 million ion ads for González and against Harrell.
The pro-González PAC sponsored a television commercial that sought to make a connection between Harrell and former President Donald Trump, via a donor. Meanwhile, the pro-Harrell PAC sponsored a TV commercial telling voters González would leave tents in parks and would try to defund the police.
Three polls in September and October showed Harrell leading González, by various margins.
Tensions in the race peaked when the González campaign sponsored ads accusing Harrell of “siding with abusers” and noting Harrell didn’t join González in 2017 when she called for then-Mayor Ed Murray to consider resigning amid allegations Murray had abused teenagers decades earlier.
The ad featured a white rape survivor not connected to the Murray allegations. A number of Harrell supporters and Black political and civic leaders denounced the ad as desperate and racist for reinforcing tropes about Black men. González pulled the ad from TV and apologized for who the campaign featured while standing by her criticism of Harrell.
Staff reporters Sarah Grace Taylor, Lulu Ramadan, Lewis Kamb and data journalist Manuel Villa contributed to this report.