Bruce Harrell led Seattle’s mayoral primary election in results reported Tuesday night and M. Lorena González was in second place.
They appeared poised to advance from the top-two nonpartisan contest to the Nov. 2 general election, likely setting the stage for a tight debate between well-known candidates about how the city should approach homelessness, policing and the post-pandemic economy.
Harrell, a former City Council president, had 38% of the votes included in the count, while González, the council’s current president, had 29%.
More votes — as many as half the expected total, according to election officials — will be tallied in the coming days, with updates reported each afternoon. In Seattle, later votes tend to favor left-lane candidates; González, an advocate for labor unions and progressive taxation, may gain ground on Harrell, a business-friendly contender with deep community roots.
Trailing among 15 candidates on the ballot were Colleen Echohawk with 8%, Jessyn Farrell with 7%, Art Langlie with 6%, Casey Sixkiller with 4% and Andrew Grant Houston with 3%.
“We’re going to celebrate tonight” and look forward to the general election, Harrell said, addressing supporters at a waterfront restaurant in Leschi after Tuesday night’s results were announced.
He didn’t seem surprised by his lead.
“People are tired of this fighting in Seattle,” Harrell added, promising to address homelessness, change the culture of the Police Department and support small businesses. “The city is expecting me to come up with new solutions.”
At a Georgetown brewery, González pumped her fist in the air and told supporters: “Tonight’s results show we have a very, very good chance to move on to November.”
Her voters, she said, “want a mayor who will stand up to big, wealthy corporations” that have refused to “pay their fair share” to combat Seattle’s challenges.
“We are done biting around the edges. It is a time for a mayor who is going to center working people,” González added.
Seattle’s general elections for mayor tend to pit a candidate with more support from downtown business leaders and homeowners in neighborhoods with water views against a candidate with more support from progressive activists and renters in neighborhoods with apartments.
A crowded field, scant independent polling and widespread uncertainty among voters created suspense before Tuesday night, with election officials predicting that about 40% of Seattle voters would turn out.
Many were like Crystal Rutherford, 60, scanning the primary ballot for an action-oriented choice.
“It’s easy for candidates to say, ‘homelessness – that’s a problem,'” Rutherford said Tuesday after visiting a drop box in Ballard. “Well, duh it’s a problem. But what’s the solution?”
Harrell, 62, served as interim mayor briefly in 2017 and as the council’s president from 2016 to 2019, when he declined to seek a fourth term.
He lamented Seattle’s homelessness crisis and other problems, arguing they had become worse since he left City Hall. The Central District-reared lawyer, who played football at the University of Washington, emphasized his history and values.
Endorsed by notables like former Gov. Gary Locke and former Mayor Norm Rice, he spoke to voters looking for a political mediator with longstanding connections to a range of communities.
González, 44, was first elected in 2015, after working for then-Mayor Ed Murray and as a civil-rights lawyer.
She touted a list of council accomplishments, such as scheduling protections for retail workers, workload restrictions for hotel cleaners and funding to defend immigrants from deportations.
Bolstered by endorsements from most unions and U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, González vowed to close the city’s wealth gap, linking her Central Washington migrant farmworker background to her pro-labor agenda.
Harrell was endorsed by The Seattle Times editorial board (the news operation at The Times is independent from the editorial board), while González was endorsed by The Stranger.
Echohawk, 45, until recently was executive director of the Chief Seattle Club, a nonprofit that provides housing and other assistance to Native American people who are experiencing homelessness.
She didn’t concede Tuesday night, saying she wanted to wait until more votes were counted.
“If I have raised the issue of homelessness, I’ve done the right thing,” she said.
A former transit advocate and state representative who finished fourth in 2017’s mayoral primary, Farrell, 47, described herself as the only contender this year previously elected outside City Hall.
Langlie, 54, is a construction industry executive and provided voters with a more conservative choice. Sixkiller, 43, served until recently as a deputy mayor under Durkan and positioned himself as a continuity candidate.
Houston, 32, an urbanist architect, wooed young voters, vowing to try to defund the police and allow new apartments on all residential blocks.
Homelessness was the primary’s dominant issue, as a controversial city charter amendment proposed by business leaders for the November ballot drove a wedge between the contenders.
Harrell and Farrell supported the Compassion Seattle proposal, siding with proponents who said it would compel City Hall to provide more shelter, while González and Houston opposed it, siding with critics who said it would write encampment removals into the charter without providing any additional shelter funding.
The COVID-19 pandemic cast a shadow over the primary and hampered in-person campaigning, especially before most residents were vaccinated. Almost all the candidate forums were held over Zoom, and volunteers wore masks as they knocked on doors.
The city’s economic recovery was a hot topic, with González accusing the Downtown Seattle Association of advancing the interests of large corporations rather than small businesses in outlying neighborhoods.
Harrell and most other candidates rejected calls for defunding the police and pledged to hire more officers. González toned down her 2020 support for defunding while continuing to advocate the reallocation of some dollars to non-police strategies.
At the Ballard drop box Tuesday, Bruce Whittemore cited Harrell’s experience. “He at least has been there before,” said Whittemore, 91.
Austin Raymond, 26, praised Echohawk’s 22-point “housing for all” plan, saying she was excited to support a woman of color.
At a drop box on Beacon Hill, Chris Eng said he voted for González, hoping she could collaborate with the council on criminal-legal reform. “Throwing the book at people is actually, in many cases, the worst possible thing,” said Eng, 34.
Harrell, González, Echohawk and Houston each raised more than $400,000 with help from taxpayer-funded democracy vouchers.
Harrell, González, Echohawk and Farrell each received support from independent political-action committees. Real estate players made large donations to the PAC backing Harrell, while labor unions bankrolled the PAC supporting González.
Staff reporters Nina Shapiro, Evan Bush, Mike Lindblom, Lynda V. Mapes, Daisy Zavala, Daniel Wu, Lewis Kamb and Paige Cornwell contributed.