Six leading candidates for Seattle mayor took part in a live, televised debate Monday night.
Leading candidates for Seattle mayor sparred on issues ranging from taxes to homelessness Monday night in a live, televised debate, but there weren’t many fireworks.
Policing was perhaps the most contentious topic as Jenny Durkan, Jessyn Farrell, Bob Hasegawa, Mike McGinn, Cary Moon and Nikkita Oliver shared the stage for 90 minutes.
McGinn, who was mayor from 2009 to 2013, and Oliver, an educator, activist and attorney, expressed dissatisfaction that ongoing reforms have not led to more change. They noted the recent fatal shooting by police of Charleena Lyles.
Despite improvements made with the city under a court-monitored agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, “The public has lost trust that we’re making progress,” McGinn said.
Calling for more civilian control over the police department, Oliver said community voices still “have been routinely kept from the table.”
Durkan, who while serving as U.S. attorney helped negotiate the reform agreement, said, “We have more to do,” but defended the work the department has done.
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“Reform doesn’t happen overnight,” she said, arguing that information released after Lyles’ shooting shows the department has become more transparent.
Seattle CityClub, KING 5, KUOW and GeekWire hosted the debate at Impact Hub Seattle in Pioneer Square. They chose which of the 21 registered candidates would take part based on their fundraising, endorsements and a poll last month.
Durkan struck out on her own more than once. She called for zero-based budgeting and was the only candidate to support continued sweeps of unauthorized homeless encampments.
“We should not let people live there,” she said. “It’s not compassionate.”
On transportation, Durkan followed Oliver in proposing free transit passes for Seattle residents under 18, while Hasegawa suggested the city consider making transit free for all.
Hockey and basketball fans perked up their ears for the final question, as the candidates were asked where they believe a new sports arena should be sited.
Farrell, a former state representative, and McGinn picked Sodo, while Moon, an urban planner, and Oliver chose KeyArena. Durkan couldn’t pick, and Hasegawa, a state senator, mentioned a site south of the city.
The primary election is Aug. 1, and ballots were mailed to voters last week. The top two finishers will advance to the general election in November.
Earlier this year, chances appeared good that Mayor Ed Murray would win a second term, though Oliver launched a campaign in March.
The race opened up in April when a Kent man sued the mayor, accusing Murray of sexual abusing him in the 1980s when the man was a teenager, and when similar allegations by other men were brought to light. Murray vehemently denies the claims but in May ended his re-election bid.
Other candidates include Harley Lever, a small-business consultant who founded Safe Seattle, a group of residents and business owners with concerns about street homelessness in neighborhoods; James Norton, a police officer; and Casey Carlisle, a Libertarian who says he wants to eliminate 18 city departments.
Durkan has raised the most money in the race, racking up more than $426,000 in campaign contributions. A pro-Durkan, independent-expenditure committee bankrolled by business groups has additionally raised more than $50,000.
Moon has raised more than $144,000, contributing more than $90,000 of her own money, while Farrell has raised more than $103,000.
Oliver has raised more than $102,000, relying heavily on small donations, and McGinn has raised more than $38,000.
Hasegawa has been barred from accepting campaign contributions while the state Legislature remains in session.
As of Monday, Durkan had the greatest number of contributors, with 1,528. Oliver had the second-most, with 1,261, and Farrell was third, with 499.
Durkan is endorsed by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and by SEIU 775, a large and influential home-health and nursing-home workers union.
Farrell and Hasegawa are jointly endorsed by the Martin Luther King County Labor Council and are the candidates with the most support from Democratic Party groups.
Oliver is endorsed by Socialist Alternative and the Democratic Socialists of America, among other groups. And McGinn is endorsed by the Sierra Club’s Seattle chapter.
The Municipal League of King County recently rated Durkan, Farrell and Hasegawa “outstanding.” It rated McGinn, Moon and Oliver “very good.” Lever was rated “good.”
The first question of Monday’s debate asked of the candidates was whether Murray should resign.
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McGinn and Moon have, since May, said Murray should step down, citing the decades-old sexual-abuse claims against him.
Farrell and Oliver joined them after The Seattle Times reported new information about the allegations.
Records previously thought destroyed show that an Oregon child-welfare investigator concluded in 1984 Murray had sexually abused his foster son, Jeffrey Simpson, when Simpson was a teenager.
In an interview this past week, the mayor underscored that prosecutors had decided decades ago not to charge him.
He released a statement Monday saying he would not resign. “I continue to believe such a course of action would not be in the city’s best interest,” he said.
In a statement, Farrell said the new information about Murray “severely undermines our confidence in his ability to carry out the duties of his office.”
Oliver said “of course” Murray should step down. “At this point, if he doesn’t hold himself to account, the burden falls on other elected officials and the City Council,” she said.
In a statement Monday, Hasegawa described the new information about Murray as “deeply disturbing.” But he said, “We are also a city and nation of laws, where everyone deserves due process.”
He added, “I hope that whatever decision Ed Murray makes is done first and foremost with the best interest of the people of Seattle in mind.”
Durkan, who was endorsed by Murray, also stopped short of saying Murray should step down.
In a statement Monday, Durkan said, “I spoke briefly with Mayor Murray last night. I told him I was very troubled.”
She added, “While I believe Ed Murray has been a good mayor, I encouraged him to reflect deeply about whether he could continue to lead and what is in the best interests of the city.”
Later Monday, in a KUOW radio interview, Durkan was asked whether she was calling on Murray to resign.
“No one knows what happened 30 years ago,” she said. “I do think facts matter a lot, so I do not believe any of us are in a position to judge what happened.”
There have been twists and turns in story of the allegations against Murray.
The Times first reported Simpson’s claims in April when a Kent man, Delvonn Heckard, filed a sexual-abuse lawsuit against Murray. He said Murray had abused him in the 1980s in Seattle, when he was a teenager.
Heckard withdrew his lawsuit in June, saying he intends to refile after Murray leaves office.
When asked last month about accepting the endorsement of someone whom several men had accused of sexual abuse, Durkan said Seattle voters would be discerning.
She said they would be able to observe that Murray has been a good mayor, separate from the claims.
At the time, Durkan did not directly answer whether she believed Murray or believed his accusers. She said her focus was on issues facing the city and on what the mayor has done while in office.