King County ballots are due by 8 p.m. Tuesday which means procrastinators across the region are scrambling to make a last-minute decision about who should be Seattle’s next mayor and which candidates to back for several other important offices.
GeekWire has been tracking the Seattle mayoral race closely since former Mayor Ed Murray, quagmired in a sexual abuse scandal, announced he would not seek re-election. Continue reading for a recap of our coverage, including where the mayoral frontrunners stand on critical issues in Seattle’s technology and business community.
Murray’s fall from grace left the field wide open and 21 hopefuls tried their luck in a historic primary election. Six frontrunners tried to make their voices stand out from the competition in a debate hosted by GeekWire, KING 5, KUOW, and Seattle CityClub before city planner Cary Moon and former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan won the top two spots in the August primary. Durkan advanced with a wide lead while Moon inched passed Nikkita Oliver, the third place contender who ran an energizing grassroots campaign.
We asked each candidate six questions that we drafted with help from GeekWire readers on topics like downtown infrastructure, the innovation economy, social justice issues, and municipal broadband. Their answers are available in full here.
GeekWire readers in Seattle, who has your vote for mayor? We'll include the results in our recap of the race here: https://t.co/GUYWX5fnIK
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“The city can help create an operating environment in which venture capital can help reach new and diverse communities of entrepreneurs and in which those with a vision and energy can deploy solutions to common problems,” Moon said in one of her answers.
In a follow-up interview, we asked Durkan how Seattle can avoid some of the problems San Francisco is grappling with due to the rapid growth of its tech industry.
“Seattle can learn from those lessons,” Durkan said of issues in San Francisco, adding that she supports a property tax break for landlords who provide affordable housing and higher property taxes for those who do not.
In the month that followed the primary, two major stories rattled the Seattle political establishment. Mounting sexual abuse allegations forced Murray to resign from office, rather than finishing out the term until the election. Councilmember Bruce Harrell stepped into the executive seat for a few days before the Council elevated another member, Tim Burgess, to the office. Burgess is Seattle’s current mayor.
Amid all of this upheaval at City Hall, Amazon announced plans to establish a second headquarters in another North American city, sparking speculation that city government created an unwelcome environment for the tech titan.
Amazon’s HQ2 search has become an important issue in the race, one that both candidates addressed in a second debate co-hosted by GeekWire, KUOW, KING 5, and Seattle CityClub. KUOW’s Ross Reynolds asked the candidates what advice they would give to the 238 cities vying for Amazon’s second corporate headquarters.
Durkan and Moon agreed that Seattle has grown too quickly and Amazon plays a big role in that. But Durkan struck a more mournful tone about the HQ2 search and Amazon’s impact on its hometown.
They both answered with quips at first: “Go Seahawks,” Durkan said. “Be careful what you wish for,” was Moon’s initial advice. From there, each candidate reflected on Amazon’s impact on the city and what its HQ2 search means.
Related: Can Seattle’s next mayor build a bridge to the tech community? Clues from each candidate’s take on Amazon HQ2
“They’ve got a map up on the wall now at Amazon of all the cities that want them, and part of it breaks my heart,” Durkan said. “We’ve got these challenges, there’s no question Seattle has grown too fast.” She said that Seattle needs to address its affordability issues and if it does, “companies will still grow here, want to stay here, want to come here, because Seattle, in my view, still is the coolest city there is.”
Moon agreed that Amazon has grown too fast but said the company “has been a net gain for our city.”
“We have this inventive, innovative culture here that I think is really rare and wonderful,” she said. “But we have not kept up with growth. We have not planned in advance for all the growth that Amazon brought with them. So we need some time to catch up. I would advise other cities to plan the growth in advance, understand what it’s going to cost, and make sure Amazon is going to help pay for it because I’m not sure we did that well enough here.”
On Amazon, like many issues, it can be difficult to parse meaningful differences between the two left-leaning candidates though they have been making an effort to set themselves apart from one another during the campaign. They disagree on municipal broadband, for example. Moon says she will push through city-owned internet if she is elected because “it is an equity issue” while Durkan says the cost of implementing municipal broadband is prohibitive and instead suggests building out free public WiFi in selected areas.
The Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) explored differences between the mayoral frontrunners, as well as Seattle City Council candidates Teresa Mosqueda and Jon Grant. Durkan and Mosqueda checked the most boxes on the WTIA’s list of criteria.
That’s in line with endorsements from the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and a handful of tech leaders that signed an open letter backing Durkan last week.
The Chamber’s Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE) committee has contributed $525,000 to a group called People for Jenny Durkan. Amazon donated $350,000 over the last few months to CASE through a series of donations — marking the company’s biggest political funding effort ever in Washington state. Moon has been highlighting corporate contributions like those as evidence that the former U.S. attorney is in the back pocket of big business.
But the tech community is not behind Durkan unilaterally by any means. Moon’s campaign contributions include donations from prominent tech leaders like Tableau Software co-founder Chris Stolte, Trilogy Equity Partners’ Peter van Oppen, former Gates Foundation CEO and Microsoft executive Jeff Raikes, and former Microsoft manager and serial entrepreneur Mike Mathieu, to name a few. Moon is also endorsed by Seattle Tech 4 Housing and Upgrade Seattle, a Seattle group that advocates for municipal broadband.
To hear more about how the two candidates differ in their own words, watch the our recent mayoral debate below. Whoever you choose, be sure to deliver your ballot by Tuesday at 8 p.m. to an official ballot box. If you plan to mail your ballot, it must be postmarked by Nov. 7 and it requires postage.