You could be forgiven for feeling utterly confused at last week’s 32nd and 46th District Democrats’ city council campaign forum (the description is a mouthful in itself), where no fewer than 15 candidates sat down at long card tables flocked by ostentatious bunting to churn out answers to North Seattle-focused questions posed by former KCTS9 public-affairs host Enrique Cerna.
Some candidates took the opportunity—one minute per question, plus a second or two for “lightning round” questions that failed to produce a single spark—to rehearse for their stump speech. (Sandy Brown, John Roderick). Others treated the forum as a rare chance to rant in the general direction of a captive audience. (Alex Tsimerman, David Trotter). And still others seemed unaware that they were supposed to speak at a forum that night, (See the post immediately before this one).
At last week’s candidate cotillion for Positions 8 and 9, the eight contenders for the two at-large city council seats (the other seven council members will now represent geographic districts) stretched out behind the same long table all nine of the candidates for North Seattle’s District 5 had recently vacated, with lone council incumbent Tim Burgess seated like a patriarch at the head of the table, looking a bit forlorn and confused about where he was and how he’d gotten there. (Lorena Gonzalez and Bill Bradburd, the only two Position 9 candidates who had declared at the time, were paired up on the right end of the table).
Burgess, of course, is a two-term council climber who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2013 and now, as council president, keeps the legislative troops in formation by quelling leaks and attempting to make sure that as few council decisions as possible become public before the vote is decided. A formidable fundraiser since his very first run (at the end of March, he had raised $115,449, including $6,200 from himself and will almost certainly report no April contributions until the May 5 deadline), Burgess is opposed by a five-man crew of council wannabes including a well-funded indie rocker, a Nazi-saluting council nagger, a tenants’ rights advocate who lives in a house his parents bought him on foreclosure; a lefty activist named David Trotter whose website begins “trotterearthwind,” and a sincere-seeming longshoreman named John Persak.
Of those five, Roderick seems likely to be the heaviest hitter, because of both his significant name recognition and his sincerity as a candidate. Roderick can raise out of town money without lifting a finger (the vast majority of his latest, $42,000, haul came from outside Seattle), and his self-positioning as a reasonable-but-super-lefty guy (a likable lefty like Nick Licata) makes him appealing to young, earnest Seattle voters and an ideological foil to Burgess, who has been cast as the city council’s “conservative,” which in Seattle seems to mean an oil train opponent who went to the mat for universal preschool.
Roderick’s voluble (seriously; check out his campaign website or just ask him why he’s running and grab a seat) and seems accessible in a way that Burgess does not. The other viable contender, Tenants Union head Jon Grant (that’s right, there are three Jo[h]ns in this race) has a good issue (affordable housing for the truly needy) but will have trouble drowning out the two alpha males in the race and may have hit his fundraising ceiling. And the three remaining candidates—the aforementioned Nazi saluter, Alex Tsimerman, who refused to participate in the yes/no “lightning round because “I do not believe in this bullshit election,” along with Trotter, who mentioned a lawsuit he has going against the city, and Persak, who chimed a cautionary note against banning oil trains at the expense of jobs—will be this race’s also-rans.
Roderick’s rhetoric of consensus (as in, “The wonderful thing about living in a one-party system as we do here in Seattle is that we don’t have to debate whether climate change is real [or] whether the earth was created in seven days”) didn’t seem to rattle Burgess, who sat impassively, in his purple pullover and jeans, waiting his turn at the end of the table while Roderick went on about the city’s “broad consensus” on virtually every issue.
He did seem a bit rattled, however, when Grant pointed out that Burgess had chaired the council’s public safety committee when the Department of Justice handed down its consent decree, mandating that the Seattle Police Department address its problems with biased policing and excessive use of force. And he bristled a bit when his opponents suggested he hadn’t done enough to put the police under public scrutiny and ensure that most officers are hired from inside city limits. “The problem is the suburbanization of the police department,” Roderick said. “The police commute into the city (with their “Issaquah values,” he later suggested) and and think of the city as a separate country and in some places enemy territory.”
“We need to have as much surveillance on the police as we possibly can,” he concluded. Burgess responded, a bit defensively, “As a former police officer, I know a lot about this issue. … I met with the U.S. attorney the day after her report came out, trying to get the city to take a cooperative posture to solve this, and we’re now actually making progress on police reform.”
In the less-hotly-contested (and open) Position 9, Lorena Gonzalez, Mayor Ed Murray’s legal counsel and the attorney who represented the man who was beat up, infamously, by two officers who threatened to beat the “Mexican piss” out of him, squared off against opponent Bill Bradburd, a neighborhood activist who has fought against increased density from microhousing and taller buildings in low-rise areas.