A transit advocate and rising star in the state legislature, Democrat Jessyn Farrell, has joined the race for mayor of Seattle.
Farrell announced her candidacy in an email this morning and will hold a press availability at a coffeeshop in Wallingford at 9 am. In an increasingly crowded field, Farrell could emerge as an urbanist favorite.
The former executive director of Transportation Choices Coalition is in her third term representing Northeast Seattle. In Olympia, Farrell has fought for bus and rail funding in the state legislature. She is vice chair of the House Transportation Committee and spent last summer campaigning for Sound Transit 3, the massive light rail expansion package voters approved in November. (She did, though, disappoint some transit advocates this year when she and other Democrats backed a measure that will reduce the funding Sound Transit receives from car tab taxes.)
One of few mothers of young children in the state legislature, Farrell has sponsored legislation to improve pregnant workers' rights. After Republican opposition last year, a version of that bill became law this year. She was also behind this year's successful push to ban using handheld devices like cellphones while driving. In 2016, she urged Governor Jay Inslee to veto a bill to legalize and fund charter schools even as the state criminally underfunds public education.
"Today our city faces extreme challenges related to our rapid growth and wealth gap,” Farrell said in a statement. "Seattle needs bold and steady leadership to find solutions to these issues."
Unlike some of her Seattle colleagues, Farrell had not endorsed Mayor Ed Murray for re-election. Murray announced Tuesday he would not seek re-election as he faces allegations that he sexually abused several teen boys in the 1980s. Farrell joins a race that includes former mayor Mike McGinn, lawyer and educator Nikkita Oliver, urban planner Cary Moon, State Senator Bob Hasegawa, and former U.S. attorney Jenny Durkan. Seattle City Council member Lorena González is also reportedly considering joining the race.
Farrell's announcement comes with the endorsement of Lieutenant Governor, Cyrus Habib, "She didn't just talk about income inequality," Habib said in a statement. "She she got her colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass a statewide increase in the minimum wage, paid sick leave, and workplace protections for pregnant workers."
UPDATE: In an interview Friday, Farrell said she plans to unveil specific policy proposals in the coming weeks regarding housing, homelessness, and transit. While she withheld details today, she did offer some hints.
Farrell said she supports the mayor’s housing affordability plans, which include some increases in density, but “we need to go bigger and bolder and faster.” She said she wants light rail from Ballard to West Seattle faster than the currently proposed timeline of 2030 for West Seattle and 2035 for Ballard "and I have some ideas about how we’re going to do that.”
“Every candidate is going to talk about being progressive,” Farrell said. “I’m the progressive candidate who actually has a track record.”