Hundreds of people filled a Beacon Hill church Sunday night for one of the final debates between the candidates for mayor and city council position 8 moderated by former mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver.
Hosted by the newly formed Seattle Peoples Party, the debate crowd was all-ages and diverse and the questions focused on how the candidates would serve the city's most marginalized.
Here are some takeaways from the debates between Seattle City Council candidates Teresa Mosqueda and Jon Grant and mayoral candidates Cary Moon and Jenny Durkan. Scroll to the bottom of this post for video of the full debate.
HEAD TAX: Mosqueda said she would support the proposed head tax currently before the council to fund housing and homelessness services. (I think.) Both candidates have signed on to support the Housing for All coalition, which is advocating for the "HOMES tax." But Mosqueda has not answered directly, saying she supported a different head tax proposal in the past and supports the new proposal "as a concept." Grant and Mosqueda went back and forth on this last night with Mosqueda ultimately saying, "I want to make sure that we pass that tax and get dollars in hand now."
COPS: After Grant pushed for a yes/no answer, both he and Mosqueda said they would oppose hiring 200 new police.
HOUSING: Grant has repeatedly called for taxes on large corporations in order to fund more units of "deeply affordable" housing. But Mosqueda says Grant agreed with the Seattle Times Editorial Board that there is enough housing in Seattle for people experiencing homelessness.
"What I'd like is a little bit of consistency," Mosqueda said after Grant questioned her position on the head tax, "because I don't think you can just nod your head and agree with the Seattle Times when they tell the two of us that there's enough housing in this city for those who are homeless and low income. There is not. I will not change my mind depending on who I'm talking to."
The Times Editorial Board disputes Mosqueda's characterization that they believe the city has enough housing. Editorial page editor Kate Riley said by email, "Mosqueda's description of our position is false and misleading." Riley said the board did talk with the candidates about a city report that found Seattle could better manage its current emergency shelter capacity for people experiencing homelessness.
SPOG: They're still fighting about Grant's support for opening negotiations with the police union.
"When I went to the King County Labor Council, which represents the police union and they asked me do you support greater transparency in the negotiation process. I said yes," Grant said, adding that he "knew it would also lose me their endorsement."
"My opponent is supported by that group," Grant said. "If we're going to push for police reform we can't keep electing folks who are going to be timid on police reform."
"Jon," Mosqueda replied, "you went to seek the endorsement from every union and they didn't endorse you because that is not a progressive position. That is a position that is advocated for from the Freedom Foundation, the Koch Brothers, and the right wing. I will not take a page out of the right wing playbook. I will hold our officers accountable. I will make sure we have true transparency."
Grant said the NAACP supports opening negotiations; Mosqueda said the president of the organization told her that's not true. (NAACP Seattle/King County President Gerald Hankerson has not yet responded to request for comment about this from The Stranger. I'll update this post if I hear back.)
YIKES: Grant tried to attack Mosqueda for being late to a forum and it backfired horribly. Asked about rights for people with disabilities, Grant criticized Mosqueda for being late to a recent forum with a disability advocacy group because she was "in Bellevue." Mosqueda responded that she was in Bellevue to protest Betsy DeVos.
THE TENANTS UNION: Questioned on complaints about his time as head of the Tenants Union, Grant said "the employee" involved in a complaint against the TU "was critical of my leadership." In fact, that employee as well as two others signed a letter after Grant left the TU saying the organization had a “toxic environment bred by an executive director who lacked leadership and accountability." Grant said he has "learned and grown from that" and pledged to be "radically accountable to you" if elected.
SIGH: Mosqueda refused to say who she's voting for in the race for mayor. She would only say "a woman."
BAD NEWS FOR GRANT: Both mayoral candidates said they're voting for Mosqueda. They also said they'll vote for Council Member Lorena González in the less competitive race for Position 9.
MOON AND DURKAN AGREED ON A LOT: They both pledged to fund more tiny house villages and shelters, expand the immigrant legal defense fund, ensure Seattle Police are not cooperating with federal immigration officials, and increase SPD training.
SWEEPS: But they disagreed on sweeps. Like in nearly every debate of this election, Durkan defended them by arguing unsanctioned encampments are unsafe for the people living in them. Moon pledged to "stop the sweeps."
THE BUNKER: Asked about the controversial new North Precinct, both candidates said they opposed it. Moon said the city should "pull back on this project." Durkan said, "I agreed with blocking the bunker. We shouldn't build the North Precinct. We need to have a different configuration and we need to redirect those funds." (By a "different configuration," does she mean building multiple precincts instead, as former mayor Ed Murray floated? Unclear.)
THE PLEDGES: The Peoples Party asked the mayoral candidates to sign a list of pledges. The list included ending encampment sweeps, changing police tactics used at protests, and prioritizing city funding for local and people of color-led organizations. Both candidates signed after writing some notes of their own on the list. I'll link to those here once the party posts them online. UPDATE: Here are the signed pledges.
STOLEN LAND: If anyone has seen Durkan's policy paper on returning stolen land, let me know. When Durkan acknowledged during the debate that we were on Duwamish land, someone in the crowd shouted: "Give the land back." Durkan responded, "That's right, we should."
"YOU DON'T WORK!" There were Durkan supporters in the crowd and they have been reading Moon's résumé. Asked what they would do if they lose, both candidates said they would work with community organizations. Moon turned to Durkan and said, "So you're not going to go back to your job as a corporate attorney?" As Durkan defended her legal work, someone in the audience yelled to Moon, "You don't work!" Later, during a question focused on people of color-owned businesses, Oliver asked the candidates to describe a time they brought business owners, community, and government together. Moon acknowledged she has not "had the kind of job" where she did that sort of work. From the crowd: "No job!"
SHARING POWER (OR PANDERING?): Moon pledged to put members of the Peoples Party on her transition team. "My commitment is to share power with you," Moon said, promising to put "people you trust" in the mayor's office.
This came after a pointed question from Oliver for a "practical" explanation of how each candidate would work with organizers and affected communities if elected. "Both of you have said, in one way or another, that frontline affected communities have to be at the forefront and center of decision making," Oliver said before getting specific about each candidate. "Cary Moon, you have little to no track record of work and service with frontline affected communities prior to your run for office. Jenny Durkan, your track record of service is very institutional. Some would say your work has been done using some paternalistic and white savior tactics that maybe well intended white and wealthy people have been using for years, which do not lead to self determination nor self empowerment for marginalized...communities."
"I think the best indication of whether someone is going to show up is whether they ever showed up before," Durkan said. "I understand some people look and think the only time I'm talking about is when I was U.S. attorney, but I first started in rooms just like this when I was in my 20s screaming for LGBTQ rights because they weren't there."
By the end of the night, all of the candidates had promised to listen to community organizations like Black Lives Matter, No New Youth Jail, and Block the Bunker so many times that it was almost as if someone who actually works with those movements should have been on the ballot instead.
This post has been updated to clarify the disagreement between Mosqueda and the Seattle Times Editorial Board.