It's a general rule of politics: Don't roll out fall campaign themes until after Labor Day, because no one wants to deal with election-related barking while there are still a few official days of summer left.
But that doesn't mean all is silent as summer draws to a close.
Quite the opposite.
For those connected to the two city council races in which a challenger has a serious shot at unseating an incumbent—challenger Bobby Forch vs. Council Member Jean Godden and challenger Brad Meacham vs. Council Member Bruce Harrell—the consultants and candidates are hard at work refining the right boasts and punches for the next two months.
For instance: Harrell "doesn't seem engaged" and shows up late "for everything," said Meacham's political consultant, John Wyble, previewing some fall themes.
For emphasis, Wyble then had Meacham, a former journalist and neighborhood activist, call up and launch the attacks himself. "I'm going to be talking about my positive message, which is my platform of neighborhoods, transit, and jobs," Meacham began—before pivoting directly to his negative message. "He is absent and ineffective," Meacham said of Harrell.
Meacham also intends to flog issues like mandatory paid sick leave for Seattle workers, which he believes Harrell has waffled on, and said he'll be watching closely when Harrell takes a decisive council vote on the issue on September 12.
Christian Sinderman, Harrell's consultant, responded: "Other than hollow political rhetoric, I don't see where Meacham's campaign has anything to back up their claims. They're raising very little money, they have no endorsements, and anybody who's looked at them side by side has sided with Bruce."
Sinderman has a point. As of July 31, the most recent date when both candidates reported fundraising totals, Harrell had raised $241,110 to Meacham's $48,147. And Harrell, who's just finishing his first term on the council, has endorsements from major labor, environmental, and Democratic Party organizations. Twisting the knife further, Sinderman points out that Harrell was rated "very good" by the Municipal League—which Meacham used to lead—while Meacham received only a "good" rating. "Which shows you the esteem in which they hold him," Sinderman said.
Expect Harrell to run as a champion of the city's underrepresented communities, a person willing to take "principled stands" (Sinderman's words) in support of the downtown tunnel and against an overreaching panhandling ordinance.
Wyble, the consultant for Meacham, is also the consultant for Forch. "We need to build trust between neighborhoods and the police, and we need to build transit," Wyble said, floating themes we'll hear this fall from Forch, a current Seattle Department of Transportation employee (and former failed council candidate).
Turning to his hammers and tongs, Wyble said Forch will ensure that everyone knows the Municipal League rated two-term incumbent Godden "good" while finding Forch to be "very good." He also said Forch will hit back against Godden's regular touting of her role as chair of the council's Budget Committee by bringing up Godden's attendance at meetings. (A recent Stranger study of city council records found that Godden "missed more council meetings for committees that she chairs than any other Seattle City Council member up for reelection.")
Forch will also be slamming Godden's "lack of leadership," Wyble said. For example? "Raises for police officers at the same time we're not hiring more officers and cutting neighborhood service centers," Wyble explained. "There are some priorities that were probably set wrong there."
Godden's consultant, Cathy Allen, didn't respond to a request that she preview her candidate's fall themes. One possible reason: According to their August fundraising reports, Godden has raised $196,190 to Forch's $57,088—not as big an advantage as Harrell has over Meacham, but still a comfortable money lead for an incumbent with great name ID.