Mayor Jenny Durkan won't be on the ballot this year, but her administration sure will be. With just over two weeks left before Seattle's candidate filing deadline, Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller is entering the race for mayor.
Sixkiller joined the Durkan administration at the end of 2019. In the time since he's been working for Seattle, Durkan's favorability has plunged. As of last summer, Durkan polled at 43% favorable and 36% unfavorable with Seattle-area voters. Out of all the issues Durkan tackled last year—from COVID-19 and police brutality to the homelessness response and the cost of living—voters only viewed her response to COVID-19 favorably.
With that kind of polling, it's no surprise that Durkan bowed out of the 2021 mayoral race. So then why is Sixkiller, who oversaw the city's housing and homelessness response, running?
“I’m running so every family can see their future in Seattle," Sixkiller said in a statement. "Our city needs bold action, leadership experience, and a mayor who wakes up every day focused on rebuilding a more equitable, inclusive, and thriving city."
We'll learn more at 11 a.m. when Sixkiller makes his official campaign announcement from his Phinney Ridge home.
Sixkiller spent most of his time at the city acting on behalf of Durkan. Before that he worked in D.C. as a consultant, so it's hard to know where he really stands on the issues. Here's what we know from his time on Durkan's payroll.
Sixkiller started his role last year by slowly rolling out sorely-needed hygiene trailers after COVID-19 had already hit and demand for hygiene trailers had skyrocketed nationwide. The Seattle City Council allocated $1.3 million for the trailers in the 2019 budget session after a 2018 auditor recommendation about hygiene needs, but the mayor's office didn't act until COVID hit, Publicola reported. Sixkiller also blamed the high costs of portable toilets on "vandalism" and "theft of hand sanitizer" by homeless people.
As the year progressed, Sixkiller opposed ending encampment sweeps and disbanding the police-affiliated Navigation Team. Ultimately, he broke from the Durkan administration's messaging and worked with Seattle City Council members to develop a new homelessness provider-run outreach team known as the HOPE team. Publicola reported that Sixkiller spoke openly and positively about the new team while Durkan's official statements remained tepid about disbanding the Navigation Team.
Sixkiller was also slow to adopt leasing vacant hotel rooms to quickly house homeless people, a strategy which proved successful for King County early on in the pandemic. Seattle is now leasing two hotels that provide shelter for around 200 people, around 100 fewer than Sixkiller had originally estimated. The city leased one of the two hotels last year, too. The hotel stayed vacant and still cost Seattle around $4 million.
Before he worked for Durkan, he worked in politics and as a consultant. He started out as a legislative aide for U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, where Sixkiller helped work on transportation issues. Sixkiller, who is Cherokee, then helped establish the Cherokee Nation’s first Washington Office and acted as the lead advocate for the office in front of Congress. He later worked as a legislative aide for Sen. Patty Murray before starting his own D.C.-based consulting firm, where he worked with companies including Microsoft, Texas-based oil and gas firm Noble Energy, and Motorola for eight years, according to his LinkedIn.
Before Sixkiller became Durkan's deputy mayor, he served as King County's chief operating officer where he worked under King County Executive Dow Constantine.
What more do you want to know? He's a Swiftie and loves barbequeing:
Sixkiller's dad, Sonny Sixkiller, is a famous University of Washington Husky football player. That makes him the second mayoral candidate with ties to Husky football.
With Sixkiller's candidacy, sixteen people are now running for mayor of Seattle. Most of the candidates announced their campaigns at the beginning of the year to have time to fundraise. Candidates such as Colleen Echohawk and Andrew Grant Houston have already raised a buttload of money; Echohawk is more than halfway to the $400,000 primary fundraising gap for mayoral candidates while Houston reached the $400,000 maximum last week. Sixkiller will be playing a lot of fundraising catch-up.