By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
Four candidates were debating simultaneously in Chinatown/International District on Oct 9.
While the mayoral candidates were cordial towards each other at the Sun Ya Restaurant, the King County Executive candidates seemed to have a lot of tension at the New Hong Kong Restaurant.
Whoever ends up as mayor of Seattle — Mike McGinn and Joe Mallahan — can probably still talk to one another after the election. I am not sure about Susan Hutchinson and Dow Constantine.
An audience member at the Constantine and Hutchison debate said Hutchinson grabbed the microphone from the master of ceremonies during the introduction to show her displeasure toward Constantine before the candidates were able to speak.
This also happened in an earlier debate between Hutchinson and Constantine at the Seattle Rotary Club. Club members sensed the tension during the debate.
McGinn and Mallahan seemed to be more relaxed. At the beginning, they were playing a game of rock-paper-scissors to determine who should go first instead of the conventional coin flip. They smiled at each other during the exchange and even shook hands after the debate.
An attendee said the mayoral candidates’ criticisms toward one another were mild compared to Hutchinson and Constantine’s encounter.
The Northwest Asian Weekly (NWAW) was the organizer of the closed meeting between the mayoral candidates and Asian community leaders. The Seattle Chinese Chamber of Commerce was the host for the King County Executive candidates and was open to the public. Both organizations were unaware of the conflict in scheduling until invitations were already sent.
Big guy versus small guy
At the mayoral forum, more than 50 community leaders (mostly from Chinatown/International District) came to see what makes the candidates tick.
Shoreline Mayor Cindy Ryu also attended.
Shoreline? How will Seattle’s election affect Shoreline?
A lot, said Ryu. She wants to find out if the new mayor would invite Shoreline to the table to discuss issues of transportation. She learned her lesson with Mayor Greg Nickels who had told her that he did not buy into the Seattle–Shoreline partnership. Her strategy is to put the mayoral candidates on record. In a forum, the small player can put the big guy on the spot. The big guy won’t be able to deny her when leaders were witnesses and six Asian media were on sight to cover the debate.
So who won the debate?
Before this year, never in my wildest dream did I think NWAW would organize a mayoral candidates’ forum in October, our busiest month of the year.
Then again, I never imagined that Mayor Greg Nickels would not be re-elected.
So we felt we had to encourage a community to make informed decisions. This is the third mayoral lunch we have organized. The first one was with Paul Schell and Charlie Chong, and the second one was with Greg Nickels and Mark Sidran.
The NWAW wanted to find out if the mayoral debate was useful for the guests in deciding who to vote for. A survey was conducted. The majority of the guests responded a resounding “yes,” the forum did help change their views.
Several said they know who they would vote for, only a few are still thinking. Guests posed questions for the candidates to see how much they knew about the community.
In my opinion, the candidates have not done enough homework about our community. McGinn seemed to have a slight edge.
He brought his wife and mother-in-law of Japanese descent to the lunch, a reminder of his Asian ties. He also seems to be able to grasp the diversity among the Asian community.
Many nonprofit leaders were there for him. However, he failed to answer the question on international trade while Mallahan seemed to have a better grasp on global issues.
Yes, there were a few who switched their choices after the candidates’ responses to certain questions.
In terms of relating to the Asian community, both candidates still have a long way to go. They need to walk around the International District with our community leaders. We are not outsiders. Many of the Asian community members are fourth and fifth generation Seattleites. ♦
Assunta Ng can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.