By Assunta Ng
You might not be paying much attention to Seattle’s mayoral race, but you should do some research before you send out your ballot for the primary election on Aug. 6.
I was at the recent CityClub’s mayoral debate, which was just one of what must have been over 30 such debates since May. Though one cannot make a decision based on one debate, it did give me a glimpse into each candidate’s leadership style.
Only five candidates out of the nine running were selected to participate in the debate. It was odd to see five guys at the table. Sadly, the three female candidates were cut from the group. However, if all the candidates were invited, it would’ve made the program long and boring.
The five-person panel was moderated by Seattle Times editorial columnist Joni Balter. The candidates were Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, Mayor Mike McGinn, State Sen. Ed Murray, businessman Charlie Staadecker, and former Seattle City Council member Peter Steinbrueck.
After the debate, a journalist roundtable made up of Knute Berger from Crosscut News, Joel Connelly from the Seattle P-I, Erica Barnett from PubliCola, and myself commented on the debate.
No winner, just awards
The rule for the journalists was we couldn’t pick a winner of the debate. Instead, to make everyone happy, I’m going to give out individual awards.
The Misbehaved School Boy
This award goes to McGinn. During the debate, he interrupted his top challenger, Murray, at least twice. He also interrupted Harrell at least once. (Recent polls have shown that Murray and McGinn are fighting neck to neck.)
This award goes to Murray. Even though he is considered the frontrunner against McGinn and has received all the major endorsements, he lacked energy and fire during the debate. He needs an energy booster and a machine to induce smiles and humor.
This award goes to Steinbrueck, who gave the best closing statement. In 30 seconds, he reminded the audience who he was, and what his approach to running the city would be. “Balance growth, prosperity with the quality of life,” he said. He spoke with strength and passion.
This award goes to Harrell, who has always been a strong debater. Perhaps, his law background helps in that, but he spoke with charisma and clarity. There was no exaggeration about what he would do if he was elected. Everything he said he said at the right tone and amount.
This award belongs to Staadecker, who was gutsy to join the race even though he has a limited chance of winning. When he didn’t know the answer on a jail question, he said plainly and honestly, “I don’t know.”
Debate identifies leadership style
Despite the fact that the candidates only focused on three issues — transportation, public safety, and education — you can tell what kind of leader they would be from their answers.
During most of his answers, Murray emphasized on coalition building to bring solutions to the City’s problems. I suspect it’s the reason why several organizations have endorsed him. As former mayor Norm Rice said in a speech, one of the most important lessons he learned was the lesson of listening. It’s important to make people feel that they were listened to and to engage them to find solutions together.
Harrell didn’t mince words during his answers, even though they might not be popular. The majority of the candidates said they wanted to be involved in education if they got elected, but Harrell said loud and clear that the mayor “should not take over the (education) system.” With Harrell, you don’t have to guess his position on issues; you’ll know where he stands.
McGinn has four years of experience on the job. One doesn’t need to sit through the debate to know what will happen for the next four years if he gets reelected. For sure, he has learned from former mayor Greg Nickels the mistake of being overconfident resulting in complacency, and thus, being ousted during the primary. McGinn used every opportunity to attack his opponents.
Look around the city and judge for yourself whether you like what you see? Are you proud of what McGinn has done? Or are you angry by what he’s done and not done? Voice your opinion when you go to the voting booth.
I have to admit that Steinbrueck is a puzzle to media. “Who are your advisors?” Balter asked him.
He didn’t answer the question directly. He has come to two of our recent Women of Color Empowered lunches to campaign. But for the past decade, I didn’t hear from him. He was an insider 10 years ago when he was a Seattle City Councilmember, but now he’s an outsider. He promised he would focus on neighborhoods and transparency. But, even though I like what he says, there is no guarantee that he would keep his promise.
Politicians like to tell you everything you want to hear. Once they get elected, their face turns west, their ears go north. That’s my biggest fear. (end)
To read the publisher’s blog in Chinese, visit www.seattlechinesepost.com.