By Mahlon Meyer
Northwest Asian Weekly
Splashed with light and decked with orange and green balloons, the podium remained empty for several moments. Then Monisha Harrell, the niece of the candidate and his campaign manager, took the stage, and in tears, announced her uncle was coming.
“I’m very emotional,” said Bruce Harrell, who minutes earlier had been declared the front-runner in early results in the Seattle mayoral race. “I have my family and my close friends here with me.”
After thanking about 200 of his supporters who turned out on a wet, cold rainy night on the evening of Nov. 2, he shouted, “So we’re going to bring Seattle back together!”
Cheers went up around the large hall. Supporters hugged each other. And Harrell was bombarded with well-wishers after he left the stage.
If only governing were so easy. The challenges Harrell faces are immense. And even on a night of celebration—it could be weeks before all mail-in ballots are counted—many of them were on display, even in the surroundings and atmosphere of his victory party.
Homelessness was a major theme, not only in Harrell’s remarks. Its urgency was evident even in the environs of the party.
Homeless people filled the sidewalk near Block 41, where the party was held. They crossed in the middle of the street, followed a reporter for half a block, and asked for money. Outside the door, a burly security guard with a top knot, who said he just arrived from Hawaii, checked all guests carefully.
As in other parts of his speech, Harrell again and again thanked his family, his team, and his supporters, building upon a theme of inclusiveness to tackle the city’s major issues.
“We can actually solve homelessness, but we can fix the problem only when we work together,” he said.
It was the same with the police. Harrell said the process of making any changes in the police department must include dialogue.
“I understand racism and unfairness by our police department, but I want my kids safe,” he said.
The Seattle Police Department has been under a federal consent decree, rare for a West Coast city, since 2012 for violent and possibly racist policing.
Adding to the woes of the department, during the Black Lives Matter protests last year, officers were regularly caught on video, violently beating protesters and tear gassing and beating crowds.
Since then, with calls to defund the police filling the Seattle City Council, hundreds of police officers have resigned or left for adjacent municipalities.
Some reports say response time to 911 calls is over an hour.
Harrell, who had vowed not to defund the police, had been leading heavily in polls for weeks.
But both before and after the announcement of results, there were signs of tensions that could signal challenges for Harrell’s goal of governing through unity.
By 7:30 p.m., as the party moved into full swing, a half hour before Harrell arrived, the atmosphere already seemed fully disconnected from the problems outside on the street.
When the results were announced at 8:10 p.m., pandemonium broke out. A screen at the front of the hall showed that Harrell was ahead with 84,975 votes compared to 46,046 for González—a lead of 64.63% versus 35.02%.
Some supporters placed their beverages on a roving tray. Meanwhile, raucous cries erupted, soon replaced by a deep throaty chant of “Bruce! Bruce! Bruce!”
At 8:15 p.m., when Harrell took the stage, he returned repeatedly to the theme of unity. He compared future challenges to his election campaign.
“I did not do this by myself, I had a team.”
He said people supported him for what he stood for, and that’s why so many people turned out with a common belief.
“They believed in me, they believed in our message.”
But even a subsequent joke he made perhaps belied fears of that very unity he was seeking.
Scanning the crowd, he added, “Except for a few people I saw, and I wondered how did they get in?”
In closing, Harrell grew serious and impassioned. It was as if he sensed he was speaking now to a crowd he had to convince. Some of the faces were already beginning to show signs of weariness. Some people shifted unsteadily.
“The city has enormous potential. When we talk about social justice,” he said, pausing.
“I’m just going to ask for a show of hands—how many here are half Japanese, half Black?”
Harrell, who is both Black and Japanese American, laughed to himself. But then he grew serious again.
“The point is that when I grew up, and we’re talking about race issues and character, it was very difficult, I always had to struggle to find out what I am.”
He promised “a new conversation” on homelessness and the other issues facing Seattle.
Norm Rice, the first Black mayor of Seattle, stood beside him. The two men embraced each other. Rice closed with the following, “I have tears in my eyes and joy in my heart because we couldn’t have found a better person.”
Somebody yelled, “We’ve got a new mayor!”
Harrell’s opponent, González, said in a statement that she wasn’t conceding yet. She noted late-arriving votes and “the fact that the votes of so many of our voters, who tend to vote at the very end, have not been counted means we may not know until late in the week or next week who the next mayor will be.”
Mahlon can be contacted at email@example.com.
In other races where AAPI candidates were running, it appears that King County Executive Dow Constantine will keep his seat, defeating Joe Nguyen.
And in the race for Port of Seattle Commissioner, Toshiko Hasegawa and Peter Steinbreuck are neck and neck, each getting 50% of the vote.
AAPI candidates are also leading in the following races:
City of Bellevue, Council Position No. 2
√ Conrad Lee 56%
Dexter Borbe 44%
East Bellevue Community Municipal Corporation, Council Position No. 5
√ Chiho Lai 56%
City of Clyde Hill, Council Position No. 3
√ Kim Muromoto 93%
City of Issaquah, Council Position No. 5
√ Russell Joe 63%
City of Kent, Council Position No. 2
√ Satwinder Kaur 97%
City of Lake Forest Park, Council Position No. 5
√ Tracy Furutani 56%
City of Newcastle, Council Position No. 5
√ Pratima Lakhotia 53%
City of Newcastle, Council Position No. 9
√ Frank Irigon 52%
City of Sammamish, Council Position No. 1
√ Amy Lam 51%
Bellevue School District No. 405, Director District No. 3
√ Joyce Shui 68%
Faye Yang 32%
Bellevue School District No. 405, Director District No. 5
√ Jane Aras 63%
Highline School District No. 401, Director District No. 3
√ Joe Van 83%
Lake Washington School District No. 414, Director District No. 3
√ Leah Choi 54%
Seattle School District No. 4, Director District No. 4
√ Vivian Song Maritz 68%
*These are numbers from the initial round election returns released shortly after 8 p.m. on Nov. 2. Additional results are typically released daily. The secretary of state will certify results by Dec. 2.
If there are any AAPI candidates we missed, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.