Last week I joined KUOW’s The Record Host Bill Radke, Q13 Fox Political Analyst, C.R. Douglas, and Senior Vice President at Civic Ventures, Jessyn Farrell, for a spirited debate on Week in Review. We covered a range of topics from local initiatives, King County going Blue, Amazon’s HQ2 news and whale watching. Listen Now.

Recently the Seattle-based digital news publication, The Evergrey, asked a very important question: We may know what each of candidates’ political platforms is, but what will they be as leaders? I worked in human resources for a decade. I understand how critical this is, yet I never questioned why we don’t do this in society. Why we don’t demand that debates include questions that urge candidates to reflect on their past work experience and share what they learned. How they failed and succeeded.

The opportunity to actually ask our mayoral candidates themselves these types of questions thrilled me. The Evergrey’s Leadership Lab was the opportunity. Along with a few other engaged members of the community, I sat down to 45-minute interviews with Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon. Again, our job was to steer them away from policy and push for information about how they lead. You can get the details on these two interviews, plus interviews with our four city council candidates at The Evergrey.

In this election, it’s sometimes difficult to make out the differences between two candidates. All of them are pushing for more taxes, bigger city government and no real solution to homelessness and housing affordability. For someone who believes in a fiscally conservative approach to our city’s problems, you may just want to skip voting altogether this election. But learning the leadership skills of each candidate has made me believe there will be a profound difference in how each of them tries to tackle their policies, and how people with our viewpoints will fair. Here are a few takeaways from each conversation.

Cary Moon

Photo Credit: The Evergrey


I left my interview with Cary feeling like I understand her as a human being more, rather than just a politician with a specific platform. Hearing how Cary has approached her leadership roles in the past helps me to better predict what kind of mayor she would be. I think it would very different from what we’ve experienced in Seattle. There was such a huge emphasis on the systemic racism of Seattle, yet no specific evidence or data to support her claims. A leader wants data. A leader needs evidence to drive decisions and changes. I did not get much from Cary. There was another point in the conversation where Cary went on to discuss the time where she took over the family business at a factory in Michigan. The cultural differences were stark between Cary and the employees. Cary told us there was a point where someone referred to her as a “career girl.” After that, she made some changes and then everything was great. That’s it? Where were the pain points? Where did you clash? How did you decide what changes would benefit both the employees and company culture the most, and why? The details were skipped. The data was not shared. That worries me. Cary says she wants to be bold and pursue big ideas. Big ideas are great, but that’s after the boring, tedious, details are sorted out first.

Jenny Durkan

Photo Credit: The Evergrey

Our conversation with Jenny Durkan was an interesting contrast. Speaking of data, I really appreciated one reflection on Seattle’s Decent Decree. As the U.S. Attorney who helped create it, Durkan has faced a lot of criticism for not taking the decree far enough. Her reasoning? She didn’t have the data to support it. Upon reflection, she would have looked for more creative ways to get it. I appreciate this approach. Leaders cannot just make changes based on gut feelings. There should be evidence-based strategies. Learning about Durkan’s work for LGTBQ rights in Washington state also left a strong impression on me. She is resilient. She understands how to work within the system and collaborate with people who have different viewpoints (Washington Republicans who did not support LGBTQ rights at the time) to make positive change. And, willing to come out of the closet while working as an attorney in the 90’s shows she can lead the way for others. Of course, I can’t forget that Durkan supports our city income tax, more housing vouchers and other policies that will give Seattle another fiscal hit. If elected, I hope she will reflect on her leadership in the past and use data, systems and ALL people to help drive her policy.

The ballots have been counted, and although they will not be certified until August 15, it appears our two candidates for Seattle mayor will be Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon. Yes, there has been talk about a recount, but I’m going to put my money on these two.

With Nikkita Oliver being narrowly defeated in third place, it’s time to queue the victims. In an almost laughable turn of events, some voters who support Oliver (endorsed by the “People’s Party”) want Moon to step down so Oliver can be on the ballot. Let me say this again… The People’s Party! Doesn’t the fact that the people spoke and the people chose Durkin and Moon mean anything? Doesn’t the fact the people of color, low-income, LGBTQ, etc. had an opportunity to vote and they chose these two candidates over Oliver? How would this act be just? How would it reflect our nation’s principle of the democratic process?

I am most concerned about this proposal when I reflect on the Women’s Suffrage Movement and the Civil Rights Movement. People were beaten, jailed and even killed fighting for the right to vote, for their equal voice in elections. Sam Keller, a West Seattle resident and supporter of Oliver wrote in an open letter published on The Stranger, “A mayoral race between you [Moon] and Durkan will be two wealthy white women deciding what working-poor people of color really need. How will that end gentrification? How will that produce racial diversity? How can people of color, renters, people who are homeless, people who are underemployed, and/or people who have less than $400 in their savings account—like the average American—see themselves in this race? We can’t.” Keller distills all this down to lazy identity politics. She fails to focus on the fact the both Durkan and Moon are women. That Durkan is a lesbian. No, Oliver has more minority points, so only she can support other minorities. Keller also brushes over both Durkan and Moon’s strong resumes. Perhaps that’s why voters leaned more towards their candidacies. But most importantly, she forgets the foundation of our country is democracy, driven by the voice of the voters.

All the people asking Moon to step down are missing a fundamental point. Voter turnout was less than 34%. I am sure the 66% who sat out this election included many “people of color, renters, people who are homeless, people who are underemployed, and/or people who have less than $400 in their savings account.” Why aren’t we asking why they didn’t take action to get Oliver the votes she needed? Washington state makes it easier to vote than most. We mail our ballots, so no need to get the day off of work. You don’t even need to buy that stamp. There are voting centers to help those who need assistance filling out their ballots. There are even organizations who help homeless residents exercise their right to vote. We are living in a society that more and more expects to receive without action. Expects the government to fix its problems without contribution. Expects the candidate you want to be elected without even casting a vote. It is time we change our perspective.

This week’s Seattle Mayoral debate discussed a lot about how our city has been negatively impacted by the rapid growth we are currently experiencing. The culprit— “rich developers” and “tech.” Yes, there should be more conversation about how we can all share the load of responsibility and cost that comes with rapid growth. However, last night was an opportunity for a candidate to open up the conversation about the endless resources of technology and innovation we have at our disposal in our own backyard.

For every real challenge we are facing, there are millions of dollars and hours of research going into finding efficient solutions that scale. Right here in our community, we have businesses developing cutting-edge technology tackling many of these hot topics including affordable urban housing, shelter for the homeless, and transit, just to name a few. Where was the idea for a government-technology coalition? With City Hall spending up about $2,000 per resident in the last four years, you would think efficiency and scale would be at the top of the priority list. At a minimum, how about a discussion around data analytics? We are experiencing an unprecedented level of new taxation, and yet no clear reporting on whether this tax spending has been effective. I know of a firm or two that would be more than happy to take a stab at the budget.

Partnering with companies to help bring solutions while collaborating on our growth should have been mentioned by at least once by a single candidate last night. But instead, it was an evening of pandering. Once again we watched big business be blamed for all that’s wrong with Seattle. That attitude is not going end a regressive tax system. Or relive our traffic congestion. Or support the most vulnerable in our community.

As we approach the August 1 Primary Election, I hope we as a city resolve to shed our partisan viewpoints and instead strive to find sustainable solutions. Let’s drop the status quo and get innovative.