After six years of increasingly progressive governance, Seattle voters have finally had enough. In November, they elected Democrat Bruce Harrell, a moderate former city council president, as the city’s next mayor. Mr. Harrell’s more liberal opponent in the bipartisan mayoral election had campaigned to prevent the city from clearing Seattle’s drug-infested homeless camps and cutting the city’s police budget in half.
Mr Harrell, on the other hand, vowed to make public safety a priority and ensure the city’s spending on homelessness programs follows strict rules to “remove people from sidewalks and out of parks”. He promised to bring some decency back to the city’s increasingly angry political discourse. “I’ve never had to deviate from that message,” he told me in an interview this week.
The election of Mr. Harrell was not the only common sense victory. Sara Nelson, a self-proclaimed “lifelong Democrat,” defeated Nikkita Oliver, a well-known radical activist, for a seat on the city council. And in the race for the city’s attorney, former public defender Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, who vowed to stop prosecuting misdemeanors, lost to a Republican, Ann Davison, who vowed to step up law enforcement.
All three November winners had essentially emerged from Seattle politics just two years ago. Mr Harrell’s political fortune had faltered, and he declined to run for a fourth term in 2019. Then a Democrat, Ms Davison, lost her bid for city council in 2019 by 20 points. She joined the Walk Away movement and switched parties, losing her 2020 lieutenant governor’s bid. Ms. Nelson failed to win a Democratic primary for a council seat in 2017.
So why the sudden setback?
Seattle’s local politics have traditionally been collegial. That spirit faded in the early 2010s as radicals began to invade the city council. Kshama Sawant, a member of the Socialist Alternative Party, pushed the council left with a confrontational style and links to a network of outside pressure groups and Twitter mobs.
When Mayor Jenny Durkan took office in 2018, there was hope that the former federal prosecutor could rein in the progressive council, but Ms Sawant and Seattle’s angry leftist dismissed her as a “corporate Democrat.” Instead of looking for common ground, Ms. Sawant sought conflict and even took part in a march on Ms. Durkan’s home.
Seattle’s politics boiled over in 2020 after the killing of George Floyd. north current‘S
The downtown flagship store was ransacked and looted along with 100 other stores. Police cars were set on fire. Demonstrators gathered outside the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct building, demanding its closure. Day by day the crowd grew in size and intensity. Left councilors came to support the protesters, not the cops.
The fleeing crowd could easily have been diverted to a nearby park, but the city allowed the mob to patrol the streets night after night for ten days. Ms. Durkan gave up, the precinct was closed and barricaded, and the six-block, police-free Capitol Hill Occupied Zone, or CHOP, was born. It was later renamed CHAZ – Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. Ms. Durkan publicly hoped this was the start of a “summer of love,” but instead of Woodstock, Seattle got Altamont. CHAZ has been plagued by violence – assaults, robberies and shootings.
All this misery led to even more extremism in 2021. Ms Oliver’s bid for city council was based on a vow to disappoint the police. Mrs. Thomas-Kennedy, the city’s candidate for prosecutor’s office, expressed support for the idea of abolishing both the police department and the prison. On Christmas Eve 2020, she tweeted her wish for cops to catch Covid.
It was too much for Seattle voters. Mr. Harrell not only won the election, he also won a mandate, beating M. Lorena González by 18 points. Mrs Nelson beat Mrs Oliver by 8 points. And Ms. Davison became the first Republican elected to office in Seattle since the Reagan era.
Seattle’s turnaround will take time. The city’s political culture has been violated by decades of terrible public order, and not just by the mayor and city council. Judges still let armed drug dealers out of jail with long tickets on little or no bail.
Mr. Harrell knows the healing process will be slow. “My strategies have to be sustainable,” he says. He acknowledges the help he will need from the city council and local prosecutors. His immediate goal is to hire more police officers, which is also a priority for Ms. Nelson on the city council. “I’m down 400,” Mr. Harrell said, a reference to the mass layoffs and retirements of Seattle civil servants in recent years.
Mr. Harrell’s other priority is not so specific. He wants to bring back the upbeat, happy city he grew up in. “Seattle has gotten grumpy,” he says. Public sentiment “reflects the angry tone of politics in recent years.” We have to realize, he says, “that most people have the same goals.”
Seattle’s downfall did not happen overnight and will not be resolved overnight. But the healing has begun.
Mr. Carlson is the morning presenter at 570 KVI in Seattle.
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https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-seattle-stepped-back-from-the-progressive-abyss-washington-police-homeless-law-11648236867 How Seattle stepped out of the left abyss