The deadline for returning ballots for Washington's August 1 Primary is now less than one week away, which means Seattle will be one step closer to selecting its next mayor.
KING 5 political reporter Natalie Brand is spending time this week behind the scenes with the top candidates in the race to see their campaigns in action during this final push.
We started by tagging along with State Senator Bob Hasegawa, whose Beacon Hill home has turned into campaign headquarters filled with signs, supporters, and volunteers.
“This last week things are really ramping up, vertical line on activity,” said Sen. Hasegawa. “We're doing really well. Hitting all the different parts of the city and you can see the excitement building.”
The Washington lawmaker has relied heavily on his grassroots network, since he was frozen out of fundraising during the legislative special session that only just ended last week.
“It's amazing that we're here,” said Hasegawa of all of his volunteer support on the campaign. “People said it couldn't be done. There was so much skepticism.”
On the stump, Hasegawa has stressed his legislative experience and labor union roots, as a former Teamsters leader.
“See, this is where my UPS training comes in handy!” he joked while plotting out his door belling list.
He says the issues he's hearing about the most on the doors include affordability and liveability in a city he's watched rapidly change.
“The big issue, obviously, is homelessness and cost of living of housing and displacement,” said Hasegawa.
“That’s number one, and then the liveability aspect of it.You just can’t get anywhere anymore; traffic is so gummed up. Those are the two key issues that I’ve been hearing everywhere.”
Meanwhile, in northeast Seattle, KING 5 tagged along with former State Representative Jessyn Farrell as she hit the doors in her home turf.
“We are out in the city in force,” said Farrell. “Our campaign has knocked on over 13,000 doors, and we think we're going to get to 18 or 19,000 by Tuesday.”
Farrell, also a working mom, is no stranger to marathon door belling or multi-tasking.
“This will be my fourth race. In my first race, I had a four-year-old and a two-year-old, and I would doorbell between nap time. I called it extreme door belling because I'd run from house to house,” she said while power walking a neighborhood near Green Lake.
While a citywide race makes it near impossible to reach every single door, hitting as many as possible is a strategy Farrell believes could pay off on election night.
“We are hearing that there are a lot of undecided voters. That just is a theme. People are looking at all these candidates, so we really feel that that door to door touch matters.”
On the doors, Farrell stresses she’s the candidate with now three young children in public schools who believes the next mayor needs to be a “partner” with the city’s public schools.
Farrell also calls herself a transportation policy nerd and champion of progressive policies in Olympia, where she served in the Legislature for the past five years. She resigned her seat in late May to focus on the mayoral race full time.
The top issue she’s hearing about? It's also affordability.
“People are really, deeply worried,” she said. “Whether you own your own house and you’re worried about property taxes, or whether you’re a renter, people are really worried about it, and that’s a theme across the city.”
Still to come, behind the scenes profiles with four more of the top mayoral campaigns through the rest of the week.
Ninety-one supporter house parties is Nikkita Oliver's goal.
“To represent the 91 years since we've had a woman as mayor in the city of Seattle,” Oliver explained. “At every house party, there's an opportunity for myself and the campaign to sit down and have real conversations with people.”
A connection that Oliver says energizes her, despite the exhaustion of running for mayor while working full-time or recovering from an unexpected dog bite injury this week.
Leading up to the primary, Oliver has held listening sessions with people of all walks, from homeowners to homeless and everyone in between.
“Our team is living the lives of the people that we're talking about representing. We're not just purporting to represent those interests. We represent them because we live them," she told supporters at a house party in Leschi Wednesday evening.
Oliver describes her campaign as a movement; she's running under the newly formed Seattle People's Party
“If we're going to be a government by the people and for the people, a lot more of the people should have the opportunity to be public servants,” she said.
“It's also time to show that you can run for office, and you can be authentic and you can be unapologetic about representing the interests of the most vulnerable, and the most marginalized and the most disenfranchised in our city,” Oliver continued.
Her message is resonating with the grassroots. Oliver says she has more than 1,100 volunteers and has raised more than $120,000 in individual donations.
“I take people's hope very seriously. It makes it easy to get up in the morning when I know there are so many other folks that are feeling hopeful in a time when we could really give into political apathy.”
Showcasing the political skill and swagger of a candidate who’s been mayor before, Mike McGinn clearly felt at home while on a tour of small businesses in South Seattle near Othello Station.
“Thank you for putting up a sign!” he told one business owner.
“So, how’s business? How long have you been here?” McGinn asked.
McGinn casually chatted with a handful of Vietnamese and Somali business owners in and around King Plaza. In between stopping in store fronts, longtime supporters stopped McGinn in the street for a handshake and hello.
As if on cue, one man even pulled out his ballot from his car and voted on the spot while younger supporters introduced McGinn to Snapchat.
“I love this,” McGinn smiled.
“I’m literally collecting votes down here,” he laughed.
“In this community, presence means a lot, relationships mean a lot,” McGinn continued.
The former mayor prides himself in listening to minority communities when he held office for a term starting in 2010, a year when Seattle and the nation faced recession.
“Eight years ago, it was about how are we going to get jobs and support people. Now, the issue is how do we deal with the effects of rising rents and home prices and costs and rising taxes. That's what I'm hearing,” said McGinn.
A different set of challenges this time around, but a casual campaign style that’s remained the same. His campaign calls him the "people’s mayor."
“The further I get away from City Hall, the better I do. That’s just been my experience,” said McGinn.
“I’ll walk into some downtown fancy building, meet with some power brokers, and I know I’m going to get all the skepticism, and the security guard or the guy at the lobby says, 'Mayor McGinn, you’ve got my vote.' It is what it is.”
In these final days and hours, the goal is to reach as many voters as possible. It’s a reason why candidate Cary Moon has targeted transit stations around town to greet Seattleites on their way to work.
“Morning! I’m Cary Moon running for mayor,” she waved.
“I voted for you,” said one man passing by who commented that she seemed smart.
“Nerds win!” she laughed after he had passed.
Moon, an engineer and urban planner is known as a policy wonk, especially when it comes to affordable housing.
“I want to solve the housing affordability crisis or at least make a big dent and stop the speculation that's part of increasing prices, because we're pushing out too many of our friends and neighbors,” Moon told one potential voter who stopped to chat.
Moon says affordability is the issue she hears again and again.
“They bring up look what happened to San Francisco, look what happened to Vancouver, how can we make sure we're not on either of those paths, and people are really concerned about that and the number of people being pushed into homelessness and why can't we get ahead on that problem.”
“So what are you going to do with homeless camps,” asked another voter. “I think we need to build more low barrier shelters,” Moon responded.
When someone else asked her about policing and safety, she said she planned to do a ride-along in the South precinct this weekend to understand more about the shootings in the area.
Moon is a first-time candidate, trying to absorb as much as possible, as quickly as possible.
I really want to be mayor and I really want to keep solving these problems from whatever position.
When asked what’s surprised her the most on the campaign trail, she responded “I'm an introvert, and I thought it would be exhausting, but honestly it's been really energizing because people are so concerned about the future of our city and everyone wants to be part of the solution.”
Each neighborhood center in Seattle has a slightly different feel and different challenges.
“So tell me about this block,” Jenny Durkan asked while on a walking tour in West Seattle.
The former U.S. Attorney has visited more a dozen neighborhoods around Seattle, and admits she's worn out shoes in the process.
“I usually try to do both a walking tour and sit down with people from the neighborhoods, social service providers, small business, and I'm hearing some very common themes,” said Durkan.
Homelessness and affordability top the list of worries she's hearing about the most.
“I think there's a real angst in the city, but I also think everywhere I go, I swear, every person is there because they believe we can be better.”
While KING 5 tagged along, Durkan hit a handful of small businesses in the West Seattle Junction.
“This year has been tough for us,” admitted one restaurant owner.
“What do you think of all the growth?” she asked another. “I'm not against it. We just have to adjust to it.”
In a city adjusting to rapid change, Durkan argues Seattle is at a pivotal point. She calls it a crossroads and cites it as a key reason she's running.
“I think this election is about what will the next generation of Seattle look like,” Durkan told a voter who asked why she decided to run.
“It’s a little terrifying,” the voter continued while finishing lunch at West 5 restaurant on California. “Not only with this whole affordability problem, but just with the transportation issues. We don't have the infrastructure. I'm so concerned.”
“We went from being a big town to a large city overnight, and none of our infrastructure was ready; our roads, our transportation, our transit, our social services agencies, the homeless explosion, they weren't able to deal with it,” Durkan responded. “I think we have a lot of catching up to do, because the growth is not going to stop. So, we have to figure out as a city how we’re going to grow gracefully.”
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