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Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell not seeking re-election

Council President Bruce Harrell announced he would not seek re-election, becoming the third Seattle council member to do so.

Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell will not run for re-election. 

Harrell made the announcement Tuesday, and marks the third council member to make a similar declaration. But his decision is markedly different. 

Harrell has presided over the Council since 2016 and briefly served as Seattle Mayor in 2017. He’s been on the Council since 2008.

“It's time for me to move on,” he said in an interview in his council office Tuesday. “My goal was not to do 16 years; my goal was to finish a third term.”

As the lead Council member, Harrell is responsible for crafting legislation and finding consensus. He also has led weekly Council meetings and interaction with the public.

His decision comes as public opinion polls have shown significant disapproval of the Council and its direction. The head tax debacle of 2018 put the Council, Harrell, and the City in a national spotlight. Yet, Harrell has been seen as one of the more patient and centrist members of the governing body. 

According to his Council bio, Bruce attended K-12 in Seattle Public Schools, graduating from Garfield High and played football for the University of Washington. He was subsequently elected to the UW Alumni Board of Trustees. Harrell also received the 2007 University of Washington Distinguished Alumni Award in Political Science and 2008 Husky Legend Award.

It was clear to Harrell, reflecting on Tuesday, that the Council has changed since his first day in office. 

“Lot of disenchantment, lot of anger. It’s hard to have a rational discussion often,” he said, noting the Council’s meetings have evolved as well. 

“If a person is just yelling, or just an ideologue shouting out their rhetoric at another person, that's not a healthy discourse,” said Harrell. 

The Council President listed the race and social justice initiative and providing high speed internet to needy children as highlights. He also had a significant regret.

“I wish that we would have found a way to create such a public outrage that we would still have the Sonics here,” he said, “But in hindsight, and my staff reminds me this about daily, that maybe we could have led the charge to keep the Sonics here stronger than we did.”

He faced opposition on re-election, however, in 2015. His opponent then, Tammy Morales, just announced her candidacy Monday for Seattle City Council, along with the endorsement of Washington Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.

Previously, Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw and Rob Johnson said they would not seek re-election.

“President Harrell has been a mentor to me and a super leader on City Council," Bagshaw said. "He and his staff have contributed greatly to our city, specifically focusing on public safety, public education and making our government responsive to a wide variety of needs. I have always appreciated his solid Seattle roots, his sense of humor and his willingness to search for solutions that benefit everyone. [District 2] has been well represented.”

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan added, “Bruce has been a friend and colleague for over 30 years. For decades, he has worked tirelessly for our communities and for a more inclusive Seattle. Since our days together in law school at the University of Washington, I have known him to be a man of compassion and justice. Like his parents, Bruce cares deeply about and works to improve our communities. As mayor, I have sought his advice and partnered with him to deliver on our shared priorities, like free ORCA passes for youth, two years of free college for Seattle Public Schools high school students, and new gun safety legislation. I look forward to continuing to work with Bruce for the remainder of his term to create a more affordable, just, and vibrant city of the future.”

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