Breaking News
More () »

Seattle mayoral candidates Lorena González and Bruce Harrell debate public health and safety

González and Harrell are vying for the open seat vacated by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who chose not to run for re-election.

SEATTLE — Seattle mayoral candidates Lorena González and Bruce Harrell faced off in their last debate on KONG-TV before the November General Election. 

González and Harrell are vying for the open seat vacated by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who chose not to run for re-election.

Formerly a civil rights attorney, González is the current Seattle City Council president and holds a citywide seat. She was elected as the council’s first Latinx member in 2015.

If elected mayor, she would not only become the third woman to do so, but she would also become the first Latinx mayor in the city of Seattle.

Harrell has served three terms on Seattle City Council, including as president for three years at the end of his time on the council. He also briefly served as mayor when Ed Murray resigned in 2017. At the time, Harrell, who represented District 2 in South Seattle, decided not to run for re-election.

In their first debate, the candidates answered questions about business and the economy and their plans for each. Thursday's final debate focused on questions about public health and safety, but right out of the gate González was also faced with questions about a controversial political ad. 

González was forced to apologize and pull an ad earlier this week that attacked Harrell’s record. The ad featured a sexual assault victim who said it was "horrifying" that Harrell defended former Seattle Mayor Ed Murray

But the spot lacked full context and was quickly labeled by Harrell and his supporters as racist. 

Back in 2017, Harrell was Seattle City Council president when Murray was accused of decades-old assaults on boys. Gonzalez was the first to call for Murray’s removal, but the rest of the council was more cautious, including Harrell.

González, when asked during the debate if she thought the ad was racist, said she has apologized for the "harm" the ad has caused and will continue to apologize to communities of color for "missing the mark." 

RELATED: Campaign ad pulled after it is labeled by Seattle mayoral candidate as racist

Harrell also faced tough questions surrounding the ad. A moderator asked the mayoral candidate how police officers could be expected to treat sexual assault survivors with respect and compassion given the example he has shown surrounding the Murray situation. Harrell pushed back saying he stands with survivors and that he won't be a "tone deaf mayor." 

Below are the candidates' responses to other questions asked surrounding public health and safety: 

Moderator question: The Seattle Police Department (SPD) is down 300 officers since 2020. Chief [Adrian] Diaz has said he'd like to have 1,400 officers. You [Lorena] came out and publicly supported defunding the police department by 50%, do you still hold that position and what size of a police force do you think Seattle should have? 

Lorena González answer: I still think it’s important for the city in this historic moment to continue to evaluate how we can invest in community based safety and non-law enforcement based systems, and what kinds of bodies of work need to go away from the police department to other systems that are more capable of dealing with those issues. That is an important value that I continue to hold, it’s one that I held last summer as well, and I’m going to keep talking about how we can continue to not just simply reform a police department or find a new officer but how we are actually going to transform public safety in a way that produces true, equitable community safety throughout the city. Now, I have supported and will continue to support fully funding the hiring plans proposed, but the hard work of evaluating what the right size is, is about outcomes, and the outcomes for me is about making sure that our children come home at night and don’t suffer police violence.

Moderator follow-up question: When it comes to reimagining public safety - what does that look like? Where is that public safety for those communities that don't feel they're being protected? 

Lorena González answer: There are also a number of people in our community who feel that they are over-policed, especially within our communities of color. And I’ve also heard a lot from them about how they want responsible public safety services that aren’t going to result in bodily harm or death to them, and what they want is a police department that has less bias. They want a de-militarized police department. We want to hold bad cops accountable and we want to create the highest accountability standards possible and hold the line on SPOG so we can truly achieve reform.

Moderator question directed at Harrell: What size do you think the Seattle Police Department should be and what formally would you use to come up with that? 

Bruce Harrell answer: So, in terms of the traditional number of police officers that is always one of the metrics that we use, around 1,550, authorized positions. When I was public safety chair for four years, right before my opponent, we had 1,550 authorized positions, we had 1,432 field. Under her [Lorena] chair, she became the chair of public safety after I did, we lost 143 officers – that would be 40 officers per precinct. This has a real effect on our ability to respond to crimes in progress, seven-minute response times. My opponent has reviewed many budgets, perhaps five, and so they want a mayor with just straight talk. Now, we will reimagine the police department. We will recruit from communities, we will have a new kind of police officer, one that does not carry a gun and badge, we will work with communities and have a citywide summit – going to neighborhoods and ask them: What does public safety look like to you? But make no mistake about it, in her approach, and she is on record saying she’s going to defund by 50%. She also went by the Northwest Progressive Institute and said if that were to be achieved, she’d have to lay off every single officer. So you would think a person well-versed in the budget after five budget cycles would know what the personnel cost of the department. That was a knee-jerk reaction and the city deserves a more thoughtful approach to public safety.

Lorena González rebuttal: Actually, the words that I said that would have to lay off every person was actually what I said in response to a proposal from a different colleague who was bringing forward a 50% reduction. Those are the words I said in support of my vote “no” on that particular measure. Now, my opponent wants us to believe that they only issue at the Seattle Police Department is staffing, is hiring. But let’s be real, there are deep seated culture issues at SPD, from having the largest contingent of folks at the insurrection, two officers got fired in that, and from refusing to comply with their vaccine mandate. These are deep seated problems that the next mayor must understand, appreciate and get to work immediately.   

Watch the full second debate below or on the KING 5 YouTube Channel: 

Download our free KING 5 app to stay up-to-date on news stories from across western Washington.

RELATED: Washington state 2021 general election voter's guide

RELATED: Seattle mayoral candidates Lorena González and Bruce Harrell debate business, economy

Watch the full first debate below or on the KING 5 YouTube Channel

Before You Leave, Check This Out