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Twitter spats and smack talk — another week in Seattle politics

Downtown Seattle is front and center in the mayor’s race this week.

Seattle City Council President Lorena González tweeted about her refusal to answer a Downtown Seattle Association candidate questionnaire about how she would approach downtown's recovery.

“I declined to answer because our city cannot afford a mayor who believes that recovery should be focused exclusively on big corporations," González said.

And she wasn't the only one at the center of a political kerfuffle.

The question the DSA asked was pretty benign, bland even, with questions like: “Please describe the city’s role in helping downtown recover. What is your recovery plan for downtown, and how would you propose to implement it?”

"How is that too exclusive [to big business]?" asks Joni Balter, host of Seattle City Club’s Civic Cocktail on the Seattle Channel, adding that González seemed to be signaling to voters that she will push back against business giants like Amazon.

"I consider this a campaign blunder," Balter said. "First of all, downtown is a collection of neighborhoods — Pioneer Square, International District, South Lake Union — neighborhoods filled with thousands of small businesses."

caption: Seattle City Council President and mayoral candidate Lorena González drew criticism after declining to comment on what she would do to help Downtown Seattle recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Her team tweeted these details as she spoke to the Downtown Seattle Association on June 29.
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Seattle City Council President and mayoral candidate Lorena González drew criticism after declining to comment on what she would do to help Downtown Seattle recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Her team tweeted these details as she spoke to the Downtown Seattle Association on June 29.

And Balter says González doubled down on her point during a virtual DSA forum.

"Downtown is the economic engine of the city. And González sounded not like a mayor of an entire city," Balter adds.

González and her team also got involved in some political fisticuffs this week, engaging in what KUOW politics reporter David Hyde aptly called "smack talk."

In another candidate forum (on the same day of the DSA forum) González defended her stance on downtown's recovery. Also, someone implied that Echohawk is too cozy with outgoing Mayor Jenny Durkan who has lost favor with the left.

Echohawk's response was basically, according to Hyde: Look, I care so deeply about my homeless advocacy work that I do what’s necessary to be effective.

And, specifically, she said, “I’ll be honest, I sucked up to power.”

A political operative for González tweeted the comment without context, sparking a heated exchange mostly between political consultants and former official on Twitter — a platform hardly known to facilitate constructive conversation for the good of the public.

Best to ignore the drama, voters.

"From a voter perspective, this is a total sideshow," he says. "And certainly not a great example of substantive differences between these two candidates."

And that's what's really going on here, Balter says: The candidates are desperate to distinguish themselves in this very crowd field of very similar ideologies.

"This is a performative struggle for the Stranger endorsement, and if things work as they often have in the past, that endorsement helps a candidate land one of two spots in a top-two primary," she says.

That's why Hyde is encouraging everyone to take a deep breath.

"Beside the Twitter wars, are Colleen Echohawk and Lorena Gonzalez really so different in terms of what they want to do?" he says. "Jessyn Farrell? Even Bruce Harrell? Yes, he is more business friendly, but on any national scale he is a very liberal guy. So I would just say ... the outcome of this mayor’s race may not be as consequential as a lot of people may think."