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Who supports who in Seattle's mayoral election?: This week in politics

caption: Lorena González and Bruce Harrell are candidates on the November 2021 ballot for Seattle mayor.
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Lorena González and Bruce Harrell are candidates on the November 2021 ballot for Seattle mayor.
Photos courtesy of Lorena González and Bruce Harrell

Politics are shifting in Seattle as candidates who did not make the cut in August's primary are now starting to pick sides between the top two mayoral contenders.

Bruce Harrell and Lorena González will appear on the November ballot for mayor. So who supports who in Seattle? The answer may come down to how Seattle defines "progressive" and "moderate."

Political analyst Joni Balter and Seattle Channel moderator Brian Callanan joined Angela King for KUOW's weekly Friday politics round up. First: how are things settling in Seattle after the primary election? Second: with more mandates and a return to masking, how is Washington Gov. Jay Insee's popularity faring?

Who supports who in Seattle?

Balter says that Harrell is the moderate out of the two mayoral candidates. She argues he is the safer of the two after more than a year of unrest under the current Council. Yet, primary candidate and former State Representative Jessyn Farrell — who is decidedly to the left of Harrell — has thrown her support behind him.

Balter says she stunned her supporters by endorsing Harrell, so she called Farrell to ask the big question: Why?

"She told me, for her, it's all about gun violence prevention. She called this an all-hands-on-deck moment," Balter says of her conversation with Farrell. "That’s what is in her heart. I think we have to respect that."

The current Seattle City Council members are split along familiar lines on who they prefer for the job.

Councilmembers Debora Juarez and Alex Pedersen, the more moderate members, are endorsing Harrell.

The more progressive colleagues — Councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Andrew Lewis, Tammy Morales and Teresa Mosqueda — are supporting González.

"Do these voices matter?" Callanan says. "In one sense, yes. Because after four years of bitterness between the Council and Mayor Durkan’s office, this City Council is looking for a better working relationship," which they might just get considering both candidates have Council experience.

"In another sense," Callanan continues, "polls show the Council is very unpopular right now. So gaining their support is not something you’d put first on the resume."

Bottom line, he says: This race is going to be a close one.

And it's going to force voters to consider what it really means to be a "progressive" or a "moderate" in a city like Seattle.

Vaccine mandates and Gov. Inslee's popularity

Governor Jay Inslee has re-instituted a statewide, indoor mask requirement, which goes into effect August 23.

He also announced this week that all education employees — public and private, including early learning and higher education — must get vaccinated against Covid-19 by October 18 or lose their jobs.

This comes one week after the governor ordered a vaccine mandate for most public state employees.

While that may sound a bit harsh — the prospect of someone losing their job for non-compliance — Covid cases are rising “almost vertically," as Inslee put it, because of the delta variant and ongoing vaccine resistance.

Other states have made similar moves. Inslee's mandate stands out, though, because he did not include a testing option for employees who do not want to get vaccinated; similar mandates, including in California, are allowing employees to instead submit to regular coronavirus tests. Inslee argues that's not an effective means of slowing the spread of the virus; not when medical experts agree the majority of new cases are concentrated among the unvaccinated.

Still, it's not an entirely done deal.

The Washington Education Association supports the mandate for school employees, but like other bargaining units for state employees, they'll be negotiating for the "equitable" implementation of the rule.

These loose ends might make you wonder: Will Inslee face political ramifications for this choice?

RELATED: At WA Ferries, vaccine mandate looms amidst 'unprecedented' worker shortages

"I think we are sort of lucky, oddly, that we have a third-term governor who doesn’t need to run every idea by a focus group or a kitchen cabinet of advisors," says political analyst and contributing columnist Joni Balter. "He is just using a common-sense-o-meter ... There will be questions about why we have to have the most extreme mandate. The answer is: for our own safety."

Brian Callanan, moderator and host at the Seattle Channel, agrees. He's more interested in what will happen to someone like Washington State University football coach Nick Rolovich.

Rolovich is the highest-paid state employee in Washington and the only unvaccinated head football coach in the Pac-12. He made headlines last month when he said he wouldn't get vaccinated for "private reasons."

Now, he says he will comply with the governor's vaccination mandate for school employees. Whether that means he'll get the shots or seek an exemption is unclear.

In any case, as Balter argues, Inslee's political standing is probably safe.

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