PubliCola Candidate Ratings: King County Council Position 6, Richard Mitchell

By PublicolaPicks October 21, 2011

Sticking with our commitment to be a more objective and balanced source of news (yep, this “liberal” site is the site that broke the story that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee was stopped by the state from trying to transfer unlimited “surplus funds” from his congressional campaign to his campaign for governor), we’re doing things differently this year than we have in the past.

Inspired by the even-keeled Seattle/King County Municipal League’s approach to candidates (rather than endorsing, the Muni League rates based on skill, experience, and policy acumen as opposed to ideology), we’ve been talking to candidates and interviewing folks on both sides of the ballot measures and coming up with our own ratings.

(Here’s our take on I-1125, the tolling initiative, our take on I-1183, the liquor privatization measure, and I-1163, the health care worker training initiative. And here's our rating of King County Council Position 6 incumbent Jane Hague.)

We’re grading the candidates on: Resume; Knowledge of the Issues; and Their To-Do List & Ability to Get it Done. We’ll also be issuing Bonus Points and Demerits.

Our scale: Exceptional; Above Average; Acceptable; So-so; Unimpressive; Unacceptable.

King County Council District 6. 

Richard Mitchell, challenger

Resume: Above Average

While Mitchell doesn't have any direct experience as an elected official, his background as counsel to Gov. Chris Gregoire, an urban planner, an architect, a longtime resident of the Eastside (not to mention about a thousand appointments to various task forces, authorities, and commissions), is both impressive and diverse. And his political inclinations---he describes himself as fiscally conservative and socially progressive---match the socially blue, economically red Sixth council district.


For someone who's never worked in county government, his grasp of the issues is impressive.



Knowledge of the Issues : Above Average

Mitchell has a firm grasp of how the individual problems facing King County interconnect and why they can't be solved in isolation---why, for example, you can't increase transit access without tackling land use and sprawl, or improve public safety without adequately funding social, health, and human services. He gets the arguments for building transit-oriented development near economic hubs, including in the suburbs, as well as the need to take on the county's current unsustainable finances. And he understands the challenge of coordinating the region's many separate transit systems. For someone who's never worked in county government, his grasp of the issues is impressive.

To-Do List and Ability to Get it Done: Acceptable

Mitchell's campaign has been largely focused on criticizing his opponent for failing to lead and identifying areas where he feels the county council has fallen short. He's been vague, however, on what his preferred solutions are. Pointing out problems is one thing and devising solutions is another; it's unclear whether Mitchell has a systematic plan for tackling all the problems he identifies.

Bonus Points
Mitchell's endorsement list is impressive. The Seattle/King County Municipal League ranked him "outstanding"---two notches above incumbent Hague, who received a ranking of "good"---and his supporters include a broad range of unions, environmentalists, newspapers (including the conservative Seattle Times), Democratic groups, and elected officials.

Mitchell has run a campaign that has, at times, been truly nasty, bringing up Hague's DUI and resumé padding gaffe as evidence that the five-term council member lacks "integrity." Capable challengers shouldn't have to resort to name-calling and vague accusations and intimations of "ethical failings."

Moreover, some of Mitchell's  attacks have been downright dishonest: For example, he accused Hague of failing to lead on Metro transit funding. In fact, Hague took a tough vote against her party in favor of saving Metro for two years instead of sending a temporary funding package out to a (very uncertain) public vote.

Notable newspaper endorsements include the Seattle Times.

Notable contributors: The Washington State Democratic Committee, the Metro union (Amalgamated Transit Union 587).
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