2021 Election

Reintroducing Bruce Harrell, Seattle's Next Mayor

The former three-term city council member defeated M. Lorena González after ditching retirement.

By Benjamin Cassidy November 5, 2021

Bruce Harrell at the podium

"We got to bring Seattle back together," Harrell said at his election night party.

Okay, now we can say it: Bruce Harrell will be Seattle's next mayor.

Though the former Seattle City Council president has held a massive lead over M. Lorena González, since election night, it wasn't until Thursday's batch of votes rolled in that the council's current prez conceded. Even lefty late voters weren't going to erase a 24-point deficit. "With today’s ballot drop, it’s clear that Bruce Harrell will be the next Mayor of Seattle," González tweeted. "Earlier, I called him to congratulate him on a hard-fought race and wished him much luck in his efforts to make progress on the challenges Seattle faces."

Current mayor Jenny Durkan extended her congratulations to Harrell, whom she's known for more than 30 years, in a statement: "Voters showed their commitment to a just and hopeful future for all Seattle residents. I know Bruce wants every family to thrive in Seattle. He will bring people together to tackle the tough challenges we face on COVID-19, homelessness, public safety, and climate change."

As for the man of the hour, Harrell had indicated in an email to supporters earlier in the day that he was feeling very confident. A tweet on Wednesday had suggested the same: "Thank you, Seattle! These results prove that we can and will change the narrative in this city by coming together, uniting around our shared values, and doing the work to move Seattle forward. I can’t wait to get to [sic] started."

It's a return to the mayor's office for Harrell, who held the position for five days after Ed Murray's resignation in 2017. Following that interim stint in the city's top post and his third term in city council, Harrell claimed he was done with politics. But he was drawn back by the city's problems with public safety and homelessness.

Those issues were widely regarded as the most critical to voters in this election cycle. Harrell backed a Compassion Seattle initiative that would have amended the city charter, requiring the construction of housing units and, more controversially, the clearing of homeless encampments on parks and sidewalks. He also decried defunding the police, which González had supported in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder.

Business backing, and an odd-year election, which traditionally favors the city's more moderate candidates due to turnout, may have also helped Harrell triumph in his hometown. Raised by a Black father and Japanese American mother in the Central District, Harrell went on to graduate from Garfield High School and the University of Washington. He turned down a chance at NFL stardom for a career in law and the corporate sector.

Now, he'll assume his toughest gig yet. “We got to bring Seattle back together,” Harrell said at his election night party.

Snarkily or earnestly, Seattle wishes him luck.

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