Seattle City Council President M. Lorena González, who is running for mayor, announced it on Wednesday morning. This makes her the most prominent candidate to date in the race to succeed Mayor Jenny Durkan.
González has been a member of the City Council since 2016 and President of the City Council since 2020. She was elected twice to her citywide seat, winning in 2015 and 2017 with more than 70% of the vote.
González, whose parents were undocumented migrant farm workers in the Yakima Valley, emphasized her personal story when announcing her campaign and called for “bold and progressive measures to overcome the status quo”.
“When I came to this city for the first time as a beaming fifth grader on a field trip, I remember being in awe of what the city represents, so that I could give people like me a chance and be successful,” said González said in an interview.
She described the pandemic as both a turning point and an opportunity to build a city “that will really work for everyone, not just the mighty.”
“We can think big, we can be brave, and we can really see how we build complete neighborhoods that are worth living in, access to childcare, affordable housing, multimodal transportation, access to food, internet, good jobs, and really energetic, small space have business districts, ”said González.
Six other people have run for mayor so far: Colleen Echohawk, the executive director of the Chief Seattle Club; Andrew Grant Houston, architect and urban planner; Lance Randall, the director of an economic development nonprofit in South Seattle; Henry Clay Dennison, who ran for governor under the Socialist Workers Party; Matthew Ervin and William Kopatich.
Durkan does not seek re-election. The deadline for submitting a candidate for the main election in August is May 21.
González moved to Seattle to study law and worked in private practice as a civil rights attorney for a decade before officially entering city politics. In one high profile case, she represented a Latino man who sued the Seattle police after an officer threatened to knock the “Mexican piss” out of him. She won him $ 150,000 in severance payment. The officer was demoted but not dismissed.
The case “reminded me of how oppressive our systems can be if we do not intend to reduce racism,” she said.
González was one of seven (of nine) city council members who this summer called for a 50% cut in the police department’s budget after mass protests against systemic racism and police brutality.
The council ended up transferring or reallocating about 20% of the department’s budget.
González didn’t answer when asked if she would continue to advocate a 50% cut. Instead, she stressed the importance of electing a new police chief, which Durkan will likely leave to the next mayor. The department is currently headed by interim head Adrian Diaz.
The next police chief, she said, “must be obliged to reshape the police force and rethink our model of the public security service.”
Prior to running for the city council, González was commissioner of the Seattle Ethics and Election Commission and legal advisor to former Mayor Ed Murray. In 2017, she became the first councilor to ask Murray to step down on allegations he sexually assaulted teenagers decades ago.
She briefly campaigned for the Attorney General in 2019 before bidding farewell when Governor Jay Inslee decided to run for a third term when Governor and Attorney General Bob Ferguson opted for re-election.
On the city council, she helped pass a wide range of progressive laws, including a 2017 Police Oversight Reform Act, safe planning for fast food workers, campaign funding reform measures, and gun safety regulations.
Along with the rest of the local government, she also struggled to cope with an ongoing homelessness crisis that was declared a civil emergency throughout her tenure on the council.
Dealing with the crisis will require “additional resources”. Seattle passed a new large business tax last summer (with support from González) to help pay for affordable housing and homeless services. But if Seattle is to become a “world-class liveable city,” said González, “we need everyone on board, especially large corporations.”
Homelessness, she said, is just a symptom that her personal history uses to call for solutions to the root cause – poverty.
“I have lived in child labor camps in central Washington state where I had no access to toilets and no access to drinking water, and I understand from a very deep level what it means to forego these basic needs,” she said. “As mayor, I would make sure that we look at the system holistically in order to meet these basic needs and lift people out of poverty.”