Former council president Bruce Harrell announces run for Seattle mayor

SEATTLE — Former City Council member Bruce Harrell announced his bid today with some unusual approaches to some of the city’s most difficult problems.

Harrell was interim mayor for a few days in 2017 when Ed Murray resigned.

Now he says he wants to lead a Seattle revival.

“Look at what Seattle has become,” he said at his news conference.

Harrell spent 12 years on the City Council before declining to run for reelection in 2019.

Now he sees a city whose economy has been battered by the pandemic and struggling in the face of a reckoning for racial justice — a process too often punctuated by violence.

“When racial hatred and crime are commonplace in our city, this is not the Seattle that I was born in,” Harrell said.

Harrell made his announcement at Garfield High School, where he was valedictorian of his class. He was a football star at the University of Washington before becoming a business and civil rights lawyer.

Speaking one on one with KIRO 7, Harrell said he’ll focus more money on treatment and housing for the homeless and rally individual citizens to get involved.

“We’ll also make sure that work parties and cleanup parties and, and re-clothing efforts and food lines that we all participate in this,” he said.

For Harrell, he wants a change in police culture and will even take a personal role in police union negotiations himself to get it. But he’s not for defunding police.

“I do believe in a re-imagined police department. I believe in reallocating resources. But I don’t start off from the premise that you starve resources in order to make them better,” he said.

To change policing culture, if elected, Harrell will ask each officer to voluntarily watch the video of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.

“I’m going to ask them to sign a statement that says a very simple statement that the inhumane treatment of human beings will not be tolerated at Seattle. We’re going to start from that baseline,” he said.

Harrell has always maintained good relations with major business groups but said he won’t be beholden to them if elected mayor.

Here’s a list of who’s running for Seattle mayor so far:

  • Jeffrey Applegate
  • Henry Clay Dennison
  • James Donaldson
  • Colleen Echohawk
  • Matthew F Ervin
  • Bruce Harrell
  • Rodney Holt
  • Seattle City Council President M. Lorena González
  • Andrew Grant Houston
  • Asukaa Jaxx
  • Thomas W Kennis
  • William Kopatich
  • Mona Radheshwar
  • Lance Randall

Here’s what to know about Harrell.

1. He served the community for decades: With a mission to protect the right of the people and advocate for fairness, Harrell has received nearly a dozen awards for his community service. Bruce and his family live in the Mount Baker neighborhood, and he has been particularly recognized in the community for his pro bono attorney work with small businesses. He began his public service in 1979 working for the Seattle City Council under Council President Paul Kraabel.

2. Bruce was U.W. football star: Bruce attended K-12 in Seattle Public Schools, graduating from Garfield High. He played football for the University of Washington (1978 Rose Bowl Champion, 1979 Sun Bowl Champion, 1st Team Academic All American and All Pac-10) and was subsequently elected to the UW Alumni Board of Trustees. He received the 2007 University of Washington Distinguished Alumni Award in Political Science and 2008 Husky Legend award. He also was a captain for the Garfield team that played in the 1975 Metro League championship at Memorial Stadium – a four-overtime battle declared as the greatest high school football game in the history of Washington State by both The Seattle Times and Post-Intelligencer. Some of the people Harrell played against in that game went on to be Husky teammates and fellow Rose Bowl champions in 1978. Harrell had a chance to play professional football, but skipped that to attend U.W. Law School.

3. He grew up in Seattle: Harrell’s mother worked for the Seattle Public Library, and his father worked for Seattle City Light. Harrell was valedictorian of Garfield High School’s class of 1976, and skipped a chance to go to Harvard to stay local and attend the University of Washington, where he was also a starting linebacker for football coach Don James. Harrell grew up in the Central District and worked for years after law school in the Rainier Valley. He remains friends with many of his Garfield classmates and peers he played against at Garfield, and at the U.W. Harrell was a Rose Bowl champion teammate of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon. Harrell received the University of Washington Distinguished Alumni Award in 2007, and in 2013 he was inducted into the Northwest Football Hall of Fame. His wife, Joanne, has worked for Microsoft since 2001, leading global sales and marketing efforts. She also is on the U.W. Board of Regents. Their daughter, Joyce, was a standout basketball player at Cleveland High, and the Harrell family lives in Seward Park.

4. His experience as an attorney: In 1984 Bruce graduated from UW’s law school. Bruce’s professional career excelled when, in 1987, he joined US WEST, now QWEST (Counsel, Senior Attorney and Chief Counsel). There he developed legal expertise in telecommunications, technology and complex negotiations. In 1998, he entered private practice where he served in a variety of leadership roles, representing children and seniors, employees and employers, affordable housing companies and small businesses.

5. He joined the City Council in 2008: After the 2007 primary, Harrell trailed challenger Venus Velázquez who took 44 percent of the vote to Harrell’s 28 for Council Position 3. Many considered her the frontrunner until Velázquez was stopped for drunken driving in Ballard on Oct. 17 of that year, less than weeks before the election. Harrell did not make her arrest a campaign issue, and a jury found her not guilty late the following year. But Velázquez was charged before the November 6 election, and voters shifted to Harrell. At his election party, Harrell acknowledged the case was probably on the minds of voters. Harrell took the spotlight on police reform, asking questions about the August 2010 shooting of woodcarver John T. Williams, which a police firearms review board said was unjustified. The following year, he asked then-U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan to help get the Federal Government to mandate body cameras in Seattle. Harrell remained a champion of body cameras until they were included in the 2016 city budget. Harrel, who was also was a sponsor of the $15 minimum wage, has supported the idea of a Seattle income tax.