Candidate Survivor, an annual candidate forum aimed at the city’s under-35 voters, walks a fine line between making fools of the candidates and helping them get the word out about their positions. Or maybe it’s that the candidates struggle to walk a fine line between being foolish and communicating serious information to potential voters. There was a little of both last night when six mayoral candidates — Mary Martin, Charlie Staadecker and Doug McQuaid did not attend — took the stage.
While the audience drank cocktails and ate popcorn and cotton candy (there was a circus theme), the candidates recited haikus about themselves, answered a series of gotcha questions (“Which of these bus routes is the #72?”) and humble-bragged about smoking pot and skinny dipping in Lake Washington. (Peter Steinbrueck is the only candidate who has done both).
Greenwood neighborhood activist Kate Martin had the most impressive talent: performing a rewritten “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'” in cowboy boots and a hat. But Steinbrueck’s performance was particularly confusing to the (mostly) young audience. It seemed to be some kind of Jeopardy magic show. Turns out he was trying to do a takeoff of Carnac the Magnificent, a Johnny Carson bit. Unfortunately, Johnny Carson’s late-night show went off the air in 1992, when the oldest members of last night’s targeted under-35 audience were in the 8th grade. Any 18-year-olds in the audience were born three years after Carson’s run on the Tonight Show ended.
The most substantive conversation of the night was around police reform, with Mayor Mike McGinn hitting back at his two top opponents for their criticism of his handling of a Department of Justice settlement involving excessive use of force at the Seattle Police Department.
“Both Bruce (Harrell) and Ed (Murray) say they wouldn’t have accepted a consent decree. I negotiated to get a good one,” he said.
Harrell responded to a question about his statements that he would have taken the DOJ to court to get a better deal, and he pushed back hard.
“With all due respect to you progressive folks out there, how are you going to tell me about police brutality?”
Harrell grew up in the Central District in the 1960s. He said the mayor wasted a chance to finally have a serious conversation about the problems at the police department by settling too quickly into a lukewarm agreement with the federal government.
“You all are getting sort of hip to this right now? We have been fighting for this [expletive] for 30 years.”