One result of Seattle’s mayoral primary is that the city is guaranteed to maintain its 85-year streak of men running City Hall.
As I wrote earlier this year, Seattle has not elected a woman as mayor since 1926, when Bertha K. Landes became the first female mayor of a major American city. Landes lasted a single two-year term before being dumped in favor of a little-known businessman, Frank Edwards.
Since then, no woman has even reached the general election in a Seattle mayoral race — a streak that seems to belie the city’s progressive self-image. Of Seattle’s 53 mayors, all have been white men except for the city’s first black mayor, Norm Rice, who served from 1989 to 1997.
The result this year was no big surprise. Studies show the main reason women are underrepresented in political offices — especially among big-city mayors — is that well-qualified women fail to run.
The three women who appeared on this year’s ballot – Kate Martin, Mary Martin and Joey Gray — were not well-known and ran shoestring campaigns.
But should the three women have finished at the bottom of the mayoral heap? Doug McQuaid, a little-known lawyer, managed to place sixth despite skipping much of the campaign.
I asked Kate Martin, the Greenwood activist who placed seventh despite working hard throughout the campaign, whether she was surprised that McQuaid got more votes. She emailed that it was not too shocking, given that McQuaid’s name appeared first on the ballot – a position that has been shown to give candidates a small advantage.
“I’m happy with the issues and ideas I put out there, but I think I was in the wrong race overall,” Martin said. She said she should have run for City Council instead, and is considering her options down the road.