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Seattle's District 4 Candidates Are Becoming BFFs

Seattle City Council District 4 candidates Michael Maddux and Rob Johnson.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery
Seattle City Council District 4 candidates Michael Maddux and Rob Johnson.

Outside the radio booth, Seattle City Council candidates Michael Maddux and Rob Johnson look like they could be brothers.

Easy smiles. Blue tops. Johnson rides the bus; Maddux rides his bike. They joke that that their main difference is crew necks versus V-necks.

Throw out a political issue and they'll mostly agree. But in a city like Seattle, it’s not about your hemmy-hawwy position on the report that came out last week. It’s whether you can push through the wall of molasses that seems to be our political process.  

So we asked Maddux and Johnson about their political heroes. 

Maddux said Harry Truman. Truman rose to the U.S. Senate, Maddux said, in part because the Missouri Dems had tired of him. Maddux has bumped up against certain corners of the local Democratic party because, as a friend said, he refuses to "kiss the ring." He's not afraid to throw down a screw-you. 

Maddux is tall, with a sweep of dark hair he pushes back and a sparkly tragus piercing in each ear. He’s a renter and the single dad of a 12-year-old girl. He says that when he has a few drinks, "the gay really comes out." 

As a teenager, he lived in a shelter for a while. That experience, he says, is why he’ll fight for homeless youth.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "121378", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201510/Card-Maddux.jpg", "attribution": ""}]]Rob Johnson is also a dad, with three kids -- 4 1/2-year-old twins and a toddler. He calls himself a fifth-generation Seattleite, and he’s exactly who you would picture when he says this: tall, northern European, infinitely appropriate. A bus rider. Entrenched in the nonprofit world. Lives in Ravenna.

He says his political hero is Ruth Fisher, a tough-speaking Tacoma politician who, according to her obituary in the Seattle Times, barked “at legislators she deemed too greedy, lobbyists too pushy and reporters too ignorant.” Johnson is not the barking type but he has led successful campaigns to improve transportation in Seattle.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "121383", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201510/Card-Johnson_1.jpg", "attribution": ""}]]

Johnson and Maddux may be opponents in their bid to represent Northeast Seattle, but they get along. They carpool to events together, and other candidates say they pass notes to each other on stage. They even made fun of me when I took their photo in an alley off University Way. They wouldn’t repeat the joke, and what I caught wasn’t that nice, and they giggled like schoolboys.

From the interview:

Maddux: “If you’re a small family like mine, you’re not able to afford to have a home ownership opportunity anywhere.”

Maddux: “A sort of coop system – that’s not a bad thing. We can keep that look of the neighborhood that people think is very important.”

Maddux: “There’s no 2-, 3-, 4-bedroom units that are affordable anymore.”

Johnson: “I would support us taking another look expanding duplexes and triplexes.”

In Windermere, Johnson showed residents a picture of a triplex opening up in their neighborhood.

Johnson: “They said, ‘That doesn’t look bad. I wouldn’t oppose something like that coming to my neighborhood.’ So much of this conversation is about style and fear.”

LISTEN: The full debate between the District 4 candidates moderated by KUOW's Ross Reynolds