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Bruce Harrell Joins Crowded Race for Seattle Mayor

Deborah Wang/KUOW

Seattle’s Mayor Mike McGinn will have a fight on his hands this campaign season. Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell announced he is now joining the mayor’s race. That brings the number of candidates challenging the mayor to six.

Harrell is a former corporate attorney who is now serving his second term on the Seattle City Council. He chairs the Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee.

Harrell says he is running because he is disappointed with Mayor McGinn’s performance. “Out of his administration, you really haven’t seen anything creative, anything inspirational,” Harrell said in an interview. “And in all due respect, I don’t think the city wants another four years of that.”

Harrell has been especially critical of McGinn for his handling of the federal government’s probe into problems at the Seattle Police Department. During negotiations with the US Department of Justice, Harrell says the mayor refused offers of assistance from members of the City Council.

“He’s a nice enough guy, but his style of leadership is one that isn’t conducive to listening to creative feedback,” Harrell said.

Childhood Ambition To Be Mayor

Harrell grew up in Seattle’s Central District, went to Garfield High School and then to the University of Washington, where he was a star football player.

When he was 12 years old, Harrell met then-Mayor Wes Uhlman and started dreaming about someday becoming mayor himself.

Harrell entered politics in 2007 after a career as a corporate lawyer. He ran to fill the City Council seat left empty when Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck stepped down.

His opponent was Venus Velasquez, a public relations consultant who had emerged from the primary as the front-runner. In a bizarre twist, Velazquez was arrested on a drunken driving charge just weeks before the election. Harrell cruised to an easy victory. Velazquez was eventually found not guilty of the charge.

Although he felt sorry for Velazquez, Harrell says he realized it was his lucky break.

“I have gotten so many breaks in this world of mine,” Harrell said. “I am a man of faith, I believe everything happens for a reason. That wasn’t a surprise to me. Things like that happen to me all the time.”

Harrell says if elected, he would add 20 community service officers to the Seattle police force. He wants to transform the city’s community centers into what he calls “empowerment centers” that would teach life skills to kids.

He also wants to raise $20 million in private money to ensure that every high school graduate in the city could attend one year of community college for free.

Five other candidates have announced their intention to challenge Mayor McGinn: State Senator Ed Murray, Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess, former City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck, real estate developer Charlie Staadecker and neighborhood activist Kate Martin. Mayor McGinn announced his re-election campaign last week.

Harrell realizes its a crowded race, but calls himself “lucky number seven.”

He plans to have a formal campaign kick-off celebration next month.