Seattle mayoral candidates Michael McGinn and Joe Mallahan squared off on Capitol Hill Tuesday night in a forum sponsored by the Seattle Human Services Coalition by portraying themselves as having the same progressive values as the social services advocates in the room.
In a campaign focused on the future of the viaduct, removing the city’s head tax on employees, and cutting consultants and political appointees from City Hall, the forum at Miller Community Center was an opportunity to challenge the candidates about what they’d do about the poorest in society. The two have been going head to head at a number of debates including one on Monday sponsored by City Club, as reported by the Seattle P-I and Publicola.
At the same time, social services leaders said they have only vague ideas of the candidates and the impression neither are particularly knowledgeable about issues like homelessness.
In a largely tepid forum, the closest the candidates came to fireworks was when they were asked about the role the mayor should play in education.
Mallahan said McGinn would take over the city’s public schools. “I think we should figure out how to clear our streets before we take over city schools.”
McGinn said that misrepresented his position. “I’m guilty of nuance, which is a difficult thing in a political campaign.”
And indeed, he said in an interview with the PostGlobe about his stance on issues unrelated to the viaduct that he’d raise the idea of taking over the schools after working to improve them first.
The candidates, though, may face more detailed questions next week at yet another forum, this one sponsored by the Seattle-King County Coalition on Homelessness.
Candidates for City Attorney – incumbent Tom Carr and challenger Peter Holmes – faced tougher questioning, however. Both were asked if they’d support tougher restrictions on panhandling.
Holmes said there already seems to be laws on the books that prevent aggressive handling
Carr, though, said, his office has not prosecuted any cases involving panhandling during his tenure in office and that he does not support criminalizing homelessness. Carr also noted that he worked out an agreement to allow tent cities to continue operating.
Both Mallahan and McGinn have scored some endorsements from social services leaders. McGinn released a list late Tuesday afternoon. They include, former 37th District State Rep. Kip Tokuda; Timothy Harris executive director of Real Change; Candace Inagi, deputy director of One America; Mark Okazaki, executive director of Neighborhood House; former Dorli Rainey, Women in Black, Veterans for Peace, and ANSWER coalition; Al Sugiyama, executive director of the Center for Career Alternatives; Linh Thai, executive director of Vietnamese Community Activity Center (WA); Michael Neguse, a refugee and African immigrants advocate.
However, most prominent social services advocates say they haven’t yet decided who they will support.