When Jessyn Farrell first ran for mayor in 2017, Seattle was facing many of the core issues it struggles with today: homelessness and housing affordability, public safety and policing.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these problems since Farrell, a former state lawmaker and public transit champion, finished a distant fourth in the mayoral primary four years ago. With that in mind, Farrell is making another run for the office.
“People are really suffering in so many different ways, whether it is economic hardship, racial injustice, isolation, the challenges of remote learning,” Farrell told CHS Thursday afternoon, citing her own experience as a parent. “Times are really, really hard and city leadership has really lacked the creativity and the scale around responding to these multiple crises.”
She breaks all of this down to two questions: “Is this going to be a city that people want and can afford to live in?”
Farrell, 47, represented the U-District and North Seattle in the state House from 2013 until 2017, when she resigned to focus on her first mayoral run. In high school, she was voted most likely to become a politician and went on to graduate from the University of Washington and Boston College Law School.
She was the executive director of the Transportation Choices Coalition, leading charges to fund an expanded light rail system. Since her previous run, she’s worked at Civic Ventures, the think tank headed by progressive taxation advocate Nick Hanauer.
Jenny Durkan’s announcement that she will not seek reelection after finishing her first — and only — term this year has led to a surge of candidates making moves to win the office.
The primary is still five months away and more than a dozen candidates have already filed to run for mayor, according to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, including Chief Seattle Club executive director Colleen Echohawk, who would be the city’s first Native mayor, city council president Lorena González, former council president Bruce Harrell, and Capitol Hill architect Andrew Grant Houston.
SEED Seattle’s interim director Lance Randall also announced his candidacy last year.
Another factor helping to power the 2021 race is the Seattle’s Democracy Voucher program which, for the first time, has been extended to include mayoral candidates. Farrell said Thursday that she is participating in the “innovative policy to keep big money out of our politics.”
In trying to delineate herself among the other candidates vying for the job, Farrell not only separated her opponents between progressive and moderate, but between insider and relative outsider, tacitly calling out González and Harrell, the early frontrunners in the race.
“There is a real hunger for problem solving and someone who has a track record of problem solving and I think that I fit that bill,” she said. “If you’re happy with the status quo, there are candidates who are currently and have been before in city government, then those are your candidates. I think though that most people are not satisfied with how things are going.”