Seattle mayor's race suggests 'defund the police' is no longer a winning message

The Seattle mayor’s race seems to be following the pattern set in New York City, i.e. there’s evidence that “defund the police” is no longer a winning message here. There was a Zoom debate among six of the candidates this Thursday and none of the candidates were willing to endorse more defunding:

None of the six candidates who appeared at Tuesday’s forum openly endorsed cutting the police budget, let alone by 50%, as a majority of the Seattle City Council had endorsed during the civil rights protests last summer.

A number of candidates campaigned openly that what Seattle really needs right now is more cops — which is quite a political shift from a year ago.

“I think the pendulum has swung against defund the police,” one candidate, Lance Randall, said after the debate had ended. “You can see it in these forums — the people who used to talk about it either don’t talk about it anymore or are now actively backpedaling.”

Lance Randall recently had some first hand experience with the surge of violence in the city. Last Saturday morning he heard some noises outside his bedroom window and went outside to see what was happening. It turned out to be a couple of thieves trying to cut the catalytic converter out of a neighbor’s car. Randall told his wife to call 911 and went outside to get a closer look at the license plate of the thieves car. That’s when they shot at him.

“They saw me, picked up their things and got in their car, backing it up into a truck,” he said. “When they turned the headlights out, I saw gunfire (fired) twice out of the sunroof.”

Randall ran to the front of his black Chevy Suburban that was parked in his driveway and was in the process of squatting down to hide in front of the grill. He said he heard three more shots before the suspects drove away.

Randall was not hit but discovered later that one of the bullets had pierced a rear side window and traveled through a head rest in the SUV before shattering the front windshield — right in the direction of where he had been standing.

“If this headrest hadn’t slowed the bullet down and it would have gone through the glass it would have hit me,” he said, adding that he thinks the seat saved his life. “Yes, I really do. Because looking at where it (the bullet) came out, I was squatting right on that corner.”

During the debate Tuesday (which you can watch in full here), Randall talked briefly about the incident but said “We’ve had several forums, and I feel as though there’s an assumption that people of color do not want police officers in their neighborhoods to protect them. We need police officers.” Randall said he’s not against the idea of reimagining public safety but thinks that needs to happen along with hiring more officers to replace the hundreds who have left the force since last year. He also wants the City Attorney to take a harder line on prosecutions so that people who violate the peace know there are consequences for doing so.

After the debate he added, “I guess I’ve grown weary of the City Council and others in the city attempting to speak and act on behalf of Black people, without asking and without considering the ramifications of some of these actions.” He didn’t single anyone out by name but might have been talking about rival candidate Lorena Gonzalez a city council member who initially supported a 50% cut to the police department last year. If you look at Gonzalez campaign website now, there’s no mention of defunding police. It simply says she supports, “A Seattle where public safety is completely reimagined: policing is demilitarized and held accountable to the public.”

Seattle voters will elect the next mayor this November. It’s too early to say how that will turn out, obviously, but right now it seems to be moving in the same direction as the mayor’s race in New York, i.e. away from progressives who want to defund police and toward candidates talking about restoring a degree of law and order in a city seeing a spike in violent crime.

Here’s Lance Randall talking about his position on policing and the recent shooting incident outside his house.