Harrell Announces 129-Member Transition Team after Most Expensive Mayoral Race in History; Davison to Take Over Depopulated City Attorney’s Office

1. Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell announced a 129-member transition team yesterday that includes Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan, current city council member Teresa Mosqueda, former mayoral candidate Jessyn Farrell, a long list of former Greg Nickels, Ed Murray, and Jenny Durkan staffers, and an entire committee overseeing “sports and mentorship” programs, headed by regional NAACP president Gerald Hankerson. Also on the team: Two of the leading opponents of a bike lane in Lake City that Mayor Jenny Durkan ultimately killed.

The team seems likely to grow; late on Tuesday, city council member Andrew Lewis confirmed that he will serve on the team’s public safety committee, one of 12 subject-area committees that make up the advisory group.

Harrell’s transition team also includes a “philanthropy” committee that includes representatives from the Ballmer Group, Amazon, Tableau, and a number of local foundations—echoing Harrell’s campaign promise to fund some city needs, such as programs to address homelessness, using voluntary donations from individuals and corporations.

The new administration’s transition team, for those keeping score (sports metaphor?), is more than twice the size of the transition team outgoing mayor Jenny Durkan announced when she was elected in 2017, and almost three times larger than the team ex-mayor Ed Murray set up in 2013.

Transition teams typically help mayors staff up and set priorities, but their primary role in recent years has been to demonstrate broad political support after a bruising election campaign, which this very (very) large and diverse group certainly does.

Harrell’s niece and campaign manager Monisha Harrell told the Seattle Times that Harrell would comb the transition team for potential members of the administration.

Since the August primary election, when voters kicked three-term incumbent Pete Holmes off the ballot, the city attorney’s criminal division has lost eight prosecutors, or nearly a quarter of its entire prosecution team.

As a point of recent historical reference, just two members of Durkan’s transition team joined the administration: former Transportation Choices Coalition director Shefali Ranganathan, who was one of Durkan’s deputy mayors, and former Building Changes director Helen Howell, who served briefly as interim director of the Human Services Department before joining the King County Regional Homelessness Authority as deputy CEO in July.

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2. Harrell’s campaign also set a record this year—it was the most expensive mayoral campaign in Seattle’s history by a long shot (sports metaphor?). According to campaign records, the official Harrell campaign raised just over $1.4 million in direct contributions, including $19,250 from Harrell himself.  By the same point in her campaign, Durkan had raised just over $970,000.

That’s a significant increase—Harrell has raised half again as much as Durkan had by the same point in November 2017—but it’s dwarfed by the total amount of money poured into the campaign by independent spending, primarily a real estate-backed IE called Bruce Harrell for Seattle’s Future. That campaign has raised $1.4 million, almost entirely from commercial real-estate developers and property managers; combined with independent spending from the National Association of REALTORS and the Seattle Firefighters PAC, independent groups spent almost $1.6 million getting Harrell elected, a sum that dwarfs the $835,000 an Amazon-backed group called People for Jenny Durkan spent on Durkan’s behalf.

At the time, editorial and news writers found it at least noteworthy that at a time when publicly financed “democracy vouchers” were supposed to get big money out of campaigns, the mayoral election went to the candidate who had hundreds of thousands of dollars in corporate money propping her up. This year’s election, in which the winning campaign cost $3 million, or almost $20 per vote, makes 2017’s shocking outlays look almost quaint.

3. Ann Davison, the city attorney-elect, had a simple campaign platform: Unlike my opponent, I will prosecute crime. (Davison’s opponent, public defender Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, pledged to phase out most misdemeanor prosecutions.) She’ll enter office with her work cut out for her: Since the August primary election, when voters kicked three-term incumbent Pete Holmes off the ballot, the city attorney’s criminal division has lost eight prosecutors, or nearly a quarter of its entire prosecution team. The chief of the criminal division, Kelly Harris, left the division for a private-sector job last month.

The civil division has also lost staff—10 of 77 assistant city attorney positions on the civil side are vacant—but the criminal division feels staffing shortages more acutely. Unlike civil cases, in which the city can hire outside counsel, prosecutions must be handled in-house, which means that Davison will have to start staffing up right away—and reassure the remaining criminal division staff that she doesn’t plan any radical changes, despite her unusual status as the city’s only Republican elected official.

Hiring could be an issue. The job market for attorneys is strong, and the city attorney’s office may find that starting salaries as low as $75,000 are no match for the private sector.

4 thoughts on “Harrell Announces 129-Member Transition Team after Most Expensive Mayoral Race in History; Davison to Take Over Depopulated City Attorney’s Office”

  1. “In life, as in sports, you can either focus on the fundamentals of the game or you can be a loser (sports metaphor?). Seattle’s infrastructure is falling apart (failure to focus on the fundamentals of maintenance),”

    Seattle is still dealing with a crappy transit system for the sins of not approving Forward Thrust. Can you imagine if people could take a subway to work, instead of huge traffic? People could hop on the subway and go to their jobs, and not have to pay through the nose to live close to work. Instead we have to rely on a mediocre bus system which was fine when the city had a lot fewer people, but not when the city grew so much (and became unaffordable really fast because housing close in is really expensive).

    I will let others discuss restrictive zoning and a lack of an income tax (relying on a regressive sales tax).

    And to use a sports analogy, sounds like the prosecutor’s office (unless they start paying bigger bucks) should recruit from the Public defenders office (free agency)– since those lawyers have the criminal law experience.

  2. In life, as in sports, you can either focus on the fundamentals of the game or you can be a loser (sports metaphor?). Seattle’s infrastructure is falling apart (failure to focus on the fundamentals of maintenance), Seattle is getting more dangerous every day (failure to focus on the fundamentals of public safety), Seattle is a bad place to start a business because business is now evil (failure to provide the environment suitable for economic success so everyone can succeed). Instead, Seattle’s leaders insist on stealing value from productive value creators, and redistributing it to those who contribute almost no value (which buys votes from idiots and consolidates their own power). Have you checked the scoreboard lately? (sports metaphor?).

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