The Emerald invited top mayoral candidates to tell readers why they deserve South Seattle’s vote. Voters have until Aug. 3 to cast their vote in the primary election.
by Bruce Harrell
When my parents met in 1951 as teenagers at Garfield High School, they were already the second generation of my family to call southeast Seattle home. My dad had arrived in the Central Area — like many Black families in that era — as a child, his father escaping the Jim Crow South in search of economic self-determination unavailable in his native Louisiana.
My maternal grandfather emigrated to the International District from Japan, started a florist shop, and he and my grandmother raised their kids in a back room until the U.S. government took their property and home and sent them to an incarceration camp during WWII. My mother, Rose, was seven years old.
My brother and I were raised in a Central Area that was among the few places a family that looked like ours could buy a home — a foothold on the middle class and generational wealth denied too many People of Color to this day. We didn’t know our neighborhood was redlined as a matter of policy, but we did know that our communities were diverse, dynamic, and supportive.
I too went to Garfield and graduated valedictorian, before entering University of Washington. After graduation, and later law school, Joanne and I married and settled down to raise the next generation of Harrells here in southeast Seattle.
I’ve seen our neighborhoods evolve and change — in ways we celebrate through access to transit and jobs, improved parks and open spaces, more housing options, and bustling small business districts. But there are concerning trends as well, from displacement of older Black residents — and the community and connectedness inherent to a sense of place — to the overall loss of affordable housing and home ownership in a city where wealth is concentrated and investments still lack true equity.
My commitment to our South End neighborhoods and families runs deeper than politics; for years I coached and mentored local youth, fought on behalf of workers and small businesses, and did what I could to give back.
On Seattle City Council, both citywide and representing District 2, I was for years the only member of color, bringing historically marginalized voices and perspectives to City government and needed resources to southeast Seattle — from protecting and expanding Metro service to delivering millions for affordable housing and small business support.
I was proud to champion free local college tuition for students at southeast Seattle high schools — which later expanded to become the Seattle Promise — and to expand broadband and computer access to low income kids in South End public schools.
I sponsored our first anti-bias police laws and was the only Councilmember to meet with the family of woodcarver John T. Williams following his murder by Seattle police.
So as to the question of why I would be the “best” candidate for southeast Seattle: because my commitment is not just rooted in my policies but quite literally in my DNA — a lived experience, historical perspective, and proven dedication to the people of this uniquely diverse and important part of our city.
As mayor, you can count on me to build on my record of leadership and collaboration. I’ll champion reform, respect, and reimagining police work — building true community safety rooted in service and security, not arbitrary defunding.
I’ll continue to break down divisions in our city so we celebrate small businesses and the dreams of local entrepreneurs. I’ll demand action on homelessness, treating all people with the dignity they deserve. If you lack shelter, you deserve to be housed. If you simply want to feel safe in your local park, you deserve to be heard. Inaction is not only frustrating, it’s inhumane.
I’ll also be a mayor committed to real equity and opportunity in southeast Seattle — celebrating and building upon Africatown, Chinatown ID investments, and other community-specific initiatives rooted in creating affordable, inclusive, and welcoming neighborhoods.
We must provide resources and support to our kids and families in the South End who still face opportunity gaps in our schools. We must tailor Vision Zero and other safety programs to meet localized needs — southeast Seattle still has too many dangerous roadways, sidewalks, and transit crossings.
Southeast Seattle is my home. It’s where I grew up, where I live, and where I have represented in community and council. With your vote, you will have a true voice — a native son with love and respect for the people and places that make this my home and yours — as your mayor.
I ask for your vote.
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