Seattle mayoral candidates square off in primary debate

SEATTLE -- Seattle's contentious mayoral primary is less than three weeks away, and on Thursday the remaining candidates squared off to debate the issues facing the Emerald City.

The debate, which aired on PBS, featured a full slate of issues, from parking and police to the arena and transportation.

While the issues took center stage, some candidates used their time to target sitting mayor Mike McGinn.

"The leadership that we've had has been leadership of division. It's been leadership of who's bluer, who's more liberal, who can be further to the left," said state Sen. Ed Murray.

Murray joined with other mayoral hopefuls to take aim at McGinn's track record and leadership style.

"I was not happy with the last three years with the direction of Seattle. And I ran to redirect that misdirection," said candidate Charlie Staadecker.

Kate Martin blasted the city and King County Metro's handling of public transportation, saying poor funding from Olympia is one of Murray's flaws, and the lack of direction is McGinn's liability.

"I feel our mayor has basically given up on it," Martin said. "And I feel that our legislators have failed us, to get the funding that we need."

McGinn pivoted to his strengths, touting his work to facilitate a new arena. Most of the candidates are against the SoDo arena plan, but it's McGinn's baby and many see it as a bright spot on his record.

"It'll create good union jobs, we'll get good union jobs operating it. It'll be a good amenity for the city," McGinn said of the proposed arena.

Port consultant and former City Councilman Peter Steinbrueck disagreed, and pushed back against McGinn.

"Where's the team? Where's the team?," he asked.

One of McGinn's biggest challenges has been the Seattle police. Critics want a robust search for a new police chief and a change in the department's culture.

"My question to the chief is why? Why has this gone on for decades? Why haven't we examined the soft underbelly?" said Councilman and mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell.

Primary ballots are already hitting mailboxes in the city ahead of the August 6 primary. Recent polling has Murray and McGinn in a tight race, with Harrell trailing right behind.