EVERETT — Four people hoping to become Everett’s next mayor faced the public Thursday, each highlighting a different style and set of experiences for leading Snohomish County’s largest city.
There was at least one overriding point of agreement, though. The candidates all said they liked the strides Everett has made toward solving problems such as homelessness and opioid addiction, but said that other nearby cities need to shoulder more of the load.
“We are overburdened,” said candidate Shean Nasin. “… I’m not an anti social-service person, but we need to spread these throughout the county.”
The local League of Women Voters chapter organized the political forum at the county’s Robert J. Drewel building. A moderator asked questions submitted by the audience of about 100 people.
The event also included candidates for three contested Everett City Council seats, who fielded questions about public safety, affordable housing, downtown parking, reducing the city’s carbon footprint and funding the fire department.
Mayoral candidate Judy Tuohy, 63, was first elected to the City Council in 2014. A lifelong Everett resident, she’s the director of the Schack Art Center, where she has overseen millions of dollars in fundraising. The organization has about 15 full-time employees, but facilitates work for hundreds of artists, she said.
“I have a connection with Everett citizens. They know me,” Tuohy said.
Her skills from Schack, she said, would translate to bigger projects to promote Everett and attract more business.
Cassie Franklin, 44, was elected to the City Council in 2015. She is the CEO of Cocoon House, a nonprofit that helps homeless and at-risk teens. Cocoon House has more than 100 employees. Franklin said her role leading the organization has helped familiarize her with government at the local, state and federal level. Franklin has worked in Everett since 2004 and said she moved her family here in 2013 because she loves the community.
Franklin said the problems she confronts at Cocoon House are the same ones the city needs to take on.
“I have a experience as an executive with the street-level issues that Everett is dealing with right now: homelessness and addiction,” she said.
Brian Sullivan, 59, is in his third term on the Snohomish County Council, where he’s the current chairman. Earlier in his career, he was elected as a state representative in the 21st Legislative District and also as mayor and a city councilman in Mukilteo. He moved to Everett in early 2015.
“I often say I’m a policy wonk stuck in politician’s body,” Sullivan said before the forum.
Sullivan emphasizes the many municipal budgets he’s worked on over the years, and his experience running restaurants. He was the most adamant about increasing the amount of resources the city makes available to its firefighters to improve their response time to medical calls and fires.
Nasin, 43, is a substitute teacher, coach and former downtown business owner. He has never held public office, but is staking his campaign on new ideas that he hopes will transform his hometown into a more prosperous, innovative city.
“We need to get our median income up, get our economy going,” he said of the city’s priorities.
At the forum, Nasin’s response to a question about the new two-gate air passenger terminal under construction at Paine Field drew gasps from parts of the crowd. Alaska Airlines has committed to running nine daily flights out of the facility, starting next year.
Nasin said nine flights isn’t enough.
“I’d like 100 a day,” he said.
Federal approvals would be required for expanding the terminal beyond two gates.
Sullivan, who previously opposed the terminal, said he’s now changed course and is talking with developer Propeller Airports about ways to limit the impact of flights on surrounding neighborhoods.
At a Daily Herald editorial board meeting earlier in the day, Tuohy said Everett needs to improve its image.
“The perception of Everett over the years has been more negative than positive,” she said.
She chided Sullivan on that front, saying, “You were pretty negative today.”
Sullivan appeared to take offense. He said he wasn’t being negative, only trying to highlight social problems in Everett that need attention, such as the low rate of home ownership and the disproportionate concentration of social services compared to other Snohomish County cities.
Tuohy, Sullivan and Nasin all support a voting-district proposal that signature-gatherers are trying to get on the ballot this fall, despite a deadline that passed this week. They want to replace the current system of electing all seven city council seats at large. Franklin also supports districts, but favors convening a committee to look more closely at questions such as where to draw the district boundary lines.
The mayoral candidates appeared together June 26 at a forum in the Casino Road neighborhood that focused on the concerns of families in south Everett. The candidates also have been invited to a meet-and-greet that’s open to the public from 5 to 7 p.m. July 19 at the GroWashington store on 3013 Colby Ave.
Sullivan’s many past political campaigns may be paying financial dividends. Earlier this week had had almost twice as much campaign cash as any opponent, with more than $106,000. He’s enlisted the support of firefighter unions, some local and others from distant parts of the state. Other public employee unions, including police, also have donated heavily to his effort.
Franklin and Tuohy had about $56,000 and $52,000, respectively. The overwhelming majority of Tuohy’s donors live in Everett. Franklin is getting solid support from people who run some of the most recognizable businesses in town.
Nasin’s campaign listed a single $1,000 donation with the Public Disclosure Commission, but the candidate said the correct total is closer to $15,000.
The top two vote-getters from the Aug. 1 primary will advance to the general election in November.
The county auditor is preparing to mail out primary ballots next week.