Three early candidates emerge for 2021 Everett mayoral race

Mayor Cassie Franklin could face a primary challenge next year as people file by the May deadline.

Cassie Franklin

Cassie Franklin

EVERETT — As Mayor Cassie Franklin eyes re-election next year, two people are signalling they may oppose her.

Franklin, who became the city’s first woman mayor with a narrow win in 2017, has raised over $43,000 and racked up endorsements as she’s begun ramping up her campaign.

“I honestly was going to announce it earlier this year, but the pandemic and the work focused on that crisis kept me from announcing it earlier,” Franklin said. “I care passionately about our community, about the city of Everett.”

Meanwhile, Frederick Heater and Janelle Nixon-Burke had formed campaign committees to begin fundraising for the November 2021 election. More candidates could emerge by the official candidate filing deadline on May 21. Heater and Nixon-Burke had not reported any campaign contributions as of Monday.

Neither returned messages requesting an interview.

Heater may be ineligible to run. The address he filed with the Public Disclosure Commission is outside of city limits and Everett’s charter requires elected officials to live within the city for one year prior to election.

Nixon-Burke ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Everett School Board in 2017, as 80% of voters backed Pam LeSesne.

When longtime Mayor Ray Stephanson cleared the way for a new mayor’s election in 2017, four contenders bid to take over. Franklin advanced from the primary narrowly ahead of fellow City Councilmember Judy Tuohy. Only 349 votes separated Franklin from the third-place candidate, former Snohomish County Councilman Brian Sullivan, who in 2019 was elected as the county treasurer.

In the general election, 17,512 people voted. As of Dec. 1 this year, there were 60,870 registered voters in Everett’s total population of more than 111,000, according to statistics from the Secretary of State’s Office.

Franklin won the general election against Tuohy by 196 votes to become the first woman voted in as Everett’s mayor.

Despite the close race in 2017, Tuohy said she won’t run for mayor.

Everett’s strong mayor form of government means the elected official oversees the city’s departments, drafts a budget and often acts as the city’s representative and top spokesperson. The salary, which was set in 2019 by an appointed salary commission, was scheduled to top $197,000 for next year.

Franklin’s first term has been marked by strides and setbacks.

She inherited a structural deficit in which the city’s expenses continually outpaced its revenue growth. To try to balance the equation, she consolidated some departments and positions and made cuts, including in the city’s employment ranks. But it has not been enough and she said she found the city council lacked an “appetite” for other options to resolve the ongoing budget problems.

“First and foremost we have to address the fiscal reality we’re in, the financial reality we’re in, that we simply do not have the resources to deliver services that we have in the past,” Franklin said.

She wants to continue pursuing private-public partnerships and ceding some services through mergers, such as early reviews of combining Everett Transit with Community Transit or merging the city’s fire department into a regional fire district.

She formed a citizen task force to seek residents’ input on options for she and councilmembers to consider, such as increasing the property tax levy.

“Cuts alone aren’t gonna get us there,” Franklin said. “I have cut the city back to the bare bones. There is nothing left to cut. We will continue to have to make cuts, but I’d like to be able to ask the voters what they want — what is worth additional revenue?”

Everett’s city leaders, like others in the region and across the country, faced calls to reallocate the budget from law enforcement into programs and services to help marginalized people. The “defund the police” movement gained nationwide traction following protests over the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, both Black.

But the City Council and Franklin spared the city’s police officer ranks from budget cuts that swept through most of the other departments. She touted the Everett Police Department’s body camera program, which is set to launch for most officers on patrol next year, and Chief Dan Templeman’s leadership in bolstering the community’s trust in the agency.

“It doesn’t mean we don’t have work to do,” she said.

The Everett Police Officers Association is among Franklin’s endorsements, as is the Everett firefighters union. Each has donated $1,000 to her re-election campaign.

A host of Snohomish County elected officials are backing her too. Among them are Congressman Rick Larsen, state Sens. Steve Hobbs and Marko Liias, and Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, who are Democrats. County Councilmembers Megan Dunn and Jared Mead, also Democrats, and Council Chairman Nate Nehring, a Republican, are early endorsers as well.

Franklin cites the list as a sign of her broad support.

“Some offices can run partisan, but I don’t have that luxury in the mayor’s office,” she said. “The mayor has to serve the entire city.”

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.

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