Reporting by Mahlon Meyer
It’s a historic night for Asian Americans across the country.
Bruce Harrell won the mayor’s race in Seattle becoming the third Asian American to be elected mayor in a major city tonight.
“I’m very emotional, I have my family and my close friends here with me. This is history in the making,” said Harrel, overwhelmed with emotion in front of a small sea of supporters.
With 131,000 votes counted, Harrell lead 65 -35% with 85,000 votes to Lorena Gonzalez’ 46,000.
“So we’re going to bring Seattle back together!” he shouted, as cheers went up around the large hall.
“I understand racism and unfairness by our police department, but I want my kids safe,” he said. He said the process of making any reforms for the police must be a “dialogue.”
The Seattle police department has been under a federal consent decree, rare for a West Coast city, since 2012 for violent and possibly racist policing.
Adding to the woes of the department, during the Black Lives Matter protests last year, officers were regularly caught in video violently beating protesters and tear-gassing and beating crowds.
Since then, with calls to defund the police filling the Seattle City Council, hundreds of police officers have resigned or left for adjacent municipalities.
Some reports say response time to 911 calls is over an hour even for the worst crimes.
Harrell, again and again, thanked his team and his supporters building upon a theme of inclusiveness.
“We can actually solve homelessness, but we can fix the problem only when we work together,” he said.
The offbeat humorous side of him came out, perhaps a sign of how he will govern and bridge differences.
He said he always emphasizes his wife because he wants to “lead with a strong hand,” in other words, she’s his best side.
He said people supported him for what he stood for, and that’s why so many people turned out with a common belief.
“They believed in me, they believed in our message.”
In closing, he got serious and impassioned. It was as if he sensed he was speaking now to a crowd he had to convince. Some of the faces were already beginning to show signs of weariness. Some people shifting unsteadily.
“The city has enormous potential. When we talk about social justice,” he said, pausing. “I’m just going to ask for a show of hands—how many here are half Japanese half Black?”
Harrell, who is both Black and Japanese American, laughed to himself. But then he grew serious again.
“The point is that when I grew up, and we’re talk about race issues and character, it was very difficult, I always had to struggle to find out what I am,” he said.
He promised “a new conversation on homelessness” and the other issues facing Seattle.
Norm Rice, the first Black mayor of Seattle, standing beside him, the two men often embracing each other, closed with the following:
“I have tears in my Eurex and joy in my heart because we couldn’t have found a better person.”
Somebody yelled: “we’ve got a new mayor!”
Leaving the building, outside on the street, a homeless person screamed and cursed a long trickle of violent obscenities, his gargle filling the air and fading in and out of hearing like a siren.
Earlier this evening, Michelle Wu won an easy victory over fellow City Councilwoman Annissa Essaibi George 58 – 42% in Boston.
In Cincinnati, Indian and Tibetan American Aftab Pureval handily defeated longtime politician David Mann.
Shortly after 8 pm in Seattle, the first vote totals in the mayor’s race went up to cheers at Harrell’s election night party.
Harrell leads Lorena Gonzalez 65 – 35%.
Harrell — 84,975
The excitement builds.
The chatter in the room grows to a frenzy.
A supporter of Harrell, dressed in a flashy sweatsuit, does jumping push ups, clashing his hands between each up jump, in front of a tv camera.
Announcers cram the space in front of the platform with blazing tv lights shining in their faces.
A small, slight, older Japanese American man with wispy grey hair slides through the crowd unobtrusively.
This is Tomio Moriguchi, founder of the super Asian supermarket Uwajimaya and nearly half the institutions in the Chinatown-International District.
Asked if Harrell will win, Moriguchi responds in his usual debonair and off-beat manner, “He better!”
Then after a moment, he adds, “We’re old family friends.”
Drums are pounding. The supporter is doing more flying push-ups as a cameraman follows him around.
Small children are dancing in front of the head table, just to the left of the podium.
AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. Check out our new Instagram account. Go to our Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. Please consider interning, joining our staff, or submitting a story, or making a contribution.