By Kate Clark The Daily
It was called a debate, but not much arguing occurred between Seattle City Council District 4 candidates Rob Johnson and Michael Maddux on Wednesday night in Gowen Hall.
The two have been friendly throughout the city council race, which began with five candidates, and have been described as “BFFS,” carpooling to various political events and agreeing more often than not.
Johnson, executive director of the Transportation Choices Coalition, has remained the campaign’s frontrunner, polling at 34 percent in the primary election in August. Maddux, a paralegal, brought in 23 percent of the vote, barely beating out 83-year-old incumbent Jean Godden.
Maddux had a slight lead over Johnson in the U-District, polling 33 percent to Johnson’s 28 percent.
The other candidates, Tony Provine and UW-graduate Abel Pacheco, brought in 14 percent and 8 percent of the vote, respectively.
The debate was sponsored by the ASUW’s office of governmental relations (OGR), Young Democrats at the UW, and College Republicans at the UW and was moderated by the director of OGR, Kate Graham. Graham asked the candidates about a dozen prepared questions, then took to Twitter to respond to audience-submitted questions with the #CCForumUW hashtag.
Candidates were given a minute or two to answer each question.
The questions were manifold. The debate sought to cover nearly every hot-topic in Seattle politics in less than two hours, so the discussion went from LGBTQIA+ safety in Seattle to keeping local businesses afloat in a matter of minutes.
The candidates agreed on major issues, making it difficult to differentiate their campaigns, as many have observed throughout the election process.
When asked how can one differentiate between their campaigns, Johnson said he is the candidate that will roll-up his sleeves and get stuff done, while Maddux said he is the candidate who will bring new, innovative ideas to the table.
In their opening statements, Johnson elucidated his focus on public transportation, referencing his urban planning background. Maddux emphasized the importance of affordable housing.
Both said they are working hard to integrate the UW into their campaign and, if elected, would work just as hard to integrate the UW into their work as a councilmember.
“I will open up an office in [District 4], most likely in the U-District,” Maddux said. “I am going to be here, after hours, when people are actually available.”
He added that he plans to have regular meetings with ASUW and that the District 4 councilmember needs to do a better job representing the students.
Both were noticeably excited when Graham reminded them of President Ana Mari Cauce’s recent appointment. Johnson pumped his fist and cheered.
As the UW-specific questions continued, the candidates were asked how they feel about a UW-hosted Tent City. Both candidates strongly support the initiative.
“Too often we sweep these issues under the rug, but we have a unique opportunity to educate people about the homeless in a way that is really impactful,” Johnson said.
Homelessness is a personal issue to Maddux. He spent a brief period of time living in a shelter after his parents kicked him out when he came out as gay. When the topic of LGBTQIA+ safety came up he offered a personal anecdote.
“Has anyone here ever been kicked in the head with a steel toed boot?” Maddux said. “Well that was my experience in high school … and we are seeing more and more of this in Capitol Hill.”
He said he wants to ensure all Seattle neighborhoods are safe for the LGBTQIA+ community.
In another serious moment, Johnson explained his position on the wage gap.
“I have three little girls, it makes me very upset to think they could be paid 75 percent of what their male peers will make here in Seattle,” Johnson said. “We have to do a good job to make sure we are giving them the same economic opportunities.”
Both candidates acknowledged the disparity and agreed one way to ensure the wage gap closes is to encourage more inspections through Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards.
After concluding the UW-hosted debate, the two made their way to the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford for a second debate.
The Young Democrats of the UW had a meeting afterward in which they voted to endorse Johnson.
Seattle City Council elections are Nov. 4.
Reach News Editor Kate Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @KateClarkUW