What’s it take to be mayor? Some candidates testing that question

How involved in the traditional trappings of democracy do you have to be to seek the city’s top political job? Because in the race for Seattle mayor, one rising candidate has voted only about a quarter of the time.

Recently some of the lesser-known candidates for mayor have been objecting, with cause, that I haven’t highlighted their campaigns for our city’s top office.

A libertarian candidate, Casey Carlisle, has been arguing I should cover him because he’s unique — he’s the only one of 10 candidates pledging not to raise taxes.

“When you choose to ignore me and the other five candidates that you think don’t exist, you choose to deceive the public,” Carlisle wrote in an email.

Most vocal on this point has been Peoples Party candidate Nikkita Oliver.

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“My viability as a candidate, my experience, the energy + breadth of my base and our equity-led platform is being denied & defiantly ignored,” she wrote after I didn’t mention her campaign in a column.

Oliver is right about the energy. At the first mayoral debate on Thursday, she had by far the most amped up crowd. As Crosscut summed up: “If energy equals votes, Nikkita Oliver will be the next Seattle mayor.”

Anyone who can summon people and passion to dreary church meeting rooms deserves to be taken seriously in politics, so Oliver is correct about that.

But here’s why I remain skeptical of these candidacies. It goes to core beliefs about how politics, especially local politics, works.

Carlisle, when I asked him to identify endorsers or supporters to show he was a force in the community, couldn’t. He’s got ideas, but ideas with few people behind them doesn’t cut it.

By contrast, Oliver, an attorney and community organizer, clearly has people. She’s fired up the left and has been endorsed by a community heavyweight, King County Councilmember Larry Gossett.

But for someone campaigning on a platform that government doesn’t listen to the people, she hasn’t shown up much when the voice of the people literally counts — on Election Day.

In backgrounding the candidates, one thing we do is check their voting records. Oliver’s is spotty at best, especially for someone seeking high office.

Since 2008, when she first registered to vote here, she has voted in seven of 24 elections, according to King County elections records. Most notably, she skipped all the primary and general elections for the office she’s now seeking — including the most recent one, in 2013, when Mayor Ed Murray was elected.

Education funding for youth is key in her candidacy, but she hasn’t voted in any Seattle school-levy elections, including the one last year. She also has been a leader in the protest against a new juvenile-justice center, or youth jail. We voted on that project in 2010 and again in 2012, when it passed. Oliver didn’t vote either time.

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