Commentary: Election season is here. Seattle sports fans must take note – and vote

Later this week, ballots for the Primary election will go out. And I don’t need to emphasize the influence our local leadership has when it comes to sports.

Last week marked the 9th Anniversary of former Seattle mayor Greg Nickels caving to the NBA, dropping the city’s lawsuit against Clay Bennett, which might have kept the Sonics in town through the end of their KeyArena Lease. Former Mayor Mike McGinn was instrumental in his support of a SODO Arena Memorandum of Understanding when he was in office, and current Mayor Ed Murray seems all-in when it comes to a renovation of KeyArena.

And it’s not just the mayoral race – four out of the five Seattle City Council members who voted against the vacation of Occidental Avenue last year were not in office when the SODO Arena MOU was approved in 2012.

That’s why, at times over the coming weeks and months, we’ll focus on these races, specifically in terms of where candidates stand regarding a potential NBA and/or NHL team in Seattle – and on the debate between the KeyArena and SODO locations.

But we start with a caution: We are representing platforms in regard to sports, and even if that’s a top priority, don’t make it your only one.

A prime example is socialist Kshama Sawant’s surprising election to the Seattle City Council in 2013 in a narrow victory over Richard Conlin. Conlin had voted against the SODO Arena MOU the previous year, and some fans were so upset they began using the hashtag #ConlinIsGonelin on Twitter, while Sawant pandered to the Sonics crowd.

In the end, you could argue in a race that close, a crowd of anti-Conlin sports fans might have pushed Sawant over the top. Four years later, for better or worse, she’s still there. And yes, she voted against the vacation of Occidental Avenue when Sonics fans needed her the most.

With that being said, tonight, we start with the race for Seattle mayor. We reached out to as many of the 21 candidates as we could – meaning, the ones with a website and a contact button. We have posted the responses we’ve received so far, in full, on our sports page at Q13Fox.com.

Here are the highlights:

1. Former Mayor Mike McGinn still supports the vacation of Occidental Avenue for a SODO Arena and believes the City Council let everyone down when they voted against it last year. He believes there are unanswered questions regarding KeyArena and also believes “there is a path to having a venue at Seattle Center that complements the SODO Arena.” (His full statement)

2. Jessyn Farrell is skeptical that KeyArena is the city’s best option and now believes the SODO Arena is the best option, despite being one of 40 state legislators who signed a letter opposing the street vacation last year. Called on that point, Farrell said “At the time, I didn’t feel there was adequate mitigation for freight mobility but I still believe it’s a better alternative than the KeyArena proposal. We can make SODO work with added investments in freight mobility to ensure commerce isn’t disrupted at the Port.” (Her full statement)

3. Bob Hasegawa also signed the state legislators’ letter opposing the SODO street vacation last year. And while he absolutely wants both leagues, his take is unique.

“With both the KeyArena and SODO plan, I think there will be massive hurdles that will delay any efforts to bring the teams back to the area. I personally support the Renton/Tukwila location, i.e. the old Longacres site. It is ideally situated from a transportation accessibility perspective and doesn’t present the negative impacts of the other two sites.” (His full statement)

4. Jenny Durkan has the endorsement of Mayor Murray, who supports a KeyArena renovation, likely putting her in an uncomfortable position in this debate. Still, she provided this short statement this afternoon: “I grew up a Sonics fan and I’m still a Sonics fan. I want an NBA team back in Seattle. I am for whatever proposal gets the Sonics here the fastest." (Her full statement)

5. Nikkita Oliver wants the Sonics to return but does not support a SODO Arena. She says “Keeping SODO an industrial area supports a long-term sustainable vision for Seattle, preserving maritime jobs.” She calls a KeyArena renovation a “practical approach that expands upon existing infrastructure” but says any approved plan must include ways to mitigate traffic. (Her full statement)

6. Similarly, Cary Moon also prefers KeyArena, if done with minimal public money and a guarantee of sufficient transit service to the venue. She would support SODO as an alternative, but says “their long term plan for building an entertainment zone is too much.” (Her full statement)

7. Greg Hamilton calls SODO “the only realistic option… It’s a win in every way. KeyArena is a lose in every way,” he says, because of traffic and parking. (His full statement)

8. Until this week, Michael Harris was the only candidate to put his sports and arena platform on his website. He vows to bring the Sonics back to Seattle, he vows not to quit on the SODO Arena Plan calling it the best one, and accuses Mayor Murray of expediting and corrupting the process, “negotiating in bad faith with all parties and pushing through perhaps the worst plan on the table.”

9. Jason Roberts also prefers SODO, calling it “the most practical location for traffic and parking, using no taxpayer money.” Roberts feels the “city’s choice in the KeyArena plan has more to do with getting a free renovation than it does with acquiring an NBA and an NHL team. (His full statement)

10. Gary Brose is Pro-SODO and believes the Port’s issues can be resolved. He does not believe the access issues at Seattle Center are resolvable for a KeyArena renovation to work. (His full statement)

11. James Norton is a Queen Anne resident who thinks KeyArena could host an NHL or NBA team but doesn’t believe it’s the best option because of parking and traffic, preferring SODO. “It would be nice to have our sports complexes all in the same area,” he said. (His full statement)

12. Casey Carlisle says the city shouldn't be involved in the business of owning stadiums. "Why does the city own a stadium?" he said in an email to Q13 News. "Why should public money fund entertainment, especially if you don't even go to KeyArena and are not entertained? The city needs to sell it without the transaction imposing so many requirements on the buyer, and not a dime of public money should be used to help the next owner of KeyArena, or any other arena."

Again, I encourage finding a candidate whose platform aligns with your values the most but supports your take on the arena debate as well.

Sports fans have a lot at stake in any election. So please, above all, take the time to vote.