[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, submitted by a verified resident. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The B-Town Blog, nor its staff:]

“Mora & Dorsey shine in Burien City Council candidate debates”

Barrett edges Garcia; Simkus and Moore battle to a draw.

The future members of the nascent Burien Business Association hosted their first City Council Debate on Oct. 12, 2021.

Questions were sourced from the Burien business community. In the interest of being fair, elevating public discourse and helping candidates define themselves for voters, candidates were provided the questions and the debate rules prior to the event.

Position No. 1:

From the start, it was clear that Garcia was more comfortable in the video conference medium. With his campaign logo Zoom background and polished delivery, Hugo came across professionally. Barrett had technical difficulties and took some time to hit his stride.

Contrasting these opponents was easy.

Garcia stressed his work with the county and roots in the community. His support for the current council’s tone, tenor, priorities and direction was clear.

Barrett focused on the issues and his plans to address them. Barrett was effective in emphasizing the gap between Garcia’s experience with the county and his own firsthand experience as a small-business owner. Barrett’s positions are clear: he does not support LEAD in its current format, DESC in downtown Burien, or the “do no harm” approach.

Once comfortable, Barrett made nuanced, succinct and compelling arguments in support of his positions. He successfully positioned himself as the candidate who will take Burien in a different direction.
Garcia stressed his attendance at all of the candidate forums, attempting to draw contrast on the issue of candidate accessibility. This attack largely fell flat in the context of Barrett’s tireless canvassing.

Winner: Barrett by a nose.

Garcia was more natural on Zoom. However, he did not communicate any positions differing from the current council, only that he has been working to drive and promote current council’s policies and initiatives.
Barrett’s struggles with Zoom should not overshadow his record of success or his willingness to engage on the issues. Once he found his voice, his passion for the community showed, and his attacks landed.

Position No. 3:

Again, we saw stark contrast in the comfort levels of each candidate in the Zoom medium. Dorsey was positive, confident, and comfortable in his home office. Matta, in a suit, peering down at the camera, looked uncomfortable and “politician-y.” It was hard not to walk away from the debate without the impression that Matta felt attacked by the questions themselves. This was exacerbated by technical difficulties.

Dorsey’s delivery, like his campaign, is his own and is not beholden to interests outside of Burien. He effortlessly made this attack on Matta. It continues to stick. Dorsey knows it.

More importantly, Matta knows it.

Dorsey’s focus on the quality of policing, rather than what it costs was thought-provoking.

Winner: Dorsey.

Dorsey’s leadership qualities and roots in the community showed brilliantly.

Matta’s abundant personal charisma did not come across over Zoom.

It wasn’t close.

Position No. 5:

To summarize: The Social Scientist vs. The Business Owner.
Both candidates showed themselves to be smart, accomplished and pleasant people who love Burien. Simkus made his positions clear: He does not support DESC, “do no harm,” or the DESC’s proposed location in downtown Burien, and believes in a police-forward approach to addressing public safety.

In contrast to the well worn and tired deflections made by DESC supporters, Moore’s message for downtown Burien’s business owners concerned about the impact of the facility on the neighborhood was refreshingly positive: “Stay and see.”

Moore was also able to define herself as a champion of Burien’s LGBTQ+ community.

The abundance of alignment between the two candidates did not make for a spirited debate. However each candidate did well to introduce themselves and contrast their positions on the issues.

Winner: Draw

Simkus defined himself and his positions more clearly. Moore showed interest and perspectives on a broader variety of issues. This round could be characterized as two friendly and respectful opponents promising different approaches.

Position No. 7

Mora introducing herself in both Spanish and English was the flex of the evening and reached a pivotal constituency: Burien’s powerful Hispanic community.

Mora continually put pressure on the incumbent throughout the debate. Marx was game and launched a few salvos of her own. Still, Mora never backed down. She used the rebuttal most effectively of any of the candidates. There is no doubt that Marx is knowledgeable, poised and her positions are clear: DESC is one of many solutions to homelessness in the region and downtown Burien is a good location for their facility.

Mora’s vivid description of the neighborhood surrounding DESC’s downtown Seattle facility will stick in viewers’ minds. Marx’s “apples and oranges” rebuttal was unconvincing.

Mora’s alternative proposal for a facility for families experiencing homelessness, rather than DESC’s proposed facility that would serve chronically unhoused men almost exclusively, showcased her compassion.

Winner: Mora

Both candidates were quick on their feet and willing to engage with their opponent. Both candidates demonstrated their passion for their beliefs and Burien. Mora’s candidacy has taken on cause-like momentum, while Marx, after dropping out of her congressional race and likely underestimating her opponent, finds herself scrambling on the defensive.

In conclusion, The forum was successful in providing an opportunity for the candidates to define themselves and their positions on the issues. Briefing the candidates on the questions and the rules prior to the debate eliminated concerns about “gotcha-style” attacks masquerading as questions. The chance to rebut each other’s answers gave advantage to those candidates who were well prepared and quick on their feet, both valuable traits for leaders. Hosting the forum on Zoom and publishing the debate on YouTube provides access to a larger audience. In addition to assuaging concerns of hecklers, the video conference format added an additional wrinkle, showcasing candidates’ skill and comfort in the video conference medium, which COVID-19 has normalized.

At the end of the night, this round went to Barrett, Dorsey and Mora. While both Simkus and Moore did well to define themselves, neither delivered the sort of mic-drop moment that gets voters talking.

– Joshua Halpin
Gregory Heights

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