Jessyn farrell wyjyw4

Image: Joshua Huston

When Jessyn Farrell was born, she had a hole in her heart the size of a quarter. Always sick and unable to keep up with other kids, she spent the first seven years of her life feeling like an outsider. Then a foundation at Seattle Children’s Hospital covered a needed surgery that her parents couldn’t afford. The experience “gave me a sense of what it feels like to be left behind and left out,” she says, “and it affects my notion of what progressive government should be.”

A member of the state House of Representatives (D-46th) from 2013 to 2017, Farrell stepped down at the end of May to run for mayor of Seattle. In a crowded field, she came in fourth among the 21 candidates during the August primary. The top two, Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon, advanced to the general election. Affordable housing was the issue that largely got her into the race, along with transportation, climate change, and gun safety. “Cities are like people — they have personalities, they have systems that can be healthy or ailing,” Farrell says. “My passion is figuring out how to make this city work.”

After a busy campaign, the mother of three is looking forward to finding a good book club to join and spending time outdoors with her family, but she’s also focused on the ways she can get involved that don’t require holding public office for the time being. “I believe in the Jewish value of tikkun olam,” she says. “It is our obligation to help mend at least part of the world, and that really drives my passion.”

As a state legislator, she successfully fought for $500 million in new funding for homeless and low-income youth, and now she wants to talk about how to make $1 billion of affordable housing a reality. “This is a big, wonderful city with so many people who care so much about our community,” Farrell says. “We are in this all-hands-on-deck mode, and it makes me deeply optimistic that we can, as a community in Seattle, make progress.”

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