Thursday, August 01, 2013

The Political Desk Bonus Round: Mayor of Seattle

You'd think with my recommendations posted, I'd be done with this phase of the political season, but the truth is that the largest election that affects me is one I cannot vote on. The City of Seattle dominates the surrounding region, and its decisions affect all the municipalities around it. And yet, through the cruel nature of geography and the drawing of borders, I don't get to vote. However, I do get to kvetch about it, so let me pop up some corn and make myself comfortable.

Way back here, I complained about the lack of Dem challengers in the Burning Lands on the far side of the Cascades. Well, the flip side occurs in Seattle. We have nine candidates, and not a ONE of them would be considered a Republican or even a doctrinal Conservative. We run the gamut from main-line Dems and pro-business Dems to full-fledged Socialists (and I'm talking about real Socialists, none of your namby-pamby "Fox News calls them Socialists because they don't shoot the poor" Socialists). We can make up the Puget Sound version of the Hollywood Squares with the current field, and we couldn't find a single flag-waving, red-meat-eating, bring-God-back-to-Government type to run? I mean, I wouldn't vote for them, but you know, balance.

Anyway, the center square of the Pike Place Squares is current mayor Mike McGinn, and I like him. His public persona is a man on a bike, but he has been pro-transit, pro-environment, pro-labor, aggressive, and progressive. Has fought against the coal trains rolling through downtown. But I have to admit that his best work is when he loses. No, really. He came in on an anti-tunnel platform and then lost, and rather than go hull-down and fighting to the bitter end, he went with the will of the people and helped the project forward. He pitched hard for an NBA franchise, earning a lot of love from the sports community, but that came to naught. And he's been at the center of a Justice-department movement to make our police force just a little bit less midconducty. Yet through it all he's been involved, engaged, and accessible. He's the Maverick Dem, the guy who surprised everyone the first time and has rolled forward since then.

His likely opponent to block (who is ahead of him in the polls) is Ed Murray, former state legislator who bases his appeal on both his ability to work with the Republicans to get a budget in 2011 and his work for Marriage Equality (Mr. Murray will be marrying his partner in August - yeah, imagine doing that before an election in, say, Chicago). He's also spoken out against the proposed coal trains rolling through downtown. He's the party-approved Dem, has a big mittful of endorsements, and I like him. However, for a guy who's campaign is based on playing well with others, the fact that the wheels came off in the 2013 legislature doesn't give him as much traction. 

And here's what makes the campaign interesting: The Seattle Times (paper of record) loves the more establishmentarian Murray and hates the more independent McGinn, who owes them little (they didn't endorse him in either the last election's primary or general elections). The McGinn hate is so much that they will round down on the mayor's accomplishments and promote his flaws. The Stranger (former slackers who woke up after a three-day binge to discover they had real journalistic responsibility) on the other hand, lurvs them some McGinn and, while they don't seem to dislike Murray, they will go out of the way to expose situations where Murray is playing politics-as-usual (Murray's team running a blurb that makes it seem like the paper supports Murray when in fact they endorsed McGinn or Murray castigating McGinn's involvement in a zoning issue with the non-union Whole Paycheck Foods, when Murray endorsed the same level of involvement earlier). 

Should Mayor McGinn fall off in the Primary (it has happened before - Protests and police riots are to Seattle Mayors like snowstorms are to Chicago Pols in electoral lethality), Murray's opponent would be likely be Peter Steinbrueck, who is pro-neighborhoods, whose father saved Pike Place Market, and who is a proponent of a school of thought you'd call "Lesser Seattle". And I like him. 

Of the others, Bruce Harrell is an eloquent, big-tent, pro-labor Dem, and I like him. Joey Gray comes out of the Occupy movement and Ultimate Frisbee and I like her. Kate Martin is a neighborhood activist whose ideas include turning the old Viaduct into an elevated park, similar to New York's Highline, I think that's a great idea and I like her. Mary Martin declares herself as the Socialist Worker's Party candidate, and has responded to a press question about pets with "The working people don't give a flip whether I have a pet". Needless to say, I like her. 

Charlie Staadecker is the closest thing to an old-school business candidate, reflects a return to Seattle Politeness, is pro-art, positive, and wears a bow tie. I like him (and yes, bow ties are cool). And Douglas McQuaid, who seems to have ended up on the ballot through a wacky clerical mix-up, isn't spending anything on the campaign, but says he is there to show that little guys can run for mayor as well. And I really like him, and he is STILL a better candidate than the guys running against Dow Constantine.

And I think you see the problem here. Each of the candidates has something to recommend themselves. They range from left-of-center to seriously-lefty but all have a similar bag of attitudes, and while the proposals may differ slightly as to the best way forward, the foundation does not. This is not an election to fix the city, or even to find the best way forward. Everyone is pretty happy with the way things are going, and want to keep doing that.

So yeah, we have a Brady Bunch of candidates, none of which promise a sea change in government. I come from Pittsburgh, known for its unlikely mayors (Pete Flaherty, Sofie Masloff, and, yes, even Luke Ravenstahl), so I like my mayors colorful and my city councils competent. So I am recommending Mike McGinn, while recognizing the Ed Murray is extremely good even if the Seattle Times likes him. And if you don't like the process at all - vote Douglas McQuaid, because even the little guy should be able to run for mayor.

More later,