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Mallahan v. McGinn

Joe Mallahan

Joe Mallahan

Mike McGinn

Mike McGinn

Too many M’s – Mike McGinn, and Joe Mallahan . . .

But one of them, one of two guys hardly known by the community only a couple of months ago, will be Seattle’s next mayor. Incumbent Greg Nickels, who was widely expected at least to survive this week’s primary election, conceded today. His timing was just about right: His votes have been close enough to the other two that he realistically might have edged into second place, until last evening’s results which made that more problematic. And today’s have erased most doubt.

One of the basics from politics 101: If an incumbent is on the ballot, the election is almost always more about the incumbent than about the challenger(s). And the results in this one could hardly have been any more definitive, with about three-fourths of Seattle voters deciding to throw Nickels out. Even had he slid through this week, he almost surely would have lost in November. For him, the effect is to cut short the pain. (And his timely concession cut it a little further.)

The two who continue on, though, will present some fine fuel for analysis. Since neither is an incumbent, and since they have won nearly identical numbers of votes – and neither can be considered a clear front-runner – the shape and substance of the general election is up for grabs in many ways.

It does have some context. Some suggestions for how to start to look at it . . .

Mallahan, who has been an executive at T-Mobile, is the guy most widely expected to face off against Nickels – the one among the challengers who seemed to be developing the most traction and attention, and who was getting lots of endorsements, including from several establishment Seattle sources (the Seattle Times, several Democratic groups. Mallahan considers himself a Democrat and has written of former Senator Henry (Scoop) Jackson as a sort of model and mentor; there’s some suggestion there of business orientation and expectation of working with the business community. The endorsements seemed to help Mallahan pick up steam in the last six weeks or so of the campaign.

McGinn, whose rise seemed to be later and perfectly timed, is an attorney (formerly a partner at Stokes Lawrence) and like Mallahan has been involved in the community. But his orientation has been a little different. He describes himself as a community organizer (he was on the Greenwood Community Council) as well as lawyer, and has been deeply involved with environmental groups, including the Sierra Club – environmental concerns clearly frame a good deal of his thinking, especially on transit.

In fact, that’s where a big debate is likely to develop. One of Nickels’ biggest efforts, and what his backers would say may be his biggest success, is the agreement by state and local officials on a tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct. Mallahan agreed with Nickels on the tunnel option. McGinn has strongly opposed it.

This has already entered some of the political discussion. A post-Seattle PI blog today suggested, “That McGinn will continue to the general election is disconcerting to state leaders and proponents of the tunnel who don’t want to again revisit a tunnel decision that was reached as a compromise after an arduous debate.
So much so that on Friday, Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island and chairwoman of the state Senate Transportation Committee, said the state’s tunnel decision is irreversible and won’t change based on the mayoral election.”

No immediate indication, yet, of which way the general election will tilt. But some of the raw materials are coming into view.

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