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A wheelie

This is the sort of thing you do if you’re in trouble, in an election where the dynamic is different from the one before: You change basics about what got you this far. And if that sounds on its face like a risky maneuver, you’re right.

Referencing here Mike McGinn, one of the two finalists for mayor of Seattle (and narrowly the first-place finisher in the primary). He has been until recently not especially well-known across the city, but what he has been most known for is opposition to the tunnel alternative as a replacement for the Alaskan Way viaduct. (His preferred options is improvements to surface roads.) The whole subject is highly divisive in Seattle, but that stand clearly is a big part of what got him to the finals against businessman Joe Mallahan, who like Mayor Greg Nickels is a tunnel backer.

The tunnel proposal has been backed not only by Nickels and state officials but by the city council, and it is on track for development. That has put McGinn in a problematic spot – should he throw roadblocks in front of an already-greenlighted project?

Today, in the wake of another city council action backing the tunnel, he decided no: He said he still thinks the tunnel is the wrong approach, but he would carry it out and see it through if he’s elected.

As a political matter, this is problematic. How would you feel about this if you were an anti-tunnel (and environmentalist, most likely) activist who push McGinn with that as a key object in mind? How would you feel if you’re relatively agnostic on the subject (as some Seattlites are)?

Mallahan’s quick response shows he grasps the dynamic: “My opponent has spent the last eight months campaigning on one issue – stopping the tunnel and our economy from moving forward. Now he’s changing his position because he’s seen the poll numbers and is fighting for his political life. His flip-flopping clearly demonstrates that voters have a choice between a political opportunist or a principled leader and effective manager, like myself, to lead this city and our economy forward.”

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