AT LAST, Seattle voters have a clear-cut choice for mayor this fall, between candidates with divergent ideas of what a mayor should be.
Incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn squeaked through the primary but with almost 73 percent of early voters voting against him, he has no easy path to another four-year term.
He faces state Sen. Ed Murray, whom this page recommended for the job, because of his smooth political skills and deal-making bent — a strikingly different leadership style.
McGinn campaigned to be the “most progressive mayor” in America. His ideological stands — against the Highway 99 tunnel and, more recently, against Whole Foods’ wage scale — appealed to a base of very loyal supporters but earned him a reputation for divisiveness.
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Murray, who would be Seattle’s first openly gay mayor, represented the city in Olympia for 18 years. He campaigns to mend the state and regional relationships torn over the past four years.
Despite solid, thoughtful campaigns, former City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck and current City Councilmember Bruce Harrell fell short. They campaigned hard against McGinn; Murray could use their endorsement.
Money will pour into this race, because of the high stakes. McGinn favors insurgent grass-roots campaigns, and is a skillful campaigner, propelled by an unusual coalition of environmentalists, some unions and Sonics fans.
Despite a nine-candidate field, the primary mostly focused on a narrow swath of progressive issues. The city’s business climate, and the continued squeezing of the Port of Seattle, for example, are largely afterthoughts.
Murray ran a front-runner’s campaign based on his solid legislative record on transportation and same-sex marriage. His campaign was wrapped in money and the bona fides bestowed by big-name endorsements.
In the fall, he must better articulate his vision of Seattle’s future. Details are needed to back up gauzy talk about improving Seattle’s schools and business climate, and preparing for an even taller, thicker, denser Seattle
McGinn’s challenge is to show he is not just the mayor of Capitol Hill progressives and some union supporters. They applauded his decision to require merchants, such as Whole Foods, to pay living wages if they want to vacate a street as part of a development.
But the decision unnerved businesses because it suggested politically tinged decision-making was now part of the land use code.
To serve Seattle voters best, these two progressive candidates must clearly distinguish themselves in the months ahead.