Mayor Mike McGinn bet a second term that he could run his administration without regard for politics. He lost that bet to state Sen. Ed Murray.
“I think sometimes I rubbed people the wrong way, but I hope people know I was always trying to do the right thing,” McGinn said in a concession speech Thursday at his Chinatown International District campaign office.
McGinn’s loss was clear Tuesday night, but his famously zealous supporters shouted him down when he tried to concede then. Few of them attended his speech Thursday, but if they had, he said, “they would have flooded the room.”
After more ballots were counted Wednesday and Thursday, Murray was leading 54 percent to 45 percent.
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McGinn was reflective and at times emotional in his announcement. He said big-city mayor is the best job in politics and said he told Murray he was in for “an extraordinary four years.”
McGinn’s biggest success, he said, was changing the civic conversation in Seattle. Murray ran on many of the same issues McGinn raised in 2009 when he entered the race as a relatively unknown environmentalist and neighborhood activist.
McGinn’s election four years ago seemed unlikely then, and he never really shook his underdog status. His term was rife with disputes and power struggles, and he was known for a go-it-alone, grass-roots style. He seemed at points to be campaigning instead of running the city, and clashed with business groups and city and state leaders.
McGinn said his failed fight against the downtown Highway 99 tunnel made for a tough start. “I’ve probably been digging out of that hole ever since.”
His lowest day in office was in July, during the secret negotiations with the Department of Justice over the Seattle Police Department, he said, when he lost support from the City Council and City Attorney Pete Holmes.
Even as he lost the confidence of the city’s usual power brokers, McGinn gained support among people who had previously felt overlooked in Seattle politics: immigrant groups in Southeast Seattle, human-service providers and activist unions. McGinn said he hoped Murray would continue to pursue some of his key initiatives, such as improved broadband, preschool for all children, and stopping coal trains.
But he expressed doubt that Murray could do that and keep his campaign promise to “bring people together to get things done.”
Change already was evident as McGinn spoke. Soon after his speech, his wife, Peggy Lynch, who has kept a relatively low profile during his time at City Hall, was arrested in Bellevue as part of a protest about immigration reform.
Thursday afternoon, Murray began his formal transition, announcing that City Hall veterans Martha Choe, a former Seattle City Council member, and King County budget director Dwight Dively would co-chair his transition team. Dively is a well-regarded budget expert who spent 22 years at the city, including a stint as finance director, before leaving in 2010 to join King County Executive Dow Constantine’s office. Choe served on the council in the 1990s, when Murray worked on her staff, and is now chief administrative officer for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
McGinn did not close the door to future political runs, saying he would find a way to be involved in public service once his single mayoral term ends in December. “I ran because I said, ‘Imagine what you could get done as mayor’ … That hasn’t been my career plan, to be a politician.”
Still, McGinn said he had hoped to serve two terms as mayor.
“I may have to question my tactics. Could I have been smarter?” He said. “I probably dribbled the ball off my foot a couple times when I could have made a nice pass instead.”
Staff reporter Jim Brunner contributed to this report. Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @EmilyHeffter