Seattle Mayor-elect Ed Murray pushed ahead with transition plans Wednesday, pledging to move quickly on public-safety issues when he takes office, including the hiring of Seattle’s next police chief.
As of Wednesday night, Mayor Mike McGinn still had not formally conceded the race, although the outcome was never in doubt once Murray came away with a decisive lead on election night.
McGinn plans to discuss the race at a news conference Thursday morning.
New rounds of ballots tallied Wednesday evening didn’t change much. Murray led by 13,211 votes, with 55 percent support, compared with 44 percent for McGinn.
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Murray received congratulatory phone calls from officials including Gov. Jay Inslee, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett.
Speaking with reporters after attending a fundraising lunch for homeless youth at Plymouth Congregational Church, Murray signaled his transition will proceed in much the same way he plans to govern — deliberately and with lots of buy-in from other local leaders.
While he’ll make changes at City Hall, Murray said, he has no plans to purge all of McGinn’s department directors. “We’re not going to clean house,” he said.
Murray said his first priority is “putting together a transition team that looks like the city of Seattle.”
That group is widely expected to include Martha Choe, the chief administrative officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Murray worked as an aide to Choe when she was a Seattle City Council member in the 1990s.
“Martha is certainly somebody I’d like to be part of the transition team,” Murray said, but declined to offer details.
Murray also met with City Attorney Pete Holmes to talk about public-safety issues, including downtown safety and the process for hiring a new police chief “as soon as possible” after taking office Jan. 1.
The Seattle Police Department has been led by Interim Police Chief Jim Pugel since the retirement of the previous chief, John Diaz, earlier this year.
Murray said the search for a chief will be national but that he’d consider internal candidates — even if critics might question whether insiders can bring reforms to the department.
“I’m looking for the best person, and optics have got to come in fairly low in the chain of my decision making,” he said.
Throughout the campaign, Murray stressed that his leadership style would be more collaborative than that of McGinn, who’d wound up in public disputes with other local leaders.
Many of those officials attended Murray’s victory party Tuesday night and expressed relief that McGinn would soon be out of office.
“The past four years were painful. McGinn wanted to debate everything, accomplished very little and in the end blamed everyone,” City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen said on election night.
But Murray’s style faced questions during the campaign, too, with critics noting he didn’t offer much contrast with McGinn on policy and asking whether his consensus-building approach would stall progress on tough issues.
Murray rejected that criticism Wednesday, saying his style had worked in Olympia.
“Collaboration is not a code word for a fluffy approach to administering. It’s actually having those tough discussions very early on and trying to get people together on the issue very early on,” Murray said.
Even as he prepared for his new job, Murray also had to juggle the demands of his current job as a state senator.
He participated in a conference call with other lawmakers to discuss the special session called by Gov. Jay Inslee to pass tax breaks and a transportation-funding package intended to persuade Boeing to build the 777X in Washington.
“It would be great for Seattle if we as a Legislature could pass this, but we are still seeing resistance from the Republican majority in the Senate,” Murray said, referring to the state Senate majority coalition of Republicans and two conservative Democrats.
Meanwhile, maneuvering already is under way to fill Murray’s 43rd District state Senate seat when he resigns in the coming weeks.
Under the state constitution, Murray’s replacement will be chosen by the Metropolitan King County Council from a list of three candidates chosen by officers of the King County Democrats.
State Rep. Jamie Pedersen, who has been representing the district in the state House since 2007, said he’ll seek appointment to the Senate position. He likely would be a shoo-in.
Although he’d give up seniority and the Judiciary Committee chairmanship in the state House, Pedersen said he can have more impact on Democratic priorities in the closely divided Senate.
Pedersen’s likely move would leave his House seat vacant, and at least two contenders already are campaigning for the seat: Scott Forbes, the chairman of the 43rd District Democrats; and Brady Walkinshaw, a program officer with the Gates Foundation.
Both have been courting the roughly 150 Democratic precinct-committee officers in the 43rd Legislative District who will vote on their preferred candidate — a recommendation the County Council has traditionally honored.
A third widely rumored candidate was Alison Holcomb, criminal-justice project director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington. But Holcomb said Thursday she won’t seek the appointment.
Seattle Times staff reporter Lynn Thompson contributed to this report. Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @Jim_Brunner