Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn survived a hard-fought primary Tuesday and is headed to a November runoff against state Sen. Ed Murray — a matchup likely to revolve around leadership style as much as any single policy difference.
Murray led the nine-way race with more than 30 percent of the vote, to McGinn’s 27 percent.
Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell and former Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck were vying for third place with about 16 percent each.
Battling low job-approval ratings and a pack of viable challengers, McGinn’s campaign had downplayed expectations for Tuesday’s vote, suggesting he might wind up in third place on election night.
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But such worries for McGinn supporters were quickly doused when results flashed across TVs and smartphones after 8 p.m., showing the mayor comfortably in second place.
At 95 Slide, a Capitol Hill sports bar, McGinn struck a gracious note in his victory speech, saying he had faced “worthy adversaries” who care about the city.
And to cheering supporters he said, “I know we’re going to run a hell of a race.” The crowd erupted into chants of “Four more years!”
Murray, speaking to supporters at the Crocodile Cafe, said the real race had only begun. “One thing is clear from today’s results, the people of Seattle want new leadership.”
Foreshadowing his chief line of attack on McGinn, Murray wasted no time in hitting the mayor as overly combative.
“Too often in recent years, it has seemed that Seattle’s success has come despite our city government, not because of it. Too often in recent years, this city has been divided and polarized. With your help, I intend to change that,” he said.
Some Murray supporters were talking like the general election is only a formality, noting McGinn’s failure to win even a third of the primary votes.
“This result means that Ed Murray is the next mayor of Seattle,” said former City Councilmember Jim Compton.
A state legislator since 1995, Murray is best known for championing a series of gay-rights laws, culminating in last year’s law making Washington the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage.
If elected, Murray would be Seattle’s first openly gay mayor. He plans to marry his longtime partner, Michael Shiosaki, on Saturday.
On the campaign trail, Murray also boasted of his record chairing major state budget committees, where he worked with conservative Republicans to find common ground. He also played a role in passing two of the state’s biggest gas-tax-funded transportation packages for highways and transit.
At Harrell’s election-night gathering, a pall fell over the room as results showed him in fourth place, barely behind Steinbrueck. A disappointed Harrell reminded supporters that he’s still in office and isn’t going anywhere.
“It was a great race and I think my message resonated,” said Harrell, who said he believes the results show that voters “want change and a new mayor, too.”
But Harrell said many voters appeared checked out of the summer election and did not have enough information to make a choice.
Steinbrueck was more defiant, vowing to wait for more results in coming days.
“Don’t think for a second that it’s over, because it isn’t,” he told supporters at the China Harbor restaurant on Lake Union. “We have a lot of uncounted ballots. I’m in line there, holding a strong showing.”
But Steinbrueck’s chances appear virtually nonexistent. King County Elections officials had predicted 35 percent turnout in Seattle. If that turnout figure holds, the 93,400 ballots tallied Tuesday night would represent more than 64 percent of the eventual total.
McGinn rode to victory in 2009 as an unlikely mayor. The bike-riding former environmental activist and attorney had never run for public office before his surprise victory.
But McGinn angered voters with his changeup on a 2009 election-eve promise not to interfere with agreements in place between the city and state to build the Highway 99 tunnel.
Once in office, he attacked tunnel supporters, including most of the City Council, Seattle’s legislative delegation and the governor, and helped qualify a referendum on the project for a public vote.
An electorate weary of 10 years of Seattle process voted overwhelmingly to go forward with the tunnel to replace the seismically vulnerable Alaskan Way Viaduct.
Despite poor poll numbers, McGinn mounted a spirited re-election campaign — defending his accomplishments and highlighting his late effort to rally low-wage workers and their unions by moving to block a Whole Foods in West Seattle over wage concerns.
McGinn acknowledged he’d face a tough fight against Murray but said he would continue to press his vision of a forward-looking city. He said he let voters know just where he stands, and signaled he’d call out Murray for his more cautious style.
“You know where I stand. You know who I stand with. Now we’re going out into the general election and the question will be ‘What does the city stand for?’ ”
McGinn faced further criticism over his response to the Department of Justice’s probe into use of force by Seattle police. That investigation ended with a settlement that included new policies and monitoring of police.
McGinn boasted that the final settlement included a new citizens commission that brings together police critics and officers at the same table. But the mayor’s detractors, including City Attorney Pete Holmes, attacked him for a combative stance before that eventual agreement.
Murray alluded to the DOJ fight Tuesday, saying that despite the mayor’s frequent campaign claims that crime is down, violence is still a problem.
In his speech to supporters, Murray cited a campaign volunteer who had been beaten up a few days ago in an apparent anti-gay hate crime.
“If the mayor had collaborated with the DOJ earlier, we would have been further along in fighting this type of thing,” Murray said in an interview later.
As Murray emerged as a likely front-runner in the campaign — amassing key endorsements and raising more money than any other candidate — McGinn increasingly singled him out for criticism.
McGinn tried to link Murray to the budget logjam in Olympia and the failure to pass a local-option funding package for transportation — attacks that will almost certainly intensify in the next few months.
Steinbrueck tapped into angst in the city’s neighborhoods about increasing density, lack of parking and permissive development rules under McGinn. He called for “smart growth” that coupled affordable housing, transit and open spaces with dense new development.
His campaign fliers characterized him as the “Neighborhood Voice. Neighborhood Choice.”
He was the only candidate to oppose the Sodo location for a new NBA arena, siding with longshore workers and the Port of Seattle, who argued it was a potential threat to maritime jobs.
Harrell, a former corporate attorney and second-term city-council member, emphasized his Seattle roots and pledged to bridge the city’s racial and economic divides and create “One Seattle.”
He proposed turning community centers into “Empowerment Centers” where at-risk youth could receive tutoring and mentoring. And he said he would recruit corporations to help pay for the program.
Charlie Staadecker, a bow-tied commercial real-estate broker, ran as the political outsider with a lengthy résumé in business and philanthropy. But despite raising more than $200,000 for his campaign, he took less than 5 percent of the primary vote.
Times staff reporters Brian M. Rosenthal, Maureen O’Hagan and Lornet Turnbull contributed to this report.
Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @lthompsontimes
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or email@example.com. On Twitter: @Jim_Brunner