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Surviving the Aug. 6 mayoral primary will be tough enough for the race’s front-runners.

But how does a candidate keep up an energized campaign when voter support barely registers on polls or in donations?

Ask mayoral candidates Joey Gray, Doug McQuaid and Mary Martin.

Though a recent KING5 poll shows all are longshots to advance to the general election, they say they’re happy to help influence public conversation and maybe even future elections.

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Mary Martin

For Mary Martin, there aren’t any light, joking moments at mayoral-candidate forums.

“These are life-and-death issues for people,” Martin said in an interview at the Socialist Workers Party office in South Seattle.

The small space is filled with books on Teamster history, African-activist movements and the Cuban Revolution.

Martin, 61, said she will use local issues to fight for national ones she’s been passionate about since she became a socialist activist in her home state of Georgia in 1977.

According to Martin, who moved to Seattle in 2006, aPodments popping up in Seattle are proof of national capitalist values mattering more than quality of life in current American society.

She says the fight against more coal trains and coal terminals is part of a fight that needs to be waged nationwide against climate change, and that a lack of funding for more transportation and infrastructure projects indicates a lack of investment in the working class.

Martin is convinced as she campaigns door-to-door that more people are more willing to hear her party’s message than they have been in decades.

“During an election, you reach more people,” Martin said. “We try to run in every race to be a voice for the working class because there is no other voice for the working class.”

Joey Gray

Joey Gray grew up campaigning door-to-door for her father, a Lacey city councilman, and found her first job in the Washington state Senate’s page program. But she said she never thought she’d be a politician until this spring.

Gray, 46, said she prodded other Seattle women she respected, such as former deputy mayor Maud Daudon, to run because no woman has made it even into the general election since 1926.

About two weeks before the May 17 filing deadline, she started considering herself as a candidate.

“We need to say, ‘Why not me?’ and have the reaction to that thought be, ‘Of course I can run. I can do well,’ ” she said.

Gray doesn’t have political experience but says her ability to jump into new environments and find a way to thrive is her greatest strength.

She does it as an informations-systems consultant who parachutes into different nonprofit organizations to help, and as an Ultimate Frisbee fanatic who helped turn a hobby into an international coed sport.

But she said the mayoral campaign has been a learning experience.

“Campaigning and serving are very different skills,” Gray said. “It’s been fascinating watching politics, to see the difference in what you have to do to get elected and what you have to do be an effective mayor.”

Doug McQuaid

Doug McQuaid has used the same campaign strategy in both elections he’s entered: minimal campaigning.

When the West Seattle lawyer ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the state Supreme Court last year, he wrote in his ballot statement: “I will not solicit donations or endorsements from any organization with a special interest, as it could appear to corrupt the independence and nonpartisanship of the office.”

And he didn’t.

In this mayoral-campaign season, McQuaid, 68, has attended few candidate forums. But in an interview in his West Seattle office, he said that doesn’t mean he’s not taking seriously his candidacy or what it represents.

“The last two mayors in my opinion have not progressed the city as far as I’d like to see it go,” said McQuaid, a lifelong Seattle resident.

“So I just thought, as a private citizen of Seattle, I would put my name in and just see what I could do — maybe inspire other people who are not professional politicians.”

The Vietnam War veteran promotes himself as a Seattle native son with a deep, sentimental interest in serving his city.

His father, Thomas Lee McQuaid, was the first banker to facilitate a loan for the building of the Space Needle, he said.

He said he hopes simply having his name on a ballot reminds average citizens that they can throw their hat in the ring someday, too.

Alexa Vaughn: 206-464-2515 or On Twitter @AlexaVaughn.

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