With Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn perceived as vulnerable, many high-profile politicians and a few barely known ones are considering running against him in 2013.
To call it a cast of thousands would be an overstatement. But with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn perceived as vulnerable, many high-profile politicians and a few barely known ones are considering running against him in 2013.
Among the possible candidates are: state Sen. Ed Murray; three current or former City Council members, Tim Burgess, Bruce Harrell and Peter Steinbrueck; former County Executive Ron Sims; commercial real-estate broker Charlie Staadecker; business owner and engineering project manager Albert Shen; Republican Port Commissioner Bill Bryant; and perhaps the most experienced of all, the former mayor of both Bellevue and Bremerton, Cary Bozeman.
McGinn hasn’t said for sure that he’s seeking re-election, but he and Staadecker are so far the only candidates to officially file for office. The mayor had raised $88,000 through the end of October. His predecessor, Greg Nickels, had raised more than $200,000 at that point four years ago but didn’t make it out of the primary.
McGinn has recalibrated his style since voters resoundingly rejected his attempt to block the Highway 99 tunnel in August 2011, and since he blamed the City Council for the voters’ defeat of a $60 car-tab fee three months later. (The mayor had wanted an $80 measure to also fund streetcars.) McGinn has shifted his focus and mounted a charm offensive designed to win back some of the labor and business leaders he alienated during his failed tunnel fight.
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“The incumbent is doing a better job. He’s being more inclusive. He’s trying to work with us,” said Dave Freiboth, executive secretary-treasurer of the King County Labor Council.
This year, McGinn delivered perhaps the biggest success of his term: a deal to build a basketball and hockey arena in the Sodo neighborhood without new taxes. He also championed a cap on exorbitant towing fees in the city, and was an early supporter of renewing the Families and Education levy that supports struggling, low-income students.
But he clashed again recently with the reform-minded City Council when he appeared to side with the Seattle Police Guild over the choice of a federal monitor to oversee a plan to address Department of Justice (DOJ) findings of excessive use of force and a pattern of biased policing.
Political consultant Cathy Allen, who laments that there are as yet no women in the race, said every mayor is vulnerable after a first term, but then adds of McGinn, “he’s a little more unpopular than most.”
The missteps have emboldened a slew of contenders who for now are considering jumping into the race:
Ed Murray. Voter approval of same-sex marriage in Washington has given Murray national stature as a civil-rights champion. He’s also the most experienced politician to consider the Seattle mayor’s race.
He started his career as an aide to Seattle City Councilmember Martha Choe, served as chair of both the state House Transportation Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee, and has earned a reputation for working across the aisles.
But Murray already has a job and a lot of responsibility, having been chosen as the new Senate majority leader. And as a legislator, Murray is prohibited from raising money during the legislative session, putting him at a disadvantage in fundraising and endorsements.
Murray said that if he were to run, it would be to “bring the different factions of liberal and progressive Seattle together to move difficult issues forward.”
Tim Burgess. He is a former Seattle cop and advertising executive who has led the City Council’s response to the DOJ findings. He pressed for a strong monitor, in opposition to the mayor who wanted someone acceptable to the police rank and file. As former chair of the council’s Public Safety and Education Committee, Burgess showed himself a thoughtful student both of effective policing and of education overhaul.
In his first campaign for council in 2007, Burgess was labeled by incumbent David Della as too conservative for Seattle. The charge didn’t stick, but McGinn likely would use Burgess’ support for an aggressive panhandling ordinance (the mayor vetoed it) to paint Burgess as the law-and-order candidate. Given the ongoing problems with drug dealing and vagrancy downtown, it might not be a liability.
Bruce Harrell. He easily won City Council re-election last year against a transit and density advocate who courted many of the same voters who had supported McGinn. Harrell is a Seattle native, a former University of Washington football player and a lawyer. He’s more naturally outgoing than Burgess and, as the council’s only minority member, enjoys strong support among the city’s ethnic groups and social-justice advocates.
On the council, Harrell has been an advocate of police reform, proposing that officers wear body cameras to record encounters with citizens. He’s also proposed limiting what prospective landlords and employers can ask about applicants’ criminal history, but the legislation has stalled because of legal issues and pushback from business. Critics question whether he can drive big change.
Peter Steinbrueck. The former council member has name recognition. His father fought an eight-year battle to save the Pike Place Market from redevelopment, and in 10 years on the City Council, Steinbrueck carried on the tradition of principled opponent to the establishment. He was a consistent critic of Nickels and worked to preserve industrial lands in Sodo and limit downtown building heights.
Steinbrueck stepped down from the council in 2007 and has since spent a year at Harvard on an architecture fellowship. He’s resurfaced this year as a paid advocate for the Port of Seattle in its fight against the Sodo location for a new sports arena. He’s also lobbied against McGinn’s plan to allow taller buildings in South Lake Union, saying the zoning changes would create expensive condos and few public benefits.
Steinbrueck likely would cut into McGinn’s support among young-eco-green voters, as well as those who question density as a direct route to livability. Critics say he would have a hard time raising money and would have to fight a tendency toward being sanctimonious. In his recent public role, he said he was a strategic adviser, not a lobbyist, even though he’s registered as a lobbyist with the city.
Ron Sims. The former King County executive and deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says he hasn’t yet made up his mind, but not because he lacks the fire for public policy or intractable issues. He said he’s waiting to see how the field shapes up and whether or not a credible candidate who shares his values and priorities commits to the race.
Sims has the baggage of years in politics, including a hand in the $1.8 billion price tag for the Brightwater treatment plant and a failed bid for governor. But if Seattle mayor is really his next dream job, he’s a charismatic campaigner and has a reputation as an inspiring leader.
Charlie Staadecker. A commercial real-estate broker and arts patron, Staadecker has raised $40,000, much of it from donors with prominent Seattle names such as Benaroya. He’s an active member of the Rotary Club of Seattle-Downtown and a former Vashon Island School Board member, but he has no experience in Seattle government and is virtually unknown out in the neighborhoods.
Albert Shen. A local engineer and owner of a consulting firm that specializes in managing large infrastructure projects, including for the Port of Seattle, Shen said he is seriously considering joining the mayor’s race. He is a member of several nonprofit boards, a member of a minority-owned business association and participated in the White House Business Council, advising the Obama administration on the needs of small businesses.
Like Staadecker, he’s a political unknown and doesn’t have experience in government. His outsider status could be an asset, as McGinn’s was in the last race.
Bill Bryant. The Port of Seattle commissioner answered a query about his interest in the mayor’s race with a pleasant text about his recent hiking and mountain-biking expedition to the Southwest and how no one really wants to think about politics until after New Year’s.
But the trade consultant left the reply bubble blank when asked if even an outdoorsy Republican could win a mayoral election in deep-blue Seattle.
Cary Bozeman. Although he currently lives in Bremerton, Bozeman is a Seattle native and is said to be considering returning to his urban roots. Because he has been mayor of both Bellevue and Bremerton, a move across the Sound might open him to accusations of carpetbagging. But he’s a popular public official known around the region, and he’s got more executive experience than anyone else considering the race. He didn’t return a message seeking comment.
Staff reporter Emily Heffter contributed to this story. Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @lthompsontimes.