The fiercely independent Seattle mayor who clashed with the City Council over police reform and the Highway 99 tunnel and pushed for bike lanes and light rail announced his candidacy on Twitter this morning, setting up a potential rematch with the man who unseated him in 2013.
Former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn wants his old job back.
McGinn has embarked on a new campaign for mayor, setting up a potential rematch with Mayor Ed Murray, the man who unseated him in a bruising 2013 campaign.
He announced his candidacy Monday morning on Twitter with a message that read, “Keep Seattle: McGinn 2017,” then held a 40-minute news conference in the front yard of his Greenwood home.
“For the past three years, I’ve been watching Seattle change in ways that I think we all should be concerned about,” McGinn said.
The 57-year-old served as mayor from 2010 through 2013, when more people were out of work and the city’s budget had to be cut.
Now, he said, “The economy is growing, and for a reason. We have a great city and major employers want to be here. That’s good. But the same people who have helped make this city what it is, who have made it so attractive, are the people being pushed out by the growth.”
He added, “I think I can do a better job than Ed.”
McGinn’s entry into the 2017 race comes less than two weeks after a 46-year-old Kent man sued Murray, claiming Murray raped and molested him when the man was a teenager in Seattle.
Murray, 61, has denied the allegations and similar claims by two other men who say they knew him when they were growing up in Portland in the 1980s.
The mayor has vowed to remain in his job and continue to run for re-election, and most city leaders have remained noncommital about Murray.
But the allegations have been damaging and distracting. Murray’s attorney held a news conference last week to publicize a medical exam of the mayor’s genitals, saying it disproves a key claim in the sexual-abuse lawsuit.
Rumors about new candidates have been swirling since the allegations against Murray came to light, and the deadline for candidates to file is next month.
McGinn is the first new challenger to announce a bid since the lawsuit was filed, but his announcement may provide cover for others to jump in.
During the Monday news conference, McGinn was repeatedly asked how the accusations had influenced his decision. He didn’t answer directly, saying he had been considering a comeback for some time.
“I’m really trying to avoid talking about the mayor’s legal troubles,” he said, though conceding, “Of course, I looked at the lay of the land.”
McGinn said he doesn’t intend to make the claims against Murray an issue in the election and declined to say if he thinks the mayor should drop out of the race.
The primary will be held Aug. 1 and the general election Nov. 7.
A Sierra Club and neighborhood activist before his unlikely rise to prominence in 2009, McGinn was a fiercely independent mayor who pushed for more bike lanes and light rail and who shepherded Seattle through the Great Recession.
He clashed with members of the City Council over issues such as police reform and the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel, which he opposed.
While McGinn’s news conference was still going on, Murray’s campaign issued a statement slamming his once and future foe.
“Mike McGinn’s divisive and confrontational style led to years of paralysis, dysfunction and infighting at City Hall,” the statement said, echoing rhetoric Murray used during the 2013 race.
“We look forward to drawing a clear contrast between Mayor Murray’s stellar record, effective, progressive leadership and the track records of all the other candidates in the race.”
Several labor unions and elected officials have endorsed Murray. McGinn has done well in the past among renters and lower-income voters, he said.
Responding to a question Monday about his prior battles with others in government, McGinn said, “I’ve had a few years to reflect on my time in office, and I’ve mellowed.”
Today’s council includes new members who share more of his views than the members he dealt with as mayor, he added.
McGinn said Seattle needs to stop raising money by increasing property and sales taxes on regular people — at least until he can review and trim fat from a city budget that’s grown under Murray.
The former mayor said he would instead eliminate spending on “grandiose projects” and seek new taxes on big business.
McGinn said the savings could be spent on priorities such as helping the homeless. He also said the City Council should act this year to pass a municipal income tax.
The Transit Riders Union and other organizations are campaigning for that under the banner Trump Proof Seattle, arguing the city should test whether an income tax can be allowed under Washington state’s constitution.
Murray has called the effort intriguing but ill-fitted to address immediate needs.
Flanked by his wife and two sons, McGinn dwelled longest on issues related to development and housing.
Seattle has represented the promise of a better life for generations of natives and transplants, but runaway rents and home prices are threatening that, he said.
“We all benefit when we keep Seattle, when we keep that Seattle. We can’t let Seattle become San Francisco,” he said, referring to the Bay Area metropolis now too expensive for many families.
He praised Murray for convening a blue-ribbon panel on growth, saying the Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee came up with some good ideas.
But McGinn said the mayor wrongly shut neighborhood activists and regular members of the public out of the planning process, weakening the panel’s credibility.
Murray has been pairing upzones with requirements for developers to help create affordable housing, but McGinn said he would start a new citywide discussion.
The former mayor said he generally supports the goal of allowing more density on blocks now zoned for single-family houses.
After years of delay on the tunnel project McGinn warned against, boring-machine Bertha finally broke into daylight this month, completing its work. “Thank god, Bertha got through,” McGinn said.
Though he’s glad the city has received a pair of big-time KeyArena renovation proposals, McGinn said he thinks a new Sodo arena should remain an option for luring the NBA back to Seattle.
Murray received 52 percent of the vote in 2013, overcoming a late campaign surge by McGinn.
Since leaving office, McGinn has worked as a government-relations consultant and for fossil-fuels divestment. For about a year, he hosted a KIRO Radio politics podcast, “You, Me, Us, Now.”
Seattle activist and lawyer Nikkita Oliver announced her candidacy for mayor in March. Hundreds of people, many of them young people, attended her campaign launch in the Central Area this month.