He’s a political establishment outsider from New York, and prior to his Seattle victory he had never held public office. Nevertheless Mayor Mike McGinn persevered in 2009 to become the city’s mayor. Four years later, he’s poised to win again with a campaign that is hitting notes resonating in Capitol Hill. With the August 6th primary fast approaching, McGinn is comfortably touting his accomplishments from hist past four years leading the city.
“We’re trying to support high road economic development, not low road economic development. High road economic development focuses on creativity and innovation,” he told CHS in a recent interview at Smith in Capitol Hill (his pick). “Low road is low wage, low environmental quality.”
McGinn came to Seattle to attend law school at the University of Washington after attending college in Massachusetts. He eventually chaired the local chapter of the Sierra Club where he became an important player on Washington state environmental issues. In the years leading up to his first mayoral run in 2009 he spearheaded campaigns to oppose road construction and support light rail.
In this year’s race McGinn has again picked up an endorsement from The Stranger and, as expected, did not get the nod from the Seattle Times editorial board – it seems the political recipe that makes the candidate appealing to Capitol Hill voters is coming together, again.
The most recent KING 5 poll puts Senator Ed Murray in a two-way tie with McGinn, a jump for Murray from prior polls. Murray’s primary beef with McGinn has been that the mayor lacks the ability to build regional coalitions, in part demonstrated by his aggressive (and failed) opposition to the Alaska Way deep bore tunnel. We talked previously with Murray about his campaign to emerge from the primary and defeat the incumbent on a wave of support from “establishment” Seattle and his record as a champion for civil rights in Olympia – and backlash against McGinn.
McGinn says the charges don’t bare out. He continues to point to his relationship with King County Executive Dow Constantine and how it is much improved from the previous mayor and executive. McGinn also points at his push to advance the timeline on Sound Transit 3 planning, which required the approval of the three-county Sound Transit Board.
“We’ve demonstrated our ability to build regional coalitions,” he said. “The chief criticism comes from my opponent, Senator Murray, who say’s he’ll use his relationships in Olympia to save Metro (Transit). It would be nice if he could do that while he’s still there.”
Aside from Murray’s upper hand on LGBT issues (spearheading the state’s gay marriage win and his potential to be city’s first openly gay mayor), the longtime Washington politician has struggled to set himself apart from McGinn on major issues, especially those big on Capitol Hill.
McGinn, after all, won his first election in 2009 with overwhelming support in central Seattle on a density-forward campaign.
On nightlife, McGinn lead a coalition to push for extended bar hours (although it failed) and claims responsibility for repairing relationships between Pike/Pine club owners and the Seattle police. McGinn was also a strong supporter of marijuana legalization and supports pot clubs for tourists and renters who technically may not have a place to smoke after legalization.
McGinn, like most other candidates, supports micro-housing and said Capitol Hill should expect more of it.
“If we don’t build new housing for these new jobs we’re creating, whats going to happen is people with money are going to out bid everybody for all the housing stock,” he said. “We need to be creating the opportunities for people who work here to live here. It’s an equity issue.”
On transportation, McGinn has been a leading advocate on light rail and vows to put plans in place to expand service out to Ballard and West Seattle. The First Hill Streetcar and light rail extension through Capitol Hill both took-off under his watch, as did the city’s transit master plan and bike plan.
If elected, McGinn said he would continue to push for rapid transit projects, including a Madison trolley. “The Madison Street corridor is a really critical corridor, from downtown out Madison,” he said.
A quarter of voters polled are still undecided leading up to the nine candidate primary. Despite being a major underdog himself in July 2009, McGinn said he’s confident undecided voters will again rally around him
“We’ve had an explosion of democracy in this race,” McGinn said. “I think my record will stand up as these undecideds decide who to go with.”