As a 29-year resident of Capitol Hill representing central Seattle for 18 of those years in the state legislature, it’s hard to deny Ed Murray knows his neighborhood. He tells CHS Dilettante’s Ephemere chocolate sauce is one of his favorite things about living on the Hill.
But Murray touts a broader vision for running the mayor’s office. Some of that talk, especially around regional transportation, has led detractors to charge that Murray has spent too much time as an established politician in Olympia focused on big policy issues.
“The issue is not whether you’re an outsider or an insider, the issue is are you delivering on the things that Capitol Hill residents value,” said Murray, who has racked up perhaps the most favorable list of endorsements — both establishment and grass roots. “And I would say as a legislator, I have. And as a mayor, I could.”
Murray’s biggest competitor in the crowded race is incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn – a former Greenwood neighborhood activist who was elected in 2009 with a grass roots campaign that rebuked political insiders. What Murray may lack in the way of a McGinn-style grassroots campaign, he says he makes up for in results. Early returns on the campaign donation front — where Murray has been challenged by campaign finance laws as his time in Olympia was extended during this summer’s budget fight — also indicate a campaign in high gear.
Murray is probably best known as the state’s longtime champion for LGBT rights, culminating in last year’s win for marriage equality. If elected, Murray would be the city’s first openly gay mayor; a feat that he says would be historic but not his reason for running.
Murray says he has a strong record in the legislature bringing back transportation money for the city, including funds for the First Hill Streetcar. He chaired the house transportation committee and passed the only significant tax-levy in 20 years for transportation infrastructure. But Murray has also raised eyebrows for his calls for more regionally minded transit.
Murray once floated the idea of consolidating city and regional transit authorities, but now maintains that if consolidation were to happen, it must occur naturally over time. He has also criticized the current mayor for not building broader regional coalitions in his plans for a Ballard-to-downtown light rail extension.
Murray tells CHS he is genuinely baffled by some transportation advocates like writers at the Seattle Transit Blog who question his commitment to pro-density rapid transit and insisted his time in Olympia only bolsters his ability to get more done.
“I think the region is willing to look at coming together for both the suburbs and the city of Seattle, getting more revenue and more light rail. More revenue at a larger amount means you can build projects faster,” he said. “That’s going to take going to Olympia and getting the authority for that. And I hopefully know how Olympia works.”
One issue that will require a decidedly city-focused approach is what to do about increasing affordability as rents continue to rise on Capitol Hill. Murray said he supports increased density in Capitol Hill and microhousing should be a part of that, as long as it’s regulated.
“The city has to first determine what microhousing is and where we want it,” he said. “We need strict guidelines for developers in how they build it.”
In his first 15 years on Capitol Hill, Murray said he rented apartments. He and his longtime partner now live in a single-family home with two co-op buildings behind their house. “I don’t see the problem. We don’t suffer from noise problem or privacy problems,” Murray said.
As a neighborhood homeowner with a long history representing the Hill, Murray said his Capitol Hill credentials are strong.
“I spent 18 years in the legislature accomplishing some pretty progressive things that when I went down there people said wouldn’t happen. Things that were important to Capitol Hill. Capitol hill was at the center of it,” he said.
Today (Monday, July 8th), is the final day to register to vote before the August Primary. Ballots will be mailed July 19th. The final day of voting in the primary election will be August 6th.