The two men vying to be Seattle’s mayor took to the Barboza stage Thursday night to chat about Capitol Hill from the discomforts of an awkwardly deep-seated couch. Incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn and challenger Sen. Ed Murray appeared in front of a packed-in, *sold out* crowd. Tickets were free. The candidate-inspired cocktails were not.
Organizers for the first ever Capitol Hill Mayoral Race Forum, sponsored by the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and CHS, demanded no personal attacks or political pettifogging, and the candidates mostly held to it. McGinn and Murray were cordial, especially given their tense bickering over the Michael King scandal, which flared up most recently at a debate last week.
Filmmaker, past candidate for City Council and Seattle University adjunct professor Sandy Cioffi moderated the forum, which was broadcasted live and will be available online in both “raw” and edited formats soon. Cioffi’s questions were formed around “live, work, play” issues on Capitol Hill.
Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.
Candidates took a couple questions from the crowd and via Twitter. CHS boss Justin Carder and Chamber executive director Michael Wells were on hand to live tweet the forum and interject with an occasional gong. Check out #CapHillMayor for some real-time highlights and observations from Seattle social and pro media.
Some of the most interesting points in the night came from the short-and-sweet “palate cleanser” questions. When Cioffi asked the candidates to pick one mulligan they would take from this campaign, Murray was quick to respond that he would take back comments he made during an interview with PubliCola in September in which Murray placed blame on former Sen. Derek Kilmer for the King embezzlement case.
McGinn stalled on the question initially but ended up taking a cue from Murray, saying he would take back telling the Seattle Times that crime was down in the city. The comment was was perceived by some to mean that the mayor didn’t care about current levels of crime, he said. “It’s been used against me repeatedly,” McGinn admitted.
Neither side could claim victory, as there was little debate between the two candidates. That’s not to say there weren’t winners and losers. We know Murray wins for the booziest supporters. In the cocktail drink-off between Ed Murray’s GingerEd (whiskey ginger) and the McGinn and tonic, Murray dominated, 65-27. Next time around, a mayoral cannabis contest?
Ground rules for the forum also prohibited candidates from using the words “parking,” “vibrant,” and “progressive” under threat of being gonged. Murray struggled here with three gongs, and McGinn took pleasure in taking a few digs at the senator near the end of the night, given his two-gong tally.
- In his opening remarks, Murray touted his home turf credentials as a 29-year resident of Capitol Hill, saying he had witnessed several neighborhood transformations. He also talked up his role in securing funding for Cal Anderson Park and fighting against light rail detractors. McGinn, a Greenwood resident, touted his role in funding 12th Avenue Arts, the Capitol Hill Station TOD site, and the affordable housing included in both projects.
- The rent is too damn high in Capitol Hill, Cioffi declared, so what did each candidate plan to do about it? Murray said he would explore sweeter developer incentives and quickly passed over an idea to have the city pay down mortgages. McGinn floated the idea of raising the city’s housing levy and increasing the amount of relocation funds available to renters.
- Rent control is an issue that both candidates have been loathe to take a strong position on. When an audience member asked directly if rent control was off the table, McGinn simply pointed out it was out of the hands of the city. Murray was a little warmer to the idea: “If the city wants it, I would work towards it.”
- McGinn and Murray both said Norm Rice was their favorite Seattle mayor. Rice was mayor from 1990-1998 and was the city’s first and only black mayor.
- On crime, Murray was clear about one solution. “We need more cops,” he said, adding he wanted more beat police to walk the neighborhoods. McGinn touted his progress in this area, adding 52 police to the ranks during his tenure, as well as implementing the park rangers program. “It’s important to have officers out of their car,” he said.
- Given the rash of street crime and muggings on Capitol Hill this summer, the candidates were asked about how they would keep streets safe at night, especially for the neighborhood’s many food+drink workers who work into the early morning.
McGinn: “If you identify the right people, you can see (crime) go down. It’s a lot of repeat offenders.”
Murray: “One thing we haven’t seen for a long time are gay bashings … We spent time with police to identify how to deal with it.”
- One Capitol Hill resident in the audience said he had recently purchased pepper spray and a tazer for the first time in his life because he felt unsafe walking the neighborhood at night. McGinn said he sympathized, retelling his experience of getting held-up a gun point a couple blocks from his house.
- On implementing a $15 minimum wage in the city:
Murray: “We should do it and find a way to phase it in.”
McGinn: “You have to hear from everybody. The more I talk to workers, the more supportive I become of this $15 minimum wage.”
- During a discussion of the Capitol Hill Station TOD site, Murray said he would work with the state to get more usage out of the Seattle Central Community College campus. “That sunken park doesn’t function for anything,” he said.
- The forum came on the heels of news that The Comet was closed, possibly for good. That prompted a question about what, if anything, the candidate’s could do to save dive, ahem, character bars in the Hill. Both candidates were skeptical. Murray said he spent much of his 20s in Neighbours, not time he was interested in reliving. McGinn invited dive bar seekers on the Hill to check out his neighborhood dives in Greenwood, the Baranof and the Crosswalk.
- When asked about local funding options for transportation, McGinn roused the crowd with an impassioned call to action. “Set the hostages free, let’s invest in our own transit.” He also won a reverse gong for his deft use of “car storage garages.”
- Neither candidate was too enthusiastic about the idea of the city buying buildings, like the Odd Fellows bulding, for the purpose of preserving neighborhood character.
- One tweeter asked Murray to respond to his vote for a state budget that included cuts to mental health spending. Murray said it was a difficult vote, but said he was able to preserve funding for other programs like Planned Parenthood during a trying economy.
- Each candidate was asked what they would do if they lost the election in November. McGinn said he would his continue his work fighting against global warming. Murray said he would take a honeymoon with his longtime partner, recently official husband, and possibly get a divinity degree.