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    A money machine without an engineer

    With the surprising defeat of Greg Nickels, a powerful political coalition of labor, greens, and developers is up for grabs. If it doesn't settle on one candidate, local politics could be scrambled.
    State Sen. Ed Murray

    State Sen. Ed Murray Washington Legislature

    The best thing about local politics is that it's usually difficult to look at it through a strictly partisan lens: there's nothing left or right about fixing potholes. Seattle, being close to a one-party town, has candidates who vie for the endorsement of Democratic district regulars, so candidates are often jammed up in a "left and lefter" competition, but it often becomes meaningless. No matter how many times some people stamp their feet and snort, there's nothing particularly left or right wing about any of the Alaska Way Viaduct solutions: tunnel, rebuild, street option, retrofit. And competence with a snowplow? That transcends all labels.

    Partisans are sometimes left in a quandary when the world doesn't align into a neat Horsesass vs. Sound Politics kind of split. In the Seattle mayor's race, it's complicated. By any definition Joe Mallahan and Mike McGinn are green and liberal, and there's no ideologically pure way to make a decision on either. Throw possible write-in candidate Sen. Ed Murray, and it complicates the mayoral picture, and it doesn't clarify who to support based on a purity test. Three Democrats: a onetime community organizer, a green activist, and a champion of gay rights.

    This difficulty is good for us, I suggest, because we can't take short cuts and vote for a ticket. It forces us to look at the pros and cons of each, and take some guidance by the forces that tend to back each candidate. Unless you're a one issue voter, there's a lot to like and dislike about all the candidates, and that's even before you get into personality.

    The Ed Murray possibility is intriguing, one because he'd be an excellent, well-qualified candidate, and two because a three-way race could complicate things even further. We could wind-up with a heavily divided decision in the final, not unlike the primary where McGinn, Mallahan, and Nickels were locked in a nearly three-way tie which Nickels narrowly lost. At the very least, the Murray look keeps many people open-minded for a while longer.

    I don't know about you, but I'm undecided about who I'm going to vote for in November, with or without Murray in the race. Depending on what happens, that could be the case for a lot of voters who are still trying to get to know the unknowns. Polls suggest voters are open-minded.

    The Murray trial balloon and buzz are powerful because it's less about ideology than it is about preserving the powerful, three-prongled coalition that did so much to make Greg Nickels successful. It's a money machine without an engineer.

    Nickels' three-legged stool was labor, greens, and business, especially developers. He raised a lot of money and forged a powerful base with that group, and all of a sudden it's up for grabs. Labor is skeptical of both Mallahan and McGinn; greens are divided to the extent that McGinn is uber green, but for many, Mallahan is green enough. Business doesn't like McGinn's anti-tunnel stance, but neither does Mallahan toe the line. His desire to delay the Mercer project, for instance, puts him at odds with the Vulcan agenda. And everyone worries about McGinn's and Mallahan's lack of experience. Instead of one rookie underdog challenging Goliath, we wound up with two Davids throwing rocks at each other, but the big man went down in the first round.

    If the race is between Mallahan and McGinn, some of the big money seems to want to lean to Mallahan as a less risky bet. And he may give them what they want to keep Murray out of the race. Nickels' super fundraiser, Colby Underwood, might find himself in the Mallahan camp if someone more attractive and more Nickels-like doesn't come along, and that would be Murray.

    But Murray is a long-shot, as write-in candidates rarely win. And to win, he'll need big money to overcome not having his name on the ballot. It could also give him some leverage if he decides not to get in. Who will he back? Can he help turn on the tap for the next-best guy, and get something in return?

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    Posted Tue, Sep 1, 8:16 a.m. Inappropriate

    So why not start a draft campaign for one of the council wannabees to step up?

    Posted Tue, Sep 1, 9:57 a.m. Inappropriate

    "powerful political coalition of labor, greens, and developers"

    Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
    All the developers's horses,
    And all the green's men,
    Couldn't labor Humpty together again.

    Greg Nickels forgot that his true constituents were the voters, and not powerful interest groups. When he decided to move in with his imperial courtiers at his allegorical Versailles, away from the grit of the city, it was just a matter of time before we had our own little Bastille Day.


    Posted Tue, Sep 1, 10:34 a.m. Inappropriate

    Why were you surprised that Team Nickels lost? Had you no dealings with the Nickels administration?

    The taxicab industry is a great example. Despite overwhelming opposition -- legitimate concern -- from the taxicab industry, the Nickels admininistration rammed through a regulatory agenda -- hardly listening, much less seeking reasonable compromise.

    So the taxicab industry helped fund Drago -- helped keep her on TV in the final days of the race -- to make sure that if she did not win, at least it would hold votes back from Nickels. Our message was simple: if you Mayor of Seattle, yours is an elected office, and we vote...

    Nickels loss was no surprise to us. Hopefully, the message about taking pencil and paper to meetings, actually listening to constituents and not hiding behind city staff, won't be lost on his successor.

    Posted Tue, Sep 1, 11:37 a.m. Inappropriate

    I am only surprise by how many little groups that opposed Nickels appear to find an elevated level of perceived power.
    The "winners" failed to pull in a majority, the incumbant had nearly 2/3 of the voters pick somebody else, and yet every fragment in opposition sees its contribution to unseating Nickels at a higher level than they do in selecting an actual majority winner.

    In some strange way McGinn was correct, this is like re-voting on the viaduct, where 2/3 of others can claim (kind of) a majority are against the other 1/3 in what not to do, sadly missing out on realizing a majority of what to do.

    Mr Baker

    Posted Tue, Sep 1, 12:02 p.m. Inappropriate

    "Three Democrats: a onetime community organizer, a green activist, and a champion of gay rights."

    Where is Mallahan? He is neither the first, second nor third.

    Lets not start making up facts. Someone that doesn't vote ten times since 2000 is no "community organizer".

    It is obvious you support Mallahan so just come and out say it rather than makeing up stuff.


    Posted Mon, Sep 7, 8 p.m. Inappropriate

    The politics of Seattle is very simple: Gimme.

    The person who wins is not an ideologue, but a Boss Tweed, who courts the elites and spreads the tax booty among his followers.

    When you see the "activity" for these candidates, it's not solid citizens standing up for what they "believe", but bureaucrats fighting tooth and nail for their paychecks.

    Because Seattle is such a net drain on the entire region (Light Rail boondoggle) I think everyone in Washington State should be allowed to vote for Mayor there (or on the Viaduct, and so on).

    Right now Seattle's star is fading. The ring of exurbs is taking on more importance and power. Like Joan Crawford in her 40s, Seattle is getting more vociferous, demanding money from the studios (Olympia) but mostly screaming at the top of her lungs "I'm a STAR dammit".

    Yes, Seattle, but Puget Sound is now a constellation of stars...the stars of Kent, Renton, Issaquah...


    Posted Tue, Sep 8, 3:28 p.m. Inappropriate

    Joe Mallahan qualifies as a community organizer. He put himself through Catholic University in D.C. and worked as a legislative aide to Cong. Al Swift. He got an MBA from the U. of Chicago and at age 31 became president of a building supplies company. "During that same time, he became an active community organizer and helped establish United Power for Action and Justice, a 10,000-member civic organization. He was trained in community organizing by the Industrial Areas Foundation—the same group that trained President Barack Obama. Joe worked with church members, neighborhood organizations and unions to press city and state officials to improve services for the poor and working class. This experience instilled in Joe the firm belief that empowering neighborhoods creates safer and better communities, and forces city government to deliver services more efficiently." (from his website: www.joemallahan.com)

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