It's a measure of Mayor Mike McGinn's endangered political prospects that the 2013 mayoral race in Seattle is already pretty much under way. There are big names hinting at their interest: former King County Executive Ron Sims, State Sen. Ed Murray. And a leading contender is already clearly in the race, City Councilmember Tim Burgess.
Here's a new name who admits she is "thinking about it, though still in the listening mode." Maud Daudon is the "candidate" in question.
Daudon is hardly a household name, though she is well known in influential business and political circles. She was the chief financial officer at the Port of Seattle, where she got to know Port Commissioner Paul Schell. When Schell became mayor in 1997, Daudon became his deputy mayor, concentrating on administration and public safety issues. After Schell lost his reelection bid in 2001, Daudon has worked at Seattle-Northwest Securities Corporation, where she is now CEO, an employee-owned investment bank focused on public finance for schools and other entities. She just stepped down after a year as board chair of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce. She and her husband Marc are big players in the local environmental movement.
Her friends and admirers are pushing her to think seriously about running. Daudon says she only spends a few hours a month in exploring the idea, though neither is she rebuffing it. Some are pushing a Daudon candidacy because of their desire to have a woman mayor, or at least a serious woman candidate for mayor. This is a perennial theme, though the strongest possible candidates — Martha Choe, now at the Gates Foundation, Sally Jewell, CEO of REI, Virginia Anderson, former head of Seattle Center, former City Librarian Deborah Jacobs — never accede. Polls indicate a strong desire for a woman mayor, at least in general. (Jan Drago did poorly in the 2007 race.) Others think Daudon's broad-coalition politics would be just what the doctor ordered for Seattle's ailing politics.
She sees the city as bursting "with untapped potential, full of talented people who could do amazing things if you focus their energies." She has a theme for modern Seattle, one she has pushed effectively in her year as head of the Chamber: "sustainable prosperity." That refers in part to green tech as a great global opportunity for the region, as well as to ways of heading the parade to a post-carbon economy. What holds us back, she says, is the high degree of division in local politics, with Mayor McGinn as a principle practitioner of the politics of division.
At one level, you might think Daudon, 55, has too many albatrosses around her neck. The Schell administration, still in reputational eclipse. Being an investment banker, and of a firm that put together the controversial financing plan for the Monorail. Head of the Chamber. An unknown. (I recently gave a talk to the Plymouth Church forum, a well-informed civic group, and asked the audience of 100 how many had ever heard of Daudon. Two hands went up.)
At another level, however, the voters are hungry for a fresh face, and one who clearly understands business and regional economics. Burgess's drawback will be that he is a city councilmember, and they only rarely ascend to the mayor's office. Sims has his own mixed record at the county to defend (particularly his lavish spending on labor unions). Murray would have an unpopular legislature to live down. Daudon, if she does get fire in the belly for the job (not there yet), could seem to be the new force, reflecting Seattle's old vision and new mission.
She also has an interesting life story, nicely blending public service and private sector expertise. She grew up outside Chicago and went to the counter-cultural, progressive Hampshire College in Massachusetts. An early job as a city planner in Corvallis convinced her that she had to understand business, so off she went to Yale's graduate School of Management.
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