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14 ways to become Seattle's mayor

Sally Clark stands aside, while others are pacing around to challenge Mike McGinn in 2013. Here's the field and the time-tested ways to get to the finish line.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn Jen Nance/ Office of the Mayor

Mayor Mike McGinn (with the bicycle) took part in a dedication for a portion of the Mountain to Sound Greenway through the city.

Mayor Mike McGinn (with the bicycle) took part in a dedication for a portion of the Mountain to Sound Greenway through the city. Washington State Department of Transportation/Flickr (CC)

Peter Steinbrueck

Peter Steinbrueck Peter Steinbrueck

Ron Sims.

Ron Sims. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Tim Burgess failed the progressive litmus test.

Tim Burgess failed the progressive litmus test.

I know, I know. Give me a break from election news. But fast upon us are critical decisions about the Seattle mayor’s race in 2013, an important pivot point in the city. First the most recent news on the possible candidates, and then a primer on the paths to the hot seat.

All assume Mayor Mike McGinn (still unpopular but doing better at mastering the job) will run for reelection, and he’s been busy holding fundraisers. The leading challenger is thought to be City Councilmember Tim Burgess, who tells me he will decide no later than Jan. 21 on making the race and is leaning that way. Cheerful commercial real estate broker Charlie Staadacker is a long shot but is first out there lining up backers. Former City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck is “more interested” than before and has a prominent issue: questioning the SoDo Arena.

The big news is that City Council President Sally Clark is pretty much taking herself out of the race, telling me that while the mayor's job is "supremely attractive," she prefers to stay at her important post at the council “for the cycle” which would be through 2015. That decision “could alter,” Clark says, if good candidates “with a spring in their step” fail to enter the race for mayor. City Attorney Pete Holmes has firmly taken himself out of contention. City Councilmember Bruce Harrell is thought likely to get in, despite no clear base of voters, but won’t make any decision until December.

State Sen. Ed Murray may be the next majority leader of the Senate, but he is at least looking at a mayor’s race (as he did before). “I do believe there is the time to both reach out to people and raise funds [for mayor] despite the legislative session,” he tells me. During the session, Murray would not be allowed to do any fundraising, but he would have lots of funds from groups wanting the good favor of the Senate kingpin, as well as strong support in the gay community, where he is a hero for gay marriage.

 I would add Chamber of Commerce president Maud Daudon and former King County Executive Ron Sims to the list of remote possibles. And of course, X.

Ordinarily, Seattle mayors get a fairly automatic second term.  Not this time, after all the early stumbles by McGinn, who has had to regroup entirely after his big issue, opposing the waterfront tunnel, blew up in his face. For the past year, McGinn has been undergoing a major makeover. He’s mended some fences, pushed for the basketball arena as a legacy project, become the cops’ BFF on reform issues and rushed around cutting ribbons and taking credit for numerous small-ball accomplishments. Still got that beard, but he’s wearing suits and minding his manners. Still, he’s hugely vulnerable in many quarters, so a spirited challenge will await him.

Let me handicap the race and provide a kind of overview of mayoral politics in Seattle by suggesting 14 assorted paths to victory, slotting in some of the candidates where appropriate.

Crowded Field.  A vulnerable mayor will draw lots of challengers, thus paradoxically making him less vulnerable. Imagine there are five or six pretty good opponents, and you can see a scorecard after the low-turnout August primary with McGinn (as the best known and with some firm supporters) getting 40 percent of the vote and the others grabbing 10-20 percent each. That gives McGinn a strong lead for the general election, discouraging donors to his opponent. Plus, he might draw a weak rival from such a field. By contrast, a small field can squeeze out the incumbent in the primary, as happened to Mayor Greg Nickels in 2009 and Mayor Paul Schell in 2001.

Sole Ownership of a Hot Single Issue. This strategy also relies on a crowded primary, with all the contestants on the same side of this big issue, except for you. McGinn played this game expertly in 2009, being the sole opponent of the deep-bore tunnel, rallying that youthful constituency, and surviving the primary. The candidate who might repeat the trick is Peter Steinbrueck, the only one with the political courage (so far) to question sharply the wisdom of a basketball arena in SoDo.  If he survived the primary this way, however, there would be no end of grief from sports fans for him in the general.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Oct 31, 8:43 a.m. Inappropriate

Chihuly for Mayor: Two Ashtrays on Every Ceiling!

Splabman

Posted Wed, Oct 31, 12:19 p.m. Inappropriate

"..the Religion of Density" ha ha

I call it the religion of 'BIAW will save us by building big shiney buildings'.

Steinbrueck has tons more going for him than the arena deal. He could probably bring his connections to bear to get the sports fans an arena in a better place. He also gets the real social science behind how this city and region can grow up rationally, sans 'religion'.

Posted Wed, Oct 31, 2:44 p.m. Inappropriate

Is it possible that a very prosaic subject could be a ticket to the Mayor's office? City government has for years been postponing the day of reckoning with the backlog of street, bridge, and other infrastructure repairs. Pothole fixes wear out, both physically and politically. Add in the unfunded costs of the 520 project. A candidate who levels with the city's taxpayers - that postponing a real fix greatly increases life-cycle costs since deeper repairs are needed - might strike a cord. We all use the streets, even bicyclists. It could be combined with a realistic (affordable) plan for transit investments, one that recognizes that matching funds will not be forthcoming from the feds as they have in the past to build a network of streetcar lines to every neighborhood, which seems to be the current Mayor's vision.

Posted Thu, Nov 1, 9:58 a.m. Inappropriate


a realistic (affordable) plan for transit investments, one that recognizes that matching funds will not be forthcoming from the feds as they have in the past to build a network of streetcar lines to every neighborhood

Not sure what you’re talking about there, Dick. There will be plenty of money from the feds coming available for worthy transit projects.

I don’t want to get too technical here, but Dick may not be aware that the “Surface Transportation Authorization” measure President Obama signed in July was as fat as the last one.

The big FHWA/FTA transit funding grants will be coming from the pool of federal dollars available under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). On July 5, 2012 it was signed into law. Its financing provisions apply to FY'13 and FY'14, and they are as generous as were provided during the last fiscal cycle. Long story short, there’s a fairly deep pool of “New Starts” (and other) grant money that can be tapped by transit services providers that have worthwhile projects.

crossrip

Posted Thu, Nov 1, 10:21 a.m. Inappropriate


OT: So Dick Nelson – mind if I ask you a question? Apparently when you were a state legislator you were a co-sponsor of the regional transit authority enabling statutes. Did you and your colleagues make a conscious decision to disregard what the US Supreme Court said about how only administrative powers may delegated to appointive-board municipalities?

Old-Metro just had been struck down two years before, due to how its structure violated the 14th Amendment. I’ve got to believe 14th Amendment issues were addressed when the regional transit authority statutes were in the sausage-making process. Why didn’t you guys provide regional transit authorities with a directly-elected board? That’s what the federal constitution demands when municipalities are granted all those broad and discretionary infrastructure planning and siting, taxing, bond-selling, etc. powers. A US Supreme Court opinion addresses that issue: the 1967 _Sailors v. Kent Bd. of Education_ opinion.

crossrip

Posted Thu, Nov 1, 8:26 a.m. Inappropriate

The article refers to onetime mayoral candidate Dave Stern as "inventor of the happy face"; and his campaign button duly riffed off the famous image. Yet there are other claimants to the title of its 'inventor' (with illustrator Harvey Ball being the Wikipedia favorite). So, despite the temptation around here to make Seattle the center of the universe, I wish this claim about Mr. Stern could be stated with some cautionary language ('alleged', 'self-proclaimed', etc.).

Posted Thu, Nov 1, 11:20 a.m. Inappropriate

"The Religion of Density." Yes, just look what it's wrought in NYC right now--gridlock. NYC validates my opinion that the density and mass transit folks simply don't get it--it just doesn't work when there's any disruption in services like electricity, or when nature poses an on-the-ground weather challenge. While we aren't likely to have any hurricanes, I decline the invitation to get stuck in the kind of mess we're seeing in NYC. Plus I decline the invitation to live in tenements, on floors so high that I could be trapped in my home for days without power and food. Let the density and transit lovers relocate, the sooner, the better.

mspat

Posted Thu, Nov 1, 5:34 p.m. Inappropriate

" Let the density and transit lovers relocate, the sooner, the better."

Now, now the current Mayor is not the only NYC import, just the one with the current power to match his interest in putting our money where his mouth is.

afreeman

Posted Thu, Nov 1, 4:57 p.m. Inappropriate

Not sure why you make the statement that "the leading challenger is thought to be" Councilman Burgess. Whose thought is that, and what criteria have been applied?

As for your simultaneous thought that the big news is Ms. Clark's not running, I would say that's not news at all (since it would be very premature, and ill-advised, for this talented young councilperson to make a run now). Far better for her to commune with sympathetic contacts in the press, some of whom might help lay name-familiarity foundation stones. I wonder how that could be done?

Among the names you mention, surely there must be an appealing, youthful, forward-thinking, articulate person with deep historic Seattle connections and an intuitive feel for our region and its needs. Mustn't there?

I think I'll take that thought to one of our small city parks--perhaps one that affords a sweeping view of Elliott Bay--on one of these last fall days for contemplation.

Seneca

Posted Sat, Nov 3, 5:43 p.m. Inappropriate

What? No mention of Dennis Kucinich?

animalal

Posted Sat, Nov 3, 7:10 p.m. Inappropriate

Brewster, this is such a weak article. A bunch of names that have been thrown around for 2 years now and some made up "types" of mayors. Perhaps it's time to stop playing King Maker. That time was a decade (or two) ago, not that the old establishment doesn't wish it were still so...Brewster as a Top Civic Pundit.

The Burgess is Top Contender posit is weak. The only person besides yourself who has decreed that is...Burgess. Though the way he kisses up to the downtown establishment means soon enough there are likely to be more backers. A non-downtownie Master of the Universe doesn't have to mean we have to be stuck with Amateur Hour McGinn, either.

You wrote off Harrell as a someone without a base,which is pretty funny. For anyone wanting a leader both good in business AND social justice, Harrell fits the bill. Anne Levinson is another who is strong in both areas. And neither fits the stereotypical Middle-Age-to-Old-Age White Business Guy image that is awfully passe, given the diversity of thought, income and ethnicity that is the Seattle today.

There are quite probably other names that also fit the bill, but one would have to do more thought analysis than bringing out the tired old Steinbrueck saw and newly tired Burgess boost.

Posted Sun, Nov 4, 4:19 a.m. Inappropriate

Clark is not talented. Clark may be a bunch of peoples favorite little pet; but she is not a "talented councilperson". Clark even got her council position through being a pet. She was appointed, originally. Clark is a run of the mill, will do anything for the wealthy interests, politician. Clark cares little about anything but herself. She belongs in no elective office. Ballmer, and Hansen, probably have a job for her.

Burgess is another will do anything for the wealthy interests. Butgess is subservient to lobbyists, like Christian Sinderman. A citizen can never count on Burgess to stand for anything, or to do anything other than provide tax exemption, and free public funds to wealthy individuals. Burgess only represents the interests of the extremely wealthy. Burgess belongs in no elective office.

Harrel? Get Real. Harrel used the most amount of money in Seattle history to get his council position. Harrel will say yes to free public money going to wealthy interests before there is even a request, or plan. Harrel is a joke. A bad joke. Harrel belongs in no elective office. Sorry, being what some call a "minority" does not mean you are special, I know some racists are all hung up on skin color, and ethnicity. So, Harrel is supposed to get a pass because of his skin color. So, if Harrel's skin color was white, then he would be passe? I think that the racism is passe; but hey, if you wish to base your vote on race, what can I do about it.

None of the publicized possible contenders for Mayor, including Mcginn, should be elected to any office. Perhaps, Steinbruck, but he is not as yet running. Finally, Really, Clark is a "talented councilperson"? No, she is not.

jhande

Posted Sun, Nov 4, 8:19 a.m. Inappropriate

Burgess is considered the leading challenger because he is almost certainly going to run and has a proven ability to raise money from the traditional Seattle donor groups. He's a flawed candidate, sure, but right now he appears to have the inside track with members of the downtown/lawyer power base.

Steinbrueck remains a factor because he's well known, he has the ego to think he has a chance, and there are still some positive feelings towards him (and his family) among city voters.

Harrell is iffy because he's a decent campaigner, but can't shake that "second place thing." People think he's OK as a councilmember, but when it comes time to vote, Seattleites are likely to choose a more impressive candidate.

I agree with David's analysis that Clark isn't a factor. She simply won't run against two or even one of her colleagues, and she's not strong enough to scare anyone out of the race. Sally is just too conflict-averse and too eager to please everyone; the same personality traits that have held her back as a Councilmember.

Ed Murray has a lot of strengths and rates above most of the people on this list, especially if R-74 wins, but he's a loudmouth and mayoral campaigns provide lots of chances to say something stupid.

McGinn's probably going to run again and he still has a base in the low twenties. He's got a reasonable chance to make it through a primary, but less of a chance of repeating. Beyond that, his presence in the race makes it hard for anyone off the political radar to make a strong run.

Maud Daudon and Ron Sims are interesting names, nothing more. What exactly has Maud done, except serve as sidekick to a failed mayor (the almost-forgotten one-termer Paul Schell)? Sims slept through his third term as County Executive and got into hot water as HUD deputy because of his aversion to both Washington DC and hard work.

McGinn and Burgess will probably run and Steinbrueck may run if he feels like it. If that's the case, there's only space for one or two more viable candidates and they're probably on this list.

In order for Anne Levinson or any of the other non-traditional candidates on this list to be a factor, they would need to get in the race very quickly and outmanuever the established politicos. I don't think it's likely, but we'll find out very soon if one of them will take a shot.

Mannix

Posted Mon, Nov 5, 10:57 p.m. Inappropriate

All these people and their dreadful ideas are the reasons Seattle is no longer affordable for middle class people like my partner and I. As of this month we cease to have to deal with the never ending increase in our property taxes, nanny statism, the Seattle "process" and the Seattle "freeze". Good riddance and we will not let the door hit us on the arse on the way out.

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