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Symbolism. Seattleites, having things pretty good, feel free to vote for candidates that make the voter feel good about him or herself. Mayor Rice was a popular, effective, black mayor. McGinn is a green mayor. So what about a gay mayor, or a woman mayor? Or, like symphony conductors, how about a very young mayor? Another opportunity for voter-pride would be to stress density issues and those that seem linked to climate change. McGinn tapped this vein three years ago, but now it’s pretty much a cliché, claimed by all.
New Coalition. The Big Five is pretty tired, and hard to lasso, but there are other interesting rising interest groups that have money and troops. Mayor McGinn smartly spotted two of them: bicyclists and the nightlife lobby. Another variant of this is to take the younger and more radical part of bigger groups, such as peeling off the anti-tunnel, anti-car brigades from the environmental groups, whose leadership backed Nickels but whose foot soldiers were restive.
McGinn’s political style is to assemble intense little groupings, give them favors and patronage, and not worry about coherence. So now he’s added sports fans, food-justice folks, even cops. He also shrewdly positioned himself as champion of ethnic groups in the southeast part of the city. All of this is packaged as an irreverent, young, “New Seattle.” Old Seattle, McGinn used to say, doesn’t “get it.” One problem: these folks don’t vote a lot. Another: Many are newcomers, not plugged into local politics. A third: all this drew on the Obama magic of 2008, long faded.
Women. The first advantage a woman candidate such as Sally Clark or Maud Daudon would have is that you would stand out from the crowd, gaining an instant base that you wouldn’t be dividing with other candidates. There is a formidable network of successful, active women in this town who are eager for such a candidate and would fund and work for a good one. On the list of desired candidates, all of whom keep saying no, are: Martha Choe of the Gates Foundation, Deborah Jacobs, the former Seattle librarian, Ginny Anderson, former head of Seattle Center, U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, and Sally Jewell, the head of REI. (Sally Jewell! Be still, my beating heart!)
Last-Minute Surprise. Norm Rice patented this technique, where you get in about two hours before the filing deadline, avoid months of negative attacks on you before, and float through the primary as the media’s Next Hot Thing. If Ron Sims gets in, this will probably be his method, both because he’s famous enough to do it and so that all his past miscues as King County Executive are not an issue. The risk is that the interest groups have pre-committed and there isn’t enough money left to head off a front-runner.
Shadow Republican. You couldn’t use the dread word in this city, of course, but there are ways to tap the 20 percent of voters who huddle in that camp. (Not to mention the suburban money you could garner.) Mayor Schell sent some of those signals, when party-pure Democrats attacked him for once playing tennis with Slade Gorton. Mark Sidran was also liked by this group, though it meant The Stranger called him “Satan.” A candidate like John McKay, an ex-Republican who attacked the Bush administration for its purge of him and fellow U.S. Attorneys, would qualify. Again, it gives you a base, a mediagenic message and a way to talk “reform.” In avoiding the R-word, such a candidate is advised to say nice things about the anti-war, permissive side of Libertarianism, rife in the tech economy.
Harmless. Maybe a good way to deal with all the distrust of government is to say you will do no harm; in fact do very little at all. Charming characters like Charlie Chong got pretty far on this appeal. The new Charlie, Charlie Staadecker, would also offer mostly smiles and his deep love of the city and the arts. A variation is to be so addicted to process that voters can feel assured that nothing anyone dislikes will be enacted. Four more years of McGinn’s bumbling also has its perverse appeal, leaving important matters in the control of the please-em-all city council.
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