They are the same man, are they not? I mean, really. If you described one of candidates’ faces to a police sketch artist, the resulting drawing might end up looking just like the other candidate’s face. Same for their policies, mostly. Sure, one’s gay, one’s straight; one’s a legislator, one’s mayor; one’s beloved by downtown interests, one not so much. But basically what we have here are a couple of well-fed, well-intentioned Northern European sons-of-Ballard types. So, if we’ve got a perfectly serviceable version in office already, why is his competitor trouncing him in the polls?
In search of answers, I decided to follow the mayoral candidates for a day or two.
Saturday morning. Volunteer Park. The rain is relentless; the kind of rain that soaks your clothes in a few minutes. Well, you don’t need me to describe it. Spirits are undampened, though, at the kickoff to the 27th Annual AIDS walk. Lots of black Gore-Tex, lots of wet happy faces, not as much funk as you might expect. But it’s hard to be funky in this kind of shitty downpour.
Slowly more and more rain-jacketed figures gather until there’s what might reasonably be called a throng. It’s time to be inspired.
First up, Mayor Mike McGinn, looking hobo-dapper in a felt fedora and a dark jacket and totally unruffled by the crowd’s tepid applause for him. He removes his hat and unspools a few platitudes. This is not his event, he seems to know, and rhetorically he surrenders it to his opponent. “You are all great,” he says. “You care about your community.” He goes on to talk about how Seattle is a leader in philanthropy, about how important this work is. He concludes: “You stand up for those who need help. Thank you, people of Seattle.”
The people of Seattle seem barely to register his gratitude.
Ed Murray steps up. He’s petite and a little doughy. Even from a dozen yards away you can see he has clever, assessing eyes. He has something of the look of the bantam-weight Irish pugilist.
The state senator stakes his claim right away: “I remember 27 years ago, the first march. It came out of a really dark time. Our friends were dying. So we organized. We built a healthcare system.” He goes on a bit, about what’s been achieved since that time.
A few feet away from me, a bearded African American man in a wild pink tunic swoops down upon the only other African American in sight. “TOO many black people here!” They laugh and hug. Old friends.
Murray wraps up: “Let’s change history again!” and surrenders the mic, which is passed along to a young woman whose mom died of AIDS.
Murray’s aide, a sharp-eyed, vigilant young man, checks in with me to make sure I’m getting what I need. McGinn’s people don’t know I’m here; they’ve been lax about getting back to me. Based on this alone, I’m ready to be all in for Murray. I like a well-oiled machine; efficiency is a good thing.
An hour or two later, we’re at the Central Area Senior Center, a low, shambling building situated a little incongruously on a street of stately houses atop Leschi Bluff. The meeting in progress is Tabor 100, a group committed to supporting and furthering the interests of minority businesspeople. Black businesspeople sit at round tables. Tabor 100 functionaries sit in a row at the front of the room. Behind them is a splendid view of the Cascades, Lake Washington, a lot of rain blowing practically sideways.
Several candidates running for port positions precede the mayoral candidates. It quickly becomes clear that Tabor 100 is understandably very focused on overturning I-200, the Tim Eyman-backed anti-affirmative action initiative that passed in 1998.
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