A curious piece of campaign mail arrived last week: A standard jumbo card proclaiming, “Southeast Seattle Leaders are United: Ed Murray for Mayor!” Below were endorsements from Rep. Eric Pettigrew, immigration advocate Pramila Jayapal, City Councilmember and ex-mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell, and (you didn’t know he was a Southeast Seattle leader?) City Attorney Pete Holmes. This message was addressed to myself “or current resident” at my old address on Queen Anne. I did not receive one at my current (and registered voting) address in Southeast Seattle. No doubt everyone else on Queen Anne will be gratified to learn about Murray’s Southeast Seattle support.
Still, there’s nothing strange about Murray and incumbent Mike McGinn courting support down there, as when McGinn launched his re-election campaign at the Filipino Community Center in January and Murray delivered a supposedly definitive (actually deflating) “vision” speech at the Columbia City Theatre last month. Last Sunday, Murray held another rally next door, at Tutta Bella.
Throughout his term, McGinn has been more visible in Southeast Seattle than any mayor since Norm Rice. He boasts of the 25 town hall sessions he’s held here, and in June he delivered a State of the Valley Address to the Rainier Chamber of Commerce, with no corresponding “State of the Bluff” for Magnolia.
In 2009, McGinn even established a campaign office at Othello Station, and the attention paid off; Southeast Seattle was a stronghold for him that November. But another factor roiled the results in this year’s primary, the mayoral bid by City Council member and Southeast native son Bruce Harrell.
As this Seattle Times map shows, most of the city’s other precincts went for McGinn or Murray in a conspicuous economic and social pattern: McGinn dominated younger, faster-changing inland districts, often the the most bike-friendly ones: Ballard, Fremont, Greenwood, Wallingford, South Lake Union, South Capitol Hill, the Central Area, Georgetown, North Beacon, Delridge. Murray led in more affluent, established, view- and waterfront-rich neighborhoods such as Queen Anne, Magnolia, View Ridge, Laurelhurst, western West Seattle, Madison Park and the rest of the Gold Coast.
Southeast Seattle, by contrast, was a patchwork of precincts going for McGinn, particularly around gentrifying Columbia City, and Harrell, who dominated Rainier Beach and South Beacon Hill. Harrell has since endorsed Murray. Campaign strategists look at maps like that and see votes up for grabs. And so Southeast is a prime battleground, and a big piece of any scenario for another come-from-behind upset by McGinn.
Harvesting votes in neighborhoods with high immigrant, minority, and lower-income populations commonly means turning out the vote. McGinn’s team has the edge here, judging by campaign operations so far and the kind of ground game they deployed in 2009.
For all that they court the Southeast, however, it’s striking what McGinn and Murray don’t talk about down here. Both intone platitudes — sincerely, certainly, but also obligatory — about the importance of diversity and Southeast’s importance to Seattle because it is so diverse. Murray tries to establish some ethnic cred by recounting how he grew up in a big working-class Irish family. Both talk a lot about education, opportunity and public safety. Murray cites all the funding he got for these as a state senator. McGinn recounts how he boosted the Families and Education Levy, how he’s hiring more officers and the police are more accountable now (though the U.S. Justice Department had something to do with that), and how crime, especially homicides in Southeast Seattle, is way down, after an alarming rash of shootings early last year.
To say, as McGinn did in June, that they’ve declined “100 percent” defies reason and fact. And the claim that the police are getting a grip in Southeast is belied by the musical-chairs command at the South Precinct, which has its sixth captain in six years. The better-regarded the captains are, the shorter they seem to stay down south before the department bumps them up to some citywide command; the post is starting to seem like a waiting room.
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