Politics and humility aren't always mutually exclusive. Consider, for example, a recent trifold mailer from Seattle Mayoral candidate, Joe Mallahan:
Joe was born and raised in Washington, the seventh of nine children in a working-class family where he was taught the value of hard work, integrity, and service to others.
Note the inspired ambiguity of "in Washington." In fact, Mallahan is an Everett native, but he wisely ain't a braggart. Why trumpet roots in the Athens of Puget Sound, Mallahan figures, and risk turning off rank-and-file Seattle voters?
Now that the Everett genie is out, however, it's easy to conjure a JFK-style exchange between Mallahan and scornful Seattleites. "Mallahan, what do you know about Seattle's gang problem?" voters will demand. "You grew up in an All-America City enlivened by cruising low-riders, the magisterial Scott Paper Mill, and 40 parks."
Mallahan will, I imagine, stare back and reply in cool Everett-ese, "No one ever asked me where I learned the value of hard work, integrity, and service to others when I was at T Mobile protecting families from scratchy cell reception."
To his credit, Mallahan soft pedals the enchantment of Everett life. I'm from Everett, Hometown Joe is saying, but that doesn't make me a better person than you, at least not in God's eyes.
How a candidate handles the so-called Everett card is a harbinger of his or her leadership style. An unassuming Mallahan will be level-headed and congenial. Actor Patrick Duffy, Cascade High School Class of 1967, played Bobby Ewing on TV's Dallas and gave expression to this "Everett cool."
It's a thread that sews together Mallahan and Duffy and extends back to, yes, Teddy Roosevelt. Americans remember TR though the lens of San Juan Hill and his leadership preserving America's wild lands. No one cared that Roosevelt was a snooty New Yorker with a Harvard degree. It's deja vu all over again as voters judge Joe Mallahan by his real-time achievements, not by his privileged legacy as a son of Everett.
Contrast the Mallahan style with the North Everett hauteur of Dow Constantine, a leading candidate for King County Executive. Constantine, who didn't even grow up in Everett, effuses about his "ancestral home." His mother, a schoolteacher, moved to West Seattle because it reminded her of Everett, he said. To magnify his elite status, Constantine noted that his great uncle, George Wilson, played halfback on Enoch Bagshaw's mythical 1920 national high school championship team. Constantine's grandfather, Abe Wilson, also played for Bagshaw and followed the coach to Husky football glory.
That's right, Constantine is insufferable, an unabashed flack for the Everett Chamber.
"Everett is the undiscovered city in our region," Constantine said. "I believe it has a great future. It's a great town."
As a result of his Everett heritage, Constantine should make a stellar King County Executive. But he'll govern with sharp elbows, this one.
In a recent email interview, Joe Mallahan finally came to terms with his murky past, acknowledging that he was hiding his Everett light under a mailer. It was a cathartic experience for Everett's next Seattle mayor.
Jackson: You're the only Seattle mayoral candidate who was born and raised in Everett, and you're also the only candidate rated "Outstanding" by the Municipal League. Is there causality or coincidence to these two statements?
Mallahan: Everett has long been the incubator of great leaders, and once you have been a newspaper boy for the Everett Herald, your resume is pretty much golden. Scoop Jackson liked to claim he was a Herald carrier in his youth, but I'm guessing he had a route in hoity toity North Everett. I, on the other hand, had the most coveted route in town: the Mobile Country Club on SE 85th Street — 250 mobile homes tucked nicely into less than one quarter square mile. I used to run that route after cross-country practice at Cascade High School. I could deliver 150 papers in 20 minutes.
Jackson: You abandoned your hometown, the City of Smokestacks, soon after graduating from high school. How long have you been plagued by feelings of shame or did you simply elect to repress all memories of your formative years?
Mallahan: They'êre not smoke stacks, they'êre steam stacks, stupid.
Jackson: In the 1980s, Seattle made a splash with its sister-city agreements, hooking up with every radical and outre city in the world (think of it as the Hippie years). Would you be willing to make Everett a Seattle "Sister City" complete with reciprocal junkets, cultural exchanges, and general goodwill?
Mallahan: I think a sister city program with Everett would be a good way to heal some of the wounds. Relations have been rather strained since the Teddy Bears incident at the Everett Event Center in the fall of 2007. Everett Silvertips fans have never forgiven the Seattle fans since then. That was the game where every fan was given a Silvertip Teddy Bear, and was instructed to throw them on the ice after Everett scored a goal so they could be donated to the Everett Police Department. Alas, the Thunderbirds beat the Silvertips 3-0, and bears were tossed only when Seattle scored. I'm still ashamed of the multiple Teddy Bear beheadings I witnessed that night. Deep, deep wounds. As Seattle'ês mayor, I will deliver a teddy bear to Mayor Stephanson as an olive branch, and a symbol of the high regard Seattle holds for its neighbor to the north.
Jackson: True or False: Scandinavian Lutherans made and enforced the laws of Everett only to have the Irish Catholics upend and violate all that was lawful, decent, and true.
Mallahan: I guess you never read the book, How the Irish Saved Everett Civilization. The Ruckers will always have their hill, and they will always supply the athletic uniforms for thousands of Everett youth every year, but it's Pat Sullivan and the Irish Soccer Club that put Everett on the world sports map. As for pro soccer stars from Everett, a lot of people forget that Sean Henderson was actually O'Henderson before his family passed through Ellis Island.
Jackson: An Everett litmus test. Please define the following: A choker, a gypsy drum, and a rootwad.
Mallahan: Rootwads were the deadheads you had to dodge when water skiing Steamboat Slough. The real question is what's a Peavey? If you haven't handled a Peavey, then you're not a real Sounder.
November predictions are ill advised, but here goes: Mallahan and Constantine win. They both have certain, well, natural advantages.