The tone test for the mayor's race

Some early examples of how Joe Mallahan and Mike McGinn are doing on the barbs battle.
Some early examples of how Joe Mallahan and Mike McGinn are doing on the barbs battle.

The two fresh-at-this mayoral candidates are starting to trade shots across each other's bows. Before, they could just aim torpedoes at the Good Ship Nickels; now they have to test each other's punches. Today's example was a tiff over a proposal from Mike McGinn for hurry-up transit to the unserved neighborhoods. Joe Mallahan riposted quickly:

'ꀜLight rail is a critical service that not only gets people out of their cars and off the roads, moving more quickly, but also promotes economic development along its lines. We need more mass transit investments but light rail is a regional transportation system and all additions need to be integrated into our existing transit network.

'ꀜWhen someone proposes a plan of this size, the responsible thing to do is let voters know how much it will cost and how he'ꀙs going to pay for it. Mike McGinn won'ꀙt be honest with voters about how much his proposal will cost and suggests putting this haphazard measure on the ballot the same year Seattle'ꀙs Family and Education Levy is up for renewal. I think the last thing we should do is pit kids against mass transit solutions.

'ꀜVoters approved a Sound Transit package last year that included studies for expanding mass transit options in other parts of the city. I will advocate for expediting those plans and work with Sound Transit to move forward in a responsible manner.'ꀝ

To which McGinn quickly returned fire:

"In his response criticizing my light rail expansion proposal, Joe Mallahan made the accusation that we would be pitting 'kids against transit.'

"Mr. Mallahan's comment is uninformed. Seattle voters routinely pass multiple measures on the same ballot. Two recent examples include:

"Nov. 2008 - Seattle voters passed the Parks Levy (59% Yes), the Pike Place Market Levy (61% Yes) and Sound Transit 2 (70% yes in Seattle) at the same time with large majorities.

"Nov. 2006 - Seattle voters passed the Bridging the Gap Levy (53% Yes) plus King County's Transit Now (69% Yes in Seattle).

"My question for Mr. Mallahan is would he vote for a good light rail package and an education measure if they were on the same ballot?

"I also find it somewhat ironic that Mr. Mallahan is trying to raise concern about the Families and Education Levy (passed with a 62% Yes vote) as an excuse to not move forward on light rail. County voting records indicate that Mr. Mallahan has missed ten important elections since he moved to Seattle nine years ago including the last Families and Education Levy in 2004."

The difference in tone is apparent, with McGinn heavier on the sarcasm and the gratuitous insults, as well as the punchy data. This lawyer knows how to address a jury and score points. Mallahan, meanwhile, is trying (aided by his grave tone) to plant in voters' minds that McGinn is flaky, a sound-bite politician versus the stay-with-the-program manner of Steady Joe. If McGinn risks getting whistled for low blows, Mallahan flirts with B-O-R-I-N-G.

Underlying this positioning is the question whether voters, stunned by the Town Hell events and "You lie!" taunts, will find McGinn's snarky manner off-putting or refreshing.


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