Seattle likes practical politicians, but it also like idealists, people with big ideas. We're a city shaped by engineers, but our ego floats on lofty visions. We see ourselves as that gleaming city on the hill(s).
So, as the Aug. 6 election deadline approaches, how do we break down the visions of the nine candidates? How do we separate the plodders from the dreamers?
Here's our attempt to boil down the candidate messages into pithy slogans that try to reflect the gist of what each of them says they have to offer.
Bruce Harrell: One Seattle!
The city council member, the only candidate of color in the race, speaks of bridging the social, class and racial divide — and the North-South divide — by creating a city of opportunity for everyone. Harrell bestrides both worlds: a lad from South Seattle, and a successful corporate attorney, he's the guy who grew up poor and now lives in a fancy home near Seward Park and owns a townhouse in Bellevue. His is a social justice agenda driven by a vision of corporate largesse. Getting the city's affluent to dig deeper to fund education, for example, and mentoring young people so they have some hope that there is a ladder they can climb.
Mike McGinn: Most progressive city in America!
It's no longer enough to be the greenest, the smartest, the best-read city, fodder for an old Jean Godden column. In the McGinn vision, Seattle, anchor of the former Soviet of Washington, is destined to lead nationally, leaving cities like Portland and San Francisco in the dust — kicked up by our trail bikes, of course. Whether it's the Whole Foods controversy, or proposing an aggressive program for expanding urban rail, from the symbolism of riding his bike to work or insisting that our state highway department still isn't green enough, McGinn has staked out a national political vision and sees Seattle leading all progressives to the promised land of enlightened, liberal urbanism.
Peter Steinbrueck: It's the neighborhoods, stupid!
It's not about national leadership, it's about making the diverse city of cultural islands more complete, more unified, more livable. It's about smarter planning and respecting the grassroots that make Seattle the unique place it is, especially in the face of enormous growth to come. Better planning, a warmer embrace of our rich history, a city that's diverse but also coherent, an urban entity that is not dominated and shaped solely by private development and corporate forces. New urbanist ideas, yes, but also respect for city soul and community character. If Steinbrueck runs under the banner of the Pike Place Market clock, it's not because it's antique. It's because the Market's populist urban roots will lead to a better future.
Ed Murray: Competent leadership!
Murray has yet to articulate the dream city Seattle could be, but his progressive values and pragmatism promote the idea of quiet leadership, long-term focus, reaching across the aisle. Seattle is a big city that deserves a mature leader who implements progressive ideas (like marriage equality) even if it takes time and persuasion. Murray's is a city of competence, not grandstanding. It's not a city in a hurry either. Murray is a liberal's liberal, but he looks like a guy who could be at home in the Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce. His style is Seattle old-school: liberalism, business and no flash.
Charlie Staadecker: I believe in Seattle!
His campaign button says it all: he is the wise father who looks at our report card then quietly lectures us about living up to our potential, that we can do better than a gentleman's C+. With his bow tie and summer suits, he seems to have dropped in from another age enshrined in some back room at the Rainier Club. He's thoughtful, a fourth-generation Seattleite who cares. Much of his platform is common sense, his vision both practical and aspirational, if slightly out of touch: He says we need a city government that's run like a nice hotel. A chocolate on every pillow? His Seattle is nice, sincere, patrician and a little unfashionable, though Staadecker is the only one to remind us not to forget to have fun!
Kate Martin: I have ideas!
The Greenwood neighborhood activist is full of ideas. She wants a city that's better planned, better run. She thinks city government is wasteful and wants to wring out savings. She wants the Alaskan Way Viaduct turned into a standing park, a la New York's High Line. She's feisty and seems to embody the sincere, outside-the-box gadfly you've heard at almost every public meeting.
Mary Martin: Castro has ideas!
Not running for herself, Mary Martin represents the desire for a global, worldwide socialist worker's revolution. Unlike Kate Martin, she doesn't think outside the box, she's for destroying the old box and building a new one to Marx's specifications.
Joey Gray: I can get this city organized!
A progressive, Gray's message seems to focus on her organizational skills: She wants everything the left generally wants, but she's a high-tech systems person who can modernize our way of doing things. She has touted her experience as a "sports diplomat" who accomplishes things quietly behind the scenes. She took a last-minute flyer to run for mayor, appropriate for someone who plays and coaches Ultimate Frisbee.
Doug McQuaid: What am I doing here?
Running as a regular guy from West Seattle, McQuaid knows no one supports him, and he doesn't seem to know why he's running exactly, except as a reminder to Seattle that regular people still live here, the kind of people who'd look at home at the old Dog House. Not that we want a regular person really running things, but it is nice to be reminded that we're not all eating squid ink ice cream on our condo decks. Perhaps this is the most radical "vision" of all.