Dispatches from the campaign trail

Claire Dederer tails the M&M twins: Murray and McGinn.
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Murray v. McGinn: two middle-aged white guys duke it out for mayor.

Claire Dederer tails the M&M twins: Murray and McGinn.

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.

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