Isn’t It Weird That … the conservative Washington Beverage Association contributed $5,000 to support Ed Murray’s mayoral campaign this week? (The contribution went to the independent expenditure committee that formed in May to support Murray, helping bring the group's total to nearly $45,000. The arch conservative Washington Restaurant Association has given $5,000 to Murray as well.)
Actually, the WBA's hefty contribution isn't weird at all, at least at first glimpse. Last month incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn signed on to NYC Mayor Micahel Bloomberg's proposal urging Congress to add a provision to the farm bill that would have prevented the purchase of soda with food stamps. Food stamp funding was ultimately dropped from the farm bill altogether (but that's another story.)
But wanting to determine how much of a threat McGinn actually was to big soda, we asked him at the time if he also supported Bloomberg's infamous legislation to ban the sale of 16 oz. sodas, a question we pressed him on, but that his office refused to answer.
"Regarding your question regarding Bloomberg’s policy in New York City, I haven’t heard of anyone proposing a policy like that here," McGinn's mayor's office spokesman Aaron Pickus told us last month. "We are not going to issue a statement on a hypothetical question."
Murray says he would support tougher regulations on sodas if it was part of a broader city initiative on nutrition.
Today, after we asked Murray what he thought of a conservative group like the WBA supporting his campaign ("I guess I can tax them and they'll still give money to support me," he joked, referring to the fact that the soda industry went all in—$16 million—to repeal the soda taxes that Murray helped push through the legislature in 2010)—we asked him what he thought about stricter regulations on sugary soda drinks, which health advocates link to the obesity epidemic among children and compare to cigarettes as a public health hazard.
Perhaps the WBA should have asked him the same thing. Murray said he supported the Bloomberg initiative to prohibit people from using food stamps to buy soda pop, though he cautioned that such an effort "needed to be careful" not to play into conservative hands by promoting stereotypes about poor people and junk food that could undermine the program in general. "I've heard a lot of that in Olympia," he says.
As opposed to McGinn, Murray was also happy to field a question about Bloomberg's outright ban on 16 oz. sodas (which is currently tied up in court.)
He said he doesn't support going after one industry, but says he would support tougher regulations on sodas if it was part of a broader city initiative on nutrition—which is something he says he's interested in pursuing as mayor. He also says he supports making oversized sodas prominently display calorie counts and sugar and sodium content on the labels.
Intern Mike Lydon contributed to this report