I had an item set to go in Fizz this morning about last night's mayoral debate that went something like this:
Incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn looked terrible at the end of last night's parks foundation debate when, talking over moderator C.R. Douglas—who was trying in vain to keep the parks forum focused on parks—McGinn crossed eight lanes of traffic to attack challenger state Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill) about the Michael King scandal.
(King, of course, is the former head of the state senate campaign operation who, after acknowledging to the SPD that he had a drinking and gambling problem, has been charged with embezzling $300,000 from under the noses of the Democratic leadership, including then co-chair Murray.)
But Murray, who took McGinn's bait and responded, ended up looking even worse than the incorrigible McGinn.
I did tweet about it.
But then I never published the item in Fizz.
That's because when I started transcribing my notes, they didn't show Murray tanking at all. In fact, on paper, Murray's response came across like a well-framed, properly aggressive, and kind of righteous rejoinder (he ended like this: "Let’s talk about the issues. Let’s not use the tragedy of people’s lives to try and score political points.")
I cut the item, not because I'm biased in favor of McGinn, but rather, because it didn't match my live experience in the room. My sense last night (and I talked to a reporter from another outlet immediately afterward who strongly agreed with me) was that even as over-the-top as McGinn had been, Murray flopped even worse, with a defensive, inarticulate response where he (once again) made it clear "I didn't hire the guy." Oy.
While I held on the post (I'm waiting to see the video, which will give a clearer sense of what was actually happening in the room), Seattle Times reporter Jim Brunner posted a full transcript of the startling finale to last night's debate, calling the exchange "heated" and noting that McGinn was "clearly waiting for the right moment to attack" and "pounced" while Murray "accuse[d]" McGinn of "sleazy tactics."
Brunner's approach of not trying to declare who effed up or who succeeded was a good way to handle the newsworthy exchange.
Here it is:
MCGINN: “C.R. I just have to say it’s a pretty neat trick for Senator Murray to be in the state Legislature for 18 years, not supply the funding we need, and then run on a program that we’re not taking care of our streets.”
MURRAY: “Well let me be clear Mr. Mayor, I put together a transportation package that restored a lot of the cuts that Tim Eyman put on us when he got (Initiative) 695 passed. That package brought together environmentalists and it brought together labor and business. And the city of Seattle voted for it around 75 percent. You put a package on the ballot and the citizens actually voted against taxes.” (That’s a reference to a proposed $60 car-tab fee rejected by Seattle voters in 2011.)
MCGINN: “Let’s be clear, Senator Murray, you were in charge of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, whose job it was to maintain control of the state Senate for the Democrats, and over $300,000 was stolen under your watch…”
C.R. DOUGLAS: “OK, we’re not gonna get into that…”
MCGINN: “You lost a close race Senator Murray, you lost that close race and you-”
DOUGLAS: “OK that’s a different forum. That is a different forum-”
MURRAY: “C.R., I do get to respond, I’m sorry.”
MCGINN: continues to talk over Douglas…
MCGINN: “Let me make the remarks if you are gonna give him a response.”
DOUGLAS: “You get one minute and that’s all you get. You get one minute.”
MCGINN: “Here is what I am getting at… Senator Murray has been in the state Senate for 18 years, excuse me in the state Legislature for 18 years, in the state house and the state senate. And what he was talking about here was our maintenance backlog and our failure to fund enough bike racks, bike lanes, etc.
“And he did in fact play a role in passing a ballot measure a number of years ago. But this year that legislative local options funding package didn’t pass. It got hung up in the state senate. And the point I’m trying to make is we’re working hard to put additional money into these things. And I’m prepared to hold myself accountable to the public for what we can do with our resources. All I’m saying is I think Senator Murray needs to hold himself accountable, because he is running as a leader who can bring us money and he hasn’t brought us the transportation money. And if the issue is are we taking care of our resources, I think Senator Murray needs to take a look at his own actions in failing to hold on to the state Senate.”
MURRAY: “OK. So this is to me one of the low points of this race for mayor. Last summer, myself and Senator Nelson and Senator Frockt jumped into the Senate campaign committee because several people had resigned or chose to run for other offices. And we had a gentleman who developed an addiction problem to alcohol and gambling. And we discovered that he had embezzled money. The first thing that I did was to call the authorities and to ask them to investigate us. That’s what leadership is. You know, I gave an interview to a blog and I wasn’t particularly articulate. They were trying to ask me for a timeline. Did I hire the guy? I tried to point out I didn’t hire the guy. When did he get check writing authority? So it looked like I was blaming other people. I wasn’t. I was trying to explain a behavior that went on for two years.
“You know, the months that Senator Nelson and Senator Frockt and I shared responsibility for that committee — I’m sorry that we didn’t catch it. I’m sorry that we didn’t catch it for his wife. I’m sorry we didn’t catch it for his two babies. I’m sorry that we didn’t catch it for him. But it’s a tragedy, and to try and say that’s the reason we lost the senate I think is politics at its worst. Let’s talk about the issues. Let’s not use the tragedy of people’s lives to try and score political points.”