Mayor's race

Do you miss Greg Nickels?

Some supporters thought they had a free vote this time, before getting serious in November. Hah.

By Eric Scigliano August 22, 2009

I know someone who voted for Joe Mallahan even though she knows nothing about him and likes Greg Nickels well enough. She mainly just wants to get the waterfont tunnel dug and done before the viaduct falls down or we undergo eight more years of process over what to do with it. Mallahan seemed the strategic vote: Make sure he, not the anti-tunnel McGinn, got through the primary and then vote for Nickels, who we all knew would make it through.

Others may have voted for McGinn or Mallahan to teach Nickels a lesson for this or that action—to sow some wild electoral oats before settling down to reelect him in November. Some surely cast what they thought was a free courtesy vote for Jan Drago, whose policies mirror his—honoring her years of service and supporting the nearly lone woman in the race. (Seattle blazed a trail 83 years ago when Bertha Landes became the first woman mayor of a major US city, but female contenders for mayor or county exec have been nearly nonexistent since then—till this year.) At least one left the “mayor” section of his ballot unchecked and then conceded he would have voted for Nickels if he’d imagined this would happen. Seems he’s not alone; with 139,816 ballots counted as of this morning, only 133,745 voters expressed any preference for mayor. By contrast, 136,648 voted for or against the bag “tax.”

Already, as we face a choice between two pigs in a poke, the regrets and reconsiderations have begun. “I wouldn’t be surprised,” Danny Westneat writes in the Times, “if in a year or so, we suddenly realize that guy who couldn’t plow the snow wasn’t so bad after all.”

Aren’t such morning-after musings beside the point? Maybe not. After bouncing out—in a primary—two mayors in a row who were, at the very least, smart, decent, and deeply experienced, maybe we need to take our civic temperature. Spite voting can lead you down dangerous trails—not least reckless tax-cutting, hamstringing voter initiatives, which Tim Eyman is always glad to supply for a price. Just look where those have gotten California.

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