Split Personality

By Erica C. Barnett July 10, 2009

[caption id="attachment_9036" align="alignleft" width="250" caption="Mike O'Brien, Cyclist"]Mike O'Brien, Cyclist[/caption]

Today, the Cascade Bicycle Club endorsed Mike O'Brien for Position 8 on the City Council. A month ago, the Cascade Bicycle Club endorsed incumbent Greg Nickels for mayor of Seattle. What's wrong with this picture?

O'Brien and McGinn hold virtually the same positions on every city issue, from the deep-bore tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct (they oppose it), to increased transit service (they support it) to density around transit stops (they're both for that as well). Both men have headed the local chapter of the Sierra Club. Both are avid cyclists and frequent bike commuters.

(McGinn, who's made a campaign schtick about biking around town, has even designed his campaign logo around biking—he hands out "Mike Bikes" stickers wherever he goes.)

So why did Cascade support Nickels over McGinn? Cascade policy director David Hiller says the group has an official policy of not supporting opponents of "friendly incumbents," even when those opponents hew more closely to their values. (O'Brien, in contrast, is running for an open seat.) "[Nickels] has, without a doubt, embraced the most aggressive bike program of any mayor in the city's history," Hiller says. "He's delivered on most of our agenda. You don't abandon incumbents who have a record of delivering." Hiller says the $4 billion-plus deep-bore tunnel, which McGinn has made a key campaign issue, "is not a dealbreaker for us. Wherever any of us stand personally, [as a group] we're agnostic on the tunnel."


Mike McGinn, Dissed

The CBC's support for Nickels could be read as a blow to McGinn. More likely, however, it's the opposite: A testament to Nickels' impressive ability to shore up and secure relationships with important constituency groups, whatever the media and the general public may think of him. For every citizen who's still pissed at how Nickels handled the snowstorm, there are 500 more who trust the Cascade Bike Coalition and pay attention to their endorsements.
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