McGinn's Victory Party

By Josh Feit November 20, 2009


Begin the McGinn. The Garfield High School marching band gives it up for the Mayor-Elect.

I have been covering Seattle politics for a long time, and I have to say: Mayor-Elect Mike McGinn's victory party tonight was an unprecedented scene.

It was held at the New Holly Gathering Hall in Seattle's Holly Park mixed-income development (seven blocks from the Othello light rail stop in the minority Southeast Seattle turf that probably made the difference for McGinn in the election). And none of the leaders from the consultant/political class that has been running this town for years showed. None of them.

Lefty state Sen. Adam Kline (D-37, South Seattle) was about as establishment as it got.

Who else was there? Well, for starters, Roberto Maestas, the longtime Latino community/social justice leader of El Centro De La Raza introduced McGinn with a gleeful speech. Otherwise, it was everyday people: White, black, Hispanic, and African immigrant taxi drivers (and longtime, fringe-ish activists from the Sierra Club, the Cascade Bicycle Club, past monorail campaigns, past anti-monorail campaigns, and North Seattle blond moms who took back their neighborhoods with McGinn from lesser-Seattle cranks to fight for density) noshing on fried chicken or veggie stir-fry with tofu, drinking beer and wine out of plastic cups.


Roberto Maestas after introducing McGinn

If that wasn't enough to make it plain this wasn't a Mayor Greg Nickels victory party or a Ron Sims victory party or a Dow Constantine (sorry) victory party, how about this? Rahwa Habte, co-owner of the Central District's Hidmo Eritrean Cuisine, the ground zero of Seattle's renaissance hip hop scene, was also there.

(If Habte was at Constantine's establishment-heavy party at Kell's in the Pike Place Market on Wednesday night along with Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis, Governor Gregoire staff, and downtown consultants, I apologize for not noticing. But I couldn't miss Habte at McGinn's where she was giving high fives.)

The Garfield High marching band upset the place (in a Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers way) with a few raucous numbers (see top), and McGinn himself held court in the hall by the beer and wine table, marveling along with his well wishers at the energy and the possibility of his pending administration.



But McGinn's speech—the highlight of the night—put the possibility for change in check by laying out the political lines. It was an unprecedented, rabble-rousey call from a soon-to-be-mayor of Seattle:
"The people who still think we have to do things the same old way, they're still here. And they still have the money." (Those are the people I mentioned earlier. The people who didn't show tonight.)

To get things done McGinn said it would take more than just a new mayor. He said he needed all the people  in the room (the community center was packed like a subway car out to the glass doors in the hallway) to stay active and talk to their neighbors, talk to people they don't know: "I'm a mayor who respects the power of people who organize," he said to big cheers, noting that the "secret" to his surprise (ahem) win was standard Cesar Chavez organizing. There's a Chavez quote on the wall of the Sierra Club offices where McGinn has run many of his recent initiative campaigns, he said. "There's no secret," McGinn explained, referencing Chavez's apparent wisdom: "You talk to people. You talk to one person. And then you talk to another."

Indeed, despite his earlier warning about the entrenched power structure, McGinn couldn't contain his optimism. After Maestas introduced the Mayor-Elect, McGinn recounted the history of El Centro De La Raza and how Maestas simply got the keys to an abandoned school 37 years ago and invited the community inside to start the now landmark Beacon Hill Latino/Chicano(!) center.

"They gave us the keys in this election," McGinn marveled, comparing the story to his own campaign victory.

Top photo by me. Maestas and McGinn photos be Erica C. Barnett.
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