At a somewhat glitchy press conference at the Filipino Community Center in Southeast Seattle this afternoon, Mayor Mike McGinn announced that—spoiler alert!—he's running for reelection.
In a hot, overcrowded room, surrounded by a multi-culti group of supporters including El Centro de la Raza director Estela Ortega (who led the crowd in a rousing call-and-response of "Viva Mike McGinn!" "Viva!"), Solid Ground advocacy director Tony Lee, and former 37th District state representative Kip Tokuda, Mayor Mike McGinn announced his reelection bid, touting his accomplishments and laying out his goals for a second term.
McGinn surprised the establishment by winning four years ago after emerging as a neighborhood activist—though one from the urbanist left rather than the NIMBY right—and capturing the Obama-era zeitgeist of new guard politics with an emphasis on environmentalism. He won with a killer ground game and a zealous antipathy toward the controversial $4.2 billion tunnel. The brilliance of McGinn's anti-tunnel position was that it connected two key (and not generally sympatico) constituencies: young urbanists and anti-development cranks who are wary of big expenditures.
It will be more of trick to repeat his victory. First, a lively mix of high-profile candidates will splinter McGinn's base. Second, he has a record now. It will be more of trick to repeat that feat this time around. First, a lively mix of high-profile candidates will splinter McGinn's base, with liberal state Sen. Ed Murray siphoning off Democrats, city council member Tim Burgess siphoning off pro-development folks (it was weird not to see any Vulcan names on McGinn's endorsement list), and local icon (and emerging crank) Peter Steinbrueck attracting both lefties and anti-development folks, much as McGinn did in 2009.
Second, McGinn has a record now—which comes with failures and enemies. Compared to the list of heroic us vs. them victories he hyped as an underdog activist running against the Man in '09 (with his anti-roads and transit win as the prime example), as an incumbent McGinn needs a broader, more mature profile that intergrates his lefty base with other constituencies. Today's kickoff, with no elected officials besides his longtime ally and fellow Sierra Club alum Mike O'Brien in sight, didn't strike that note.
After cheers of "Four! More! Years!" died down (and after a brief snafu with the lights that left the whole room in the dark), McGinn—reading his prepared remarks from an iPad—opened with this understatement: "It's been an interesting three years."
Citing his response to an early 2012 snowstorm; his efforts to double the size of the Families and Education Levy; his support for targeted police patrols; his efforts, sometimes unsuccessful, to expand transit in Seattle; and his work to create a high-speed broadband system, McGinn said:
"We listened to the community. We expanded the Families and Education levy, made deeper investments in early learning ... expanded the youth violence initiative ... and expanded library hours."
He added: "We've been working to expand rail transit in Seattle by planning, funding, and building our high-capacity transit corridors that we identified in the Seattle Transit Master Plan," including a potential train to Ballard, a streetcar on Madison, and a streetcar line connecting First Hill to downtown.
"We listened to the community. We expanded the Families and Education levy, made deeper investments in early learning ... expanded the youth violence initiative ... and expanded library hours."—Mike McGinnAlthough all those claims are certainly true—voters did approve the Families and Ed Levy and the library levy, the city is moving forward on new transit on Madison, First Hill, and downtown, and McGinn did increase the city's focus on youth violence—McGinn didn't mention priorities that were thwarted or remain unrealized, including killing the downtown tunnel (his Moby Dick), light rail to Ballard and West Seattle; and eliminating 200 strategic advisors in city government.
His proposal to rebuild the seawall, meanwhile, is finally coming to fruition, but only after a major misstep with the city council that delayed the proposal two years past McGinn's original timetable.
After McGinn finished his statement, supporter Mohamed Sheikh Hassan [editor's note: Earlier, we misidentified Hassan as Mohamed Yusuf] commandeered the podium, delivering an odd, apparently extemporaneous speech about calling Deputy Mayor Darryl Smith after one friend was killed, and another seriously injured, in a car accident. Smith, Yusuf said, made sure family and friends were able to visit the victims and ensured that the body was autopsied within 24 hours, allowing him to have a Muslim burial. "That's the kind of person he is!" he said.
As many in the room visibly cringed, John Wyble, McGinn's consultant, edged slowly toward the podium from across the room, and McGinn pointedly hugged Yusuf before retaking the podium and fielding questions.
Most of those questions, unsurprisingly, focused on rumors that San Francisco hedge fund manager and would-be arena backer Chris Hansen had reached a deal to buy the Sacramento Kings and bring them to Seattle.
McGinn, a major arena supporter who could see serious political benefits if the deal goes through before the election, said he had no knowledge of any discussions between Hansen and the Kings. "I haven't had any direct contact with Chris Hansen or the team ... What I've gotten so far is just rumors," McGinn said, adding, over the sound of popping blue and white balloons, "It would be really great to bring the Sonics back to Seattle. ... They are probably in delicate negotiations."
McGinn also dismissed the idea of putting a new arena anywhere other than Hansen's preordained location in SoDo, noting that the city supports Hansen's chosen site "because we have someone willing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars there." Arena opponents have sued the city in response to such claims, arguing that the city's environmental analysis is biased toward a single site, Hansen's. Former city council member Peter Steinbrueck, who is running against McGinn, has argued that the arena should be located elsewhere, perhaps in the Rainier Valley.
McGinn also released a list of early endorsements this afternoon. Notably, they include just one elected official—Bob Hasegawa, a Democratic state senator from the 11th district—and no institutional endorsements. The Sierra Club, where McGinn was the longtime local chair, endorsed him earlier today.