Seattle Mayor's Race 2013

Handicapping the Mayoral Primary

Guest editorial: Handicapping the mayoral primary, with Ed Murray back in the mix.

By ElectionNerd June 28, 2013

It's been a busy week on the mayoral front. With just 19 days until primary ballots go out in the mail and 39 days until election day, we are finally seeing some sparks on the campaign front as the candidates are swinging away at each other, sometimes at multiple events a night.

As in the last installment of ElectionNerd, we've assigned each candidate a grade for their campaigning this week and their latest odds of getting through the primary. Here's the latest analysis from our ElectionNerd.

Bruce Harrell: B /Primary Odds 8:1

It was another strong fundraising week for Bruce Harrell. With $10,980 raised last week alone, Harrell is really turning it on and at the right time. He also turned up the heat on Mayor Mike McGinn, blasting him in the Seattle Times for agreeing to a DOJ settlement that was too hard on Seattle. Harrell said that as an experienced litigator, he would have pushed for more information from the DOJ, even if it meant suing the feds.

(Major footnote: Even though it got Harrell some earned media, it wasn't necessarily good media. It's an odd play for Harrell. Not only is McGinn's pushback against the DOJ seen as a major faux pas by McGinn (so why suggest pushing it even further?), but in fact, last year, Harrell co-signed a letter urging McGinn to accept the DOJ's findings.)

Harrell also attacked McGinn at a recent public safety forum, saying, “The mayor, quite candidly, has been MIA in terms of public safety.” 

Ed Murray: A /Primary Odds 5:1

Popular City Attorney Pete Holmes endorses Ed Murray

This was endorsement announcement week for Murray, which is smart because without the cash to cue up paid media to get his name out there (he's been on a fundraising freeze for months), it bought him some much needed earned media—next to some big names. This week, Murray received a much-sought-after endorsement from former King County Executive Ron Sims, followed by City Attorney Pete Holmes, city council member Tim Burgess, who had been running for mayor himself,  and former OneAmerica Director Pramila Jayapal.

It's hard to gauge how much these endorsements, plus a nod from a powerhouse state environmental group, the Washington Conservation Voters, will move voters, but with such high-profile names—and Jayapal and Holmes so clearly from the left—it gives the impression that a coalition is gathering around Murray as the top challenger to McGinn.

Balancing out the the lefty endorsements, Murray was also endorsed by the local Chamber of Commerce, which is hoping he’s their anti-McGinn knight in shining armor.

In more good news for Murray (thus his high mark this week), the second special session appears to finally be ending, freeing him up from the debilitating fundraising freeze—which has certainly already damaged his efforts. (He only had $85,000 cash on hand at last count, behind McGinn and Harrell, who had $126,000 and $106,000 respectively.)

A couple of forboding footnotes for Murray, though: He recently did a poll, but the campaign has not released any information. What does that tell you about what it told them?

Finally, the independent expenditure campaign that was formed to raise money because Murray was stuck in session has raised a paltry $685. Worse, it also has $2580 in debt. When the independent campaign formed, election watchers assumed a wave of money would pour in. While that could still happen, the amount of time between the announcement and any real cash infusion is puzzling.

Mike McGinn: B+ /Primary Odds 3:1

McGinn did not have the fundraising week that Harrell did, raising just $4,945, but given that he apparently isn't really paying for campaign staff, he can afford to raise a little less.

McGinn testified in Congress last week against coal trains, which got a fair amount of media coverage (including here at this anti-coal zealot site). The mayor's barrage of press releases continued unabated, with eight announcements or official statements in the last five days. He is also the first candidate out of the gate to buy cable TV time for ads, which is pretty bold and a little risky.

McGinn’s odds moved back a bit, from 2:1 to 3:1. He had a better week this week than last, going from a B- to B+, but after taking a closer look at McGinn's still-weak right track/wrong track polling data, combined with his still-low favorability ratings, last week's score was probably too high. McGinn staff can commence attacking this decision in the comments.

Peter Steinbrueck: C+ / Primary Odds 4:1

Peter Steinbrueck posted a great fundraising report two weeks back, but couldn't keep the momentum going, dropping to $1,150 last week. Steinbrueck remains behind the other candidates in cash on hand and is spending a lot on overhead, considering how little he has raised overall.

Steinbrueck also continued his effort to unify the Lesser Seattle and NIMBY camps this week, declaring at a City Neighborhood Council-sponsored forum, "Neighborhoods are the solution, not the problem.” 

Although it was a week ago, many witnessed Steinbrueck read from the book The Conjure Woman, which is written almost entirely in dialect, at a library event where candidates read excerpts from their favorite books. Steinbrueck, as much of the city now knows thanks to a widely circulated report on KUOW, attempted to play the part, reading his excerpt in (his interpretation of) the voice of a black slave. Cringeworthy does not begin to describe it.

However, you cannot find a poll that does not have him in strongly in second place. With time running out, and every other contender obsessed with McGinn, Steinbrueck could conceivably make it to the general election, especially because the older voters who are likely to turn out in an early August primary favor Steinbrueck thanks to his famous civic name and his neighborhoody campaign themes.

Charlie Staadecker: C- / Primary Odds 32:1

Real-estate investor and bow-tie wearer Staadecker's fundraising had fallen to virtually nonexistent levels recently, but rebounded last week to $4,650. Given he had just $77,000 on hand in his last report, it is hard to see how he will reach many voters, the overwhelming majority of whom have never heard of him.

At campaign stops, Staadecker still works the conservative/grandfather/business angle to some effect (and sometimes to ill effect). However, at a recent Belltown candidate forum, he defended controversial former city attorney Mark Sidran, saying he was “defeated because he wanted civility laws. We have to demand civility." Charlie, 2001 just called and it wants its mayor’s race back.

Staadecker’s grade is slightly up to a C- but his odds are unchanged from last week.


With Murray winning the week and arguably emerging as McGinn's main rival, the question is (especially with the session finally ending) does he have the skills and campaign in place to capitalize on it? He still faces an uphill battle on name ID, an area where the sleeper Steinbrueck has him beat. If Murray and his independent expenditure campaign make up for lost fundraising time, he has a much easier path, but the next two weeks of fundraising are critical.


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