Seattle Mayor's Race 2013

Channeling ElectionNerd: Murray is Not Mallahan. Or Sidran.

Once More, with Feeling: Why the "Murray as Mallahan" Narrative Doesn't Work

By Erica C. Barnett August 12, 2013

The C Is for Crank

Stepping in as guest ElectionNerd for a minute. 

In a piece on the current state of the mayor's race today, the Seattle Times lays out the "establishment-vs.-outsider" narrative that's shaping up between Ed Murray and Mike McGinn.

It's a thorough and well-reported but somewhat disappointing piece—Times reporter Jim Brunner takes at face value, for example, the argument that "downtown business" candidates like Murray never win (incumbent McGinn, once quite a friend to downtown developers like Vulcan himself—he even funded a pro-downtown-density nonprofit, Great City—has tried to tar challenger Murray with the Chamber brush).

In taking the McGinn story line and running with it, I think Brunner too quickly glosses over Murray's record as a liberal senator representing Seattle's urban, and urbanist, 43rd district. (He mentions that Murray fought for gay rights and has a good record with labor, but in the same breath calls him "business-backed.")

Maybe that's a sign that "downtown developers are bad" is still a potent narrative. I hope not, and wish McGinn (again, an urbanist who has been a staunch supporter of center-city density in the past) would drop it instead of pitching himself as the lefty, anti-downtown alternative to Capitol Hill's Murray.

Additionally, Brunner ignores the fact that—as I argued on KUOW last week—Murray is no Joe Mallahan or Mark Sidran. Mallahan, a T-Mobile executive, had never held elected office and had zero qualifications for the job of mayor. Much unlike Mallahan, Murray has been in office for 18 years. It's hard to argue that Murray lacks qualifications for the gig. 

Which is why McGinn won't try. Instead, he'll call Murray conservative, like Mark Sidran in 2001. (Murray endorsed Sidran in that long-ago race, though it's hard to say whether voters will still hold a 12-year-old endorsement for a losing candidate against him). So back to that.

Sidran was far, far more conservative than his eventual general-election opponent, Greg Nickels (or, for that matter, the electorate). The guy supported banning people from parks for violating city nuisance laws, giving tickets to people who sit down on sidewalks because they have nowhere else to go, and impounding the cars of people too poor to pay tickets for driving without a license!

Murray, again, is a liberal. He's the gay-marriage guy, the gas-tax guy, the 100-percent-record-from-labor guy. Backing him into the "conservative" corner is going to take some doing from the McGinn camp. But they're certainly going to try.


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