At two back-to-back events in Ballard this morning—a press conference that marked the official launch of Mayor Mike McGinn's general-election campaign, and his debate with challenger, state Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill), in front of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce that was one of the pair's first post-primary joint appearances, McGinn and Murray made it clear that this year's mayor's race will be among the ugliest in recent history.
McGinn held his official reelection launch at Ballard's Bergen Place park. Backed by dozens of screaming supporters holding signs identifying the neighborhoods they represented (Mike O'Brien's wife, Julie O'Brien: "Fremont"; the Seattle Transit Blog's Ben Schiendelman: "Downtown"), McGinn painted Murray as a consummate, big business-backed Olympia insider who, McGinn and his supporters charged, supported cutting the minimum wage, failed to pass an assault-weapons ban that passed constitutional muster, and didn't manage to maintain a Democratic majority in the senate.
"Senator Murray has been in a leader in the [legislature] for 18 years, yet we're under a court order to pay for education," McGinn added—a reference to the state supreme court's McCleary decision, which found that the state had failed to fulfill its obligation to fully fund K-12 education.
And—playing his preferred role as challenger, despite the fact that he's the incumbent—McGinn accused Murray of being bought by the "deep pocketbooks of the traditional business interests," with "not one but two big-business PACs supporting his campaign"—a reference to contributions to a pro-Murray independent expenditure (IE) group by the Chamber of Commerce and the real-estate developers' lobby.
Team McGinn is oversimplifying the issue, though: The PAC is also funded by the Washington Conservation Voters ($5,000), one of the groups leading the fight on McGinn's signature issue, coal, and by the (obviously progressive) Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund ($10,000).
"I'm pro-business—I'm just not pro-big business," McGinn said. "The business community does not have the last word with me. ... I am a passionate guy and I'm not going to apologize for the issues I care about."
Union activist Robby Stern chimed in that that "unlike his opponent," McGinn was "genuinely committed to racial and social justice and equal opportunity for all. ... He has done a good job and deserves another term."
Stern accused Murray of supporting legislation to reduce the minimum wage for tipped workers—a reference to legislation Murray co-sponsored back in 2001 that would have allowed restaurant owners to pay waiters less than the minimum wage by offsetting their hourly wages with tips (a "tip credit.")
After a brisk four-block walk over to the schmancy new Ballard Hotel, McGinn—who made many of the same points in front of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce, who sat at two long tables and dined on heirloom tomato salad, roasted broccoli, and charcuterie—but this time, with his opponent there firing back rejoinders.
"What's interesting about this [tip credit] bill is that a bunch of Democrats signed on to it, including two Democrats who’ve endorsed the mayor," the late Kip Tokuda, a former member of McGinn's team whom the mayor lionized after his untimely death last year, even putting up posters of the former state representative (D-37) in his campaign headquarters, and Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-37)," Murray said. "We decided that the negotiations weren't going well" and ultimately dropped the bill."
After getting in their shots at one another (Murray criticized McGinn for what he called a failure to lead on police accountability, and McGinn said Murray lacked the kind of executive experience required of a mayor), the foes answered questions about microhousing, or "aPodments" (neither supports a moratorium; both support more regulations), ground-floor retail in Ballard (both seemed to agree that allowing apartments on the ground floor was better than letting retail spaces go empty) and transit planning (McGinn accused Murray of opposing the policy of subarea equity, which requires transit funds raised in one geographical area to be spent in that area, and Murray accused McGinn of lacking a unified transit plan.)
Asked to follow up on the legislation after the event, Murray said the tip credit bill was an effort to reach a compromise between restaurant owners who wanted to save money on wages and workers who wanted to make money on top of their base salaries. "It's just amazing to me that it rose out of the grave today,"
Murray says. "I knew that this would be a negative campaign, because of the way the mayor governs and the way he has chosen to run this campaign," Murray continued, adding: "It's incredible that we don't have a mayor that has relationships with Olympia."