I suppose I could hurl invective at Carl while revoking his posting privileges for daring to contradict me on the front page of my own blog, but… conflict makes for better reading, and I have always given my co-bloggers explicit instructions to write whatever they want. And, apart from the headline, he didn’t really contradict me all that much.
So I thought I’d just take this opportunity to explore the possibility of a Murray for Mayor write-in campaign a little further, while laying out my own take on the candidates and the current state of the campaign.
First of all, my main problem with Mallahan is not really Mallahan himself, but the fact that I’m kinda offended by the very premise of his campaign. No, I don’t think being a corporate executive should disqualify one from office, even here in granola-crunching Seattle, and in fact I do think that his years as a T-Mobile exec make for an impressive bullet point on his resume… but not in and of itself.
This is a man with no recent record of public service, who from his public comments appears not very knowledgeable about the majority of issues facing Seattle, and who has clearly not put much thought into the challenges of running city government, at least not prior to throwing his hat into the ring. Hell, he hasn’t even voted consistently in recent years. Running government more like a business may make for good campaign rhetoric in the post-Reagan era, but government is not a business. Folks can tease Tim Burgess all they want after the fact about passing up what might have been an easy path into the mayor’s office, but at least he seemed to realize that he needed a little more seasoning on the council before taking on the task. Mallahan apparently lacks this sort of self-awareness, in that “hey, I’m a successful wealthy guy, I can do anything” mode that seems to afflict so many of our region’s nouveaux riche.
I don’t doubt Mallahan is a smart, capable guy, and I don’t question his motives. But I don’t know that he has the skills or the management philosophy necessary to be an effective mayor, and he’s said and done nothing to assure me that he does. And that’s where pumping his own money into his campaign really works against him in my book. Had he come out of nowhere to raise the money and profile necessary to knock an incumbent mayor out in the primary, I would have been impressed by his political prowess. But he didn’t. He bought himself into frontrunner status, which is not a knock in itself, but which shows me absolutely nothing about his political skill and determination.
McGinn on the other hand has proven himself everything that Mallahan has not. He’s a lifelong activist with a couple of big victories to his credit, who ran a surprisingly successful, grassroots sleeper of a primary campaign that certainly shows his political chops. It also doesn’t hurt in my book that I agree with him on most major issues (his proposal to take over the school district is painfully stupid on so many levels, but, well, you can’t have everything), and unlike Mallahan, I have absolutely no question about where McGinn stacks up in terms of values.
But… and this is a huge but… I have very real concerns about McGinn’s ability to work and play well with others.
Back in June when I wrote about the surprising lack of support for McGinn and his fellow Sierra Clubee Mike O’Brien from their colleagues in the region’s broader environmental coalition, I got a lot of public and private push-back from the community assuring me that no, they really do like and support Mike… O’Brien. But McGinn, not so much. And on primary election night when news flashed about McGinn’s unexpected standing at the top of the polls, the sentiment I heard from many of his fellow environmental leaders was more along the line of “oh well, I guess we kinda have to endorse him,” rather than the outright enthusiasm one might have expected.
It’s not that his colleagues dislike him (well, some of them do); from all accounts McGinn is a great guy. It’s just that they don’t particularly like working with him.
It is ironic then, that after kicking out a mayor largely because voters couldn’t stand his allegedly abrasive, unilateral style, we might replace him with man with a reputation for having an equally abrasive and unilateral style. Combine that with McGinn’s total absence of any significant executive experience managing large enterprises… not even running a department at a wireless phone company, for whatever that is worth… and, well, I’m understandably wary. And, like Mallahan, McGinn’s lack of legislative experience doesn’t bode well for his ability to wade through the process oriented pool of molasses that is our city council.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the notion of citizen legislators. But a citizen executive with little real government experience under his belt is a much more troublesome concept.
That brings us to Ed Murray.
I personally like Ed, and think he’s been one of our most effective state legislators, but I’m certainly no fan boy. If this were a race to succeed US Rep. Jim McDermott, a seat Murray clearly covets, I doubt I’d be in his camp, as I’d prefer being represented by someone with a less cautious and run-of-the-mill political style. (For example, I’m a huge Barney Frank fan.)
But exactly the same qualities that turn me off in terms of Murray’s congressional aspirations help make him perhaps the most qualified politician on the local scene today to serve as mayor. Mayor Nickels, as much as I like and respect him, hasn’t exactly had a rapport with either the council or Olympia, and unlike McGinn and Mallahan, Murray has the skills, experience and personal relationships to help turn this around, and fast. And while there are certainly issues on which I disagree with Murray, and others on which I desperately wish he’d take a leadership role, there’s no question that his values fit squarely with those of a majority of Seattle voters.
So in my mind, in a three-way race between Murray, Mallahan and McGinn (hey… what a great name for an Irish law firm), it’s a no brainer. And if Murray’s name was actually on the ballot, I’m pretty damn confident that money, endorsements and votes would flow his way.
But of course, Murray’s name won’t be on the ballot, so… should he run a write-in campaign?
If Murray truly believes that neither Mallahan nor McGinn is qualified to be mayor, and can make a compelling case in that regard, and he believes he can raise enough money to be competitive, and he’s willing to put in the time and effort necessary to make this a serious challenge, and in doing so he’s willing to put his reputation and credibility on the line… why the hell not? Even if he’ll likely lose, which, considering the daunting challenge of mounting a write-in campaign, he probably will.
Some have suggested that running as write-in would make Murray some kind of spoiler or poor sport, but that’s a load of crap. Our system envisions and allows for write-in campaigns, while making them exceedingly difficult, as they should be. So there’s nothing unfair or anti-democratic about it. And if either McGinn or Mallahan (or both) can’t draw more votes than a goddamn write-in, then they certainly don’t deserve to be mayor.
And as for whether such a potential folly might hurt Murray’s future aspirations, if he runs a good, compelling, honest campaign, I don’t see how it could. If anything, it would only enhance his visibility and name ID across WA-07 in advance of a future congressional campaign, perhaps even setting him up as the frontrunner I’ve always assumed he imagines himself to be. And if the same labor and business sources who funded that recent poll are willing to put up the money to help Murray do that, more power to him. (Perhaps quite literally.)
Politics is a tough, tough business, and if Mallahan and McGinn choose to whine about Murray launching a nearly-Quixotic write-in challenge, well that would only prove to me my suspicions that they’re not up to the task.