Anybody who has followed my coverage of the Seattle mayor’s race may be surprised to learn that I’m voting for Mike McGinn.
I haven’t been particularly kind to McGinn over the past six months or so, and apart from what I admit to be a surprisingly successful grassroots campaign, he hasn’t done much to change my opinion of him as a politician. But then, neither has Joe Mallahan, and given the choice between grassroots and no roots, I’m going with the former.
While it is far from a perfect test, how one runs a political campaign is somewhat of an indicator of how one might run the office being sought. It’s not supposed to be easy, and how one gets through the daily grind of fundraising and organizing and debates and interviews and all that, both says a lot about the candidate, and helps prepare him or her for the daily grind of office.
In that sense, the quarter of a million dollars or so that Mallahan has pumped into his own campaign has proven to be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because without it, he never would have been taken a seriously as a candidate. A curse, because his lazy reliance on his own money appears to have short-circuited his development as a politician.
There are few politicians who truly enjoy “call time” or relish the thought of knocking on thousands upon thousands of doors, but nearly all will tell you that these activities make you a better candidate, because when you spend hours a day talking to voters and/or (gasp) asking for money, you also spend hours a day listening to voters’ concerns. Read all the position papers you want, hire the best consultants to draft your talking points, but nobody can educate you better about the issues than the voters themselves.
But with his own money to backstop his campaign, Mallahan never had to do the kind of call time typical of a citywide race, and it shows. He didn’t appear well-informed about city issues back when he declared, and he doesn’t appear much better informed now. He simply hasn’t grown as a candidate, and that doesn’t bode well for a novice politician seeking the mayor’s office.
As for McGinn, well, I don’t take back anything I haven’t already taken back about what I’ve previously written, and I still sincerely question his ability to work and play well with others. But as impolitic as he’s sometimes been (I still think his unwavering opposition to the tunnel loses him more votes than it wins him), he’s also proven to be thoughtful and at times even flexible. But mostly, like I said, you’ve just got to give him credit for running such a successful, largely grassroots campaign.
That shows political skill, and an enormous amount of hard work, something Mallahan has failed to demonstrate. And while McGinn remains a risky choice, he shows a much greater degree of political upside. No, he hasn’t come anywhere close to throwing a knockout punch, but if this race were a boxing match, McGinn would clearly be winning on points.
So for what it’s worth I’m voting for Mike McGinn, which considering my level of skepticism entering the race, says as much about his opponent as it does of him.