The Passion of the Mikes

Write a post that puts the mayoral aspirations of Jan Drago or Joe Mallahan in a less than flattering light, and I hear crickets chirping in the comment threads; maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong, nobody seems to really care. But dare to critique Mike McGinn and his campaign, or even just diss his electoral prospects, and man, it’s Katie bar the door, my threads and email overflowing with lengthy defenses of the environmental and community activist cum politician, along with an occasional attack on my own credibility and/or motives.

You gotta appreciate the passion. From the public and private polls I’ve seen thus far, McGinn doesn’t appear to enjoy broad support, but unlike the rest of the field, what support he has sure does run deep. Compare that to Mayor Greg Nickels, whose campaign slogan at the moment appears to be “I’m Not So Bad!”

This passionate support for McGinn—and in a similar vein, City Council candidate and fellow Sierra clubby Mike O’Brien—is on display in the thread from last Friday, a post in which I suggested the two Mikes were having trouble garnishing sole endorsements from environmental groups and leaders due to lingering resentment over Sierra Club’s failure to work and play well with others.

Plenty of folks took issue with both my analysis and my facts, and you can read their complaints for yourself. (That, by the way, is what these comment threads are really for, believe it or not… not the usual poop-flinging that tends characterize HA.) But I also heard directly from the two Mikes themselves, and there’s no doubt their personal passion more than matches that of their supporters.

O’Brien called me at home Saturday morning, and we had a long, pleasant, chatty and occasionally tangential conversation (I tend to be chatty and tangential, so no surprise there) on a wide ranging number of issues. Mostly O’Brien called to staunchly defend the Sierra Club and its reputation in the broader environmental community… so much so, that at some point I paused to remind him that as a candidate for office, he should probably spend some time actually promoting himself. (He also used the best excuse ever for getting off the phone with me:  “I gotta go, my neighbor’s house is on fire.”)

O’Brien wanted to set the record straight that Sierra Club opposed the Roads & Transit measure all the way, never made any promises to support it, and wasn’t alone in their opposition. He also touted Sierra Club’s hard work and determination to get a transit-only measure on the 2008 ballot, and ultimately passed, and pointed to their close cooperation with other environmental organizations as evidence of Sierra’s good working relationship.

All that may be true, but, as I pointed out, there were many in the broader environmental coalition who voiced a sense of betrayal at the time, and there are lingering recriminations today. These hard feelings may or may not be deserved, but they exist nonetheless, and that was really all that post was about.

For his part, McGinn defended himself, his campaign and the Sierra Club in a rather lengthy and pointed email. He too took umbrage at the notion that Sierra Club broke any promises on Roads & Transit, and defended its standing in the broader coalition. But he seemed most irritated by a prior post in which I admittedly cast aspersions on his dedication to campaigning. I wrote:

Successfully running for office, especially against an entrenched incumbent, is a near full time job, yet the last couple times I saw McGinn, he was just out riding his bike.  Not doorbelling, not fundraising, not working the crowd, just out enjoying the sunshine and riding his bike.  Good for him, I suppose. It’s a healthy passtime. But with that kinda political work ethic, I don’t think that’s a buzz you hear coming from his campaign, Craig, but rather the hiss of the air slowly escaping from McGinn’s political tires.

And McGinn responds:

The second factual error related to the statement I am “just out riding my bike” as proof that I don’t have a political work ethic. The one day you actually referenced that you saw me I was not “just our riding my bike.”  I was biking back from the West Seattle Water Taxi to my house.  I had spent the day at the Alki Summer Streets with four volunteers handing out campaign materials and talking to voters, as well as talking to folks on the Water Ferry on the ride out and back. My daughter had a scheduled soccer game at the Interbay field, which I was hoping to catch the end of.  I did not see her play, her game was already over.  Which was too bad, since the long days of campaigning and weekend events have cut my time with my kids down to very little. Maybe you should ask them how many hours I am working.  They tease me about the short amount of time between getting home and then getting on the computer or phone.

In either case, a quick phone call to me would have prevented those errors, or at least gave you more info for your column to compare to “the scuttlebutt” other people are telling you.  Other things you state are opinion, but opinions usually come after looking at the facts.  And if you ever want to learn about what my campaign is doing, feel free to give me a call.  I am happy to take a few minutes from campaign work if it helps provide some context and depth for your reporting.

Ouch. To be honest, I really only used the anecdote of McGinn on his bike as an opportunity to set up my buzz versus hiss quip. Ah well, sometimes I guess I let my snark get the best of me, so… um… sorry.

McGinn goes on to talk about issues and endorsements and issues—mostly his opposition to the deep bore tunnel, a position we both share—and again, passionately so. Which brings me back to my main point.

I love passionate politics; it’s something we don’t see enough of around here, and it’s something the two Mike’s clearly share. And if they can translate their own passion, and that of their core supporters into a broader campaign, then they’ll both stand a good chance at winning in November.

I haven’t paid enough attention to the city council races to know if O’Brien is anywhere near that point, but I just don’t see it happening for McGinn. Part of it his anemic fundraising; money isn’t everything in politics, but it is the primary means of getting your message out to the broader electorate in a citywide race, and McGinn doesn’t have nearly enough of it. And part of it is certainly the inherent challenge of an environmentalist going up against an incumbent who is perceived to be strong on environmental issues.

But even those two weaknesses aside, I just haven’t seen an effective message coming from McGinn (or for that matter, any of the mayoral challengers). Passion yes, message no. And that doesn’t make for a winning campaign.


  1. 1

    headless lucy spews:

    Here’s my complaint: It’s hard to be passionate about local issues that are ultimately always decided by business interests and influential insiders — unless it’s some divisive and ignorant ‘Tim Eyeman’ type proposal.

    I’d rather fling poop at the trolls.

    I’d fling poop at the pols if I could get close enough.

  2. 2

    Jeff spews:

    Someone told me just the other day that he sees McGinn at almost all of his daughter’s soccer games.

    It’s hard to criticize a guy for being a good dad. And maybe the soccer games are the only thing he refuses to give up, but the reality is a successful campaign for mayor is an 80-100 hour/week job.

  3. 3

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    “(That, by the way, is what these comment threads are really for, believe it or not… not the usual poop-flinging that tends characterize HA.)”

    Ha ha ha — good one, Goldy! I didn’t realize you were such a talented jokester. Maybe you could audition for Leno’s gig if Conan doesn’t work out.

  4. 4

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @1 I agree with you. City (and, it now appears, state) politics are an exercise in futility because government is owned lock, stock, and barrel by moneyed interests and the rest of us count for squat.

  5. 5

    Michael spews:

    You got raked over the coals on your last post about The Mikes because you said a bunch of stuff that wasn’t true…

    You’re still hiding behind straw men

    All that may be true, but, as I pointed out, there were many in the broader environmental coalition who voiced a sense of betrayal at the time, and there are lingering recriminations today.

    Who? And what are the lingering recriminations?

    And if there are ingering recriminations why should we give a fuck? It’s not the Sierra Club’s fault that some people are petty.

  6. 6

    Piper Scott spews:

    Hey Goldy!

    “O’Brien called me at home Saturday morning, and we had a long, pleasant, chatty and occasionally tangential conversation (I tend to be chatty and tangential, so no surprise there)…”

    Why don’t you publish your home phone number so we can all call you at home on Saturday mornings for long, pleasant, chatty and occassionally tangential conversations.

    Swear to God there’ll be no poop flinging.

    The Piper

  7. 7

    Elliott spews:

    @4, @2:

    It is really depressing to read comments like these.

    In the mayor’s race, there is a single candidate who is both passionate and knowledgeable about the issues facing this city. And as Goldy points out, he has the gift of inspiring that passion in the people around him. McGinn has integrity and cares about regular people. As a neighborhood activist who knows his way around local politics, he exemplifies the kind of citizenship that can make our government more responsive.

    If you are so frustrated by the dominance of the elite few in local public policy, why not just go ahead and support the only candidate who comes close to matching your values? You get to vote! You get to talk to your friends!

    Yet you’d “rather fling poop at the trolls”. If you are looking for an explanation for the current balance of power in our local government, you might start with the things you have control over.

  8. 9

    Piper Scott spews:


    Been there, tried that, got poop flung at me for my trouble.

    Only the doctrinaire and true believing are welcome by the HA Happy Hooligans. Anyone with a contrary point of view becomes a poop flungee. No compromise, no quarter, no concessions…

    That you encourage constructive participation in the proces, albeit on behalf of a candidate I probably wouldn’t support (can’t anyway since they don’t allow those living in Lacey’s Lil’ Blue House to vote in Seattle elections), is a commendable, fair, and reasonable position.

    Good for you!

    The Piper

  9. 10

    headless lucy spews:

    re 6: You are crafty, Piper. You’ll probably pee on his head from a safe distance.

  10. 11

    headless lucy spews:

    re 7: I don’t live in Seattle, but I’m always happy to fling poop at your politicians, aspiring or otherwise.

    I’m one of those latte-sipping elitists from the east side. I can drive my Prius one handed while sipping on a latte. pinky extended, Blackberry my business associates, and hurl metaphoric poo at the Piper.

  11. 12

    headless lucy spews:

    re 7: See. Calling us ‘Hooligans’ isn’t flinging poop. Just ask the Piper — or, ‘The Pooper’ — as he is more accurately known.

  12. 13

    Piper Scott spews:


    Witnesseth @10 & @11 from one of the poopers in chief.

    I rest my case cadit quaestio.

    The Piper

  13. 14

    Piper Scott spews:


    Ah, but you omitted the rest of the sobriquet: HA Happy Hooligans, which is much like the Little Rascals or The Katzenjammer Kids.

    Just a bunch of cartoon comic cutups.

    The Piper

  14. 15


    Oh alright, Goldy et al… I’ll jump in here.

    I know for myself, and I think it’s safe to say for others, that people who support Jan feel confident about her campaign. I read this blog all the time (well done, guys) but rarely comment because I don’t feel the need to do so. That can change, starting now.

    I’ll typically jump in when there are very untrue or inflammatory things said – for Jan, that has been rare. I think Goldy’s given her a fair shake, and the only big thing I’ve seen recently is a comment about how she needs to work on capturing her listening audience better – true.

    Maybe Goldy just says more inflammatory stuff about McGinn because there’s more negatives to point out? Plus McGinn’s got a bunch of jobless skool-kids roaming the blogs for him. And Mallahan may know business but he does not know how to play politics.

    But what do I know? I’m just a lil’ ol’ reader/commentator ; )

  15. 17

    Jeff spews:

    @15 What’s wrong with “jobless skool-kids”? They’re voters, too. Does Jan not want the youth vote?

  16. 18

    drool spews:


    Do you have a bike you use for transport? C’mon dude…I’m to the right of you and I do. I even set up the significant other so she can ride a Craiglist bike ($95 before I gave it the once over) to the bus depot and she does.

  17. 20

    scotto spews:

    Goldy, there’s nothing wrong with analysis based on facts. It’s fine to comment on what candidates say they plan to make happen when they get into office, and upon events that actually happened. No problem with any of that.

    You should do it more often.

  18. 23

    headless lucy spews:

    re 20: Only if the facts are relevant and not cherry-picked to support some apriori position.

  19. 24

    Puddybud is shocked SHOCKED spews:

    headless barfed

    business interests and influential insiders

    Yeah, like Jim McDimWitt wanting tax payer dollars for the Seattle special interest Rainier Club? Yep, a typical Dummocraptic club full of business interests and influential insiders. What you you fool?

  20. 25

    Daddy Love spews:

    If public plans are so awful, then it should be a piece of cake for private insurers to compete on quality. The problem (from the private insurance POV) is that public plans are NOT awful.

  21. 27

    GBS spews:



    Republicans have just lost their last legal tool to slow down the Democrat’s agenda.

    With no way to control the House and now no way to filibuster, it’s FULL STEAM AHEAD and finally mow down the Reagan Republican agenda once and for all.

    The Republicans are on their backs with their tails tucked between their legs after being neutered by the electorate. Now the Dems have their foot on the throats of Conservative Christian, Moral Majority, Reagan Republican Party and are just about to serve the coup de grăce.

    Say good bye and good riddance the unpatriotic fools known as the Republican Party.

    Life’s soooooooo good.

  22. 28

    cnw spews:

    The Sierra Club leadership seems more interested in playing political games than demanding support for the environment. When they endorsed Scott White over Gerry Pollet, I stopped looking to them for any honest support of the enviromental community. They were playing polical games then, so I no longer trust their motivations.