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The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

April 29, 2013 at 8:28 PM

McGinn defends record on SPD in lightning-round mayoral debate

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn defended his record on the Seattle Police Department against criticism from political rivals in one of the first major mayoral debates Monday night.

With several of his challengers citing recent SPD troubles as a prime reason for running, McGinn rose to “set the record clear.”

Noting the police union wanted him to “fight to the death” against suggested reforms, McGinn said he “worked to negotiate and get a reform package that worked for Seattle’s needs.” He noted the creation of a new oversight commission that will bring together officers and critics of the department.

But McGinn’s challengers repeatedly said he’d failed to solve long-running issues with the police department — along with other issues from transit planning to “listening” to opposing views.

“There is a reason seven people are challenging this mayor,” said Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell. “People want to believe again.”

Similar critiques were lodged by McGinn’s other rivals who took turns portraying McGinn as obstinate and ineffective.

City Councilmember Tim Burgess said the election was in part about “a quality of leadership in the mayor’s office that will restore your trust and confidence in city government.”

In the forum, which started just hours after news of the NBA rejecting a Sacramento Kings move to Seattle, former councilmember Peter Steinbrueck attacked McGinn’s “secret negotiations” for an NBA arena in the SoDo neighborhood — a location Steinbrueck argued would endanger industrial jobs.

State Sen. Ed Murray said “I want to be the mayor who turns this police department around” and sought to distance himself from bickering between McGinn and the City Council — noting his record of negotiating compromises in the larger and more ideologically diverse state Legislature.

Businessman Charlie Staadecker cited the “personal qualities” including “authenticity, trust and collaboration” needed in a mayor, and said he was inspired to run in part by a vision of appearing on a baseball field, where his father and grandfather handed him a baseball bat and told him to go for it.

Rounding out the field were Greenwood activist Kate Martin who played up her grassroots campaign, and socialist candidate Mary Martin, who said her model for the ideal Seattle neighborhood was the “Cuban revolution” and named Fidel Castro, Malcolm X and Karl Marx as her closest advisers.

With eight candidates and dozens of lightning-round questions in the format, Monday’s forum didn’t give the candidates time to develop lengthy policy critiques or elaborate much on their platforms.

But there were moments of clarity — such as when all the candidates held up “NO” signs when asked to jot down their position on whether the city of Seattle should continue to pay the salary and benefits for the president of the police union.

But it was among the first major debates of the 2013 mayoral race. The event took place at the Georgetown campus of South Seattle Community College and was sponsored by the 11th, 34th and 37th legislative district Democratic organizations and was moderated by Q13 political reporter C.R. Douglas.

We’ll have more highlights and thoughts from the forum on Politics NW Tuesday.

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