(Updated at 2 p.m. with The Stranger’s response.)
Any remaining doubt about who The Stranger newspaper would back in this year’s crowded mayor’s race is probably settled by a story the weekly paper posted today. In it, The Stranger’s political writers praise Mayor Mike McGinn for his “frankness” — the absolute nicest way to say it — and heap criticism on State Sen. Ed Murray. Murray, of course, was the undisputed champion of the state’s gay-marriage campaign last year and lives in The Stranger’s neighborhood on Capitol Hill. His campaign spokesman is former Stranger staff writer Sandeep Kaushik.*
But it’s clear The Stranger’s writers are not enamored with Murray as a candidate. His greatest strength, they wrote, is “playing dirty.” Weakness: “Murray’s got limited knowledge of city issues. He may play up being Seattle’s first gay mayor, but gays don’t need gay light rail.”
It’s a rough review. The Stranger played an important role in the 2009 election, when McGinn was little-known until they put his face on their cover with the headline: “Mike McGinn for Mayor.” They stumped unabashedly throughout McGinn’s campaign, even calling his opponent names, but the paper has been more critical of the mayor at times throughout his first term. A couple of months ago, their allegiance still seemed to be up for grabs.
There’s a limit to The Stranger’s influence. Its readers are younger, and therefore less likely to vote in an off-year primary. In a 2009 Survey USA poll in King County, 70 percent of voters over 50 said they vote in every election, while only 21 percent of voters under 35 said that.
UPDATE at 2 p.m. — Stranger News Editor Dominic Holden says I misread the paper’s piece, and that the paper’s staff has not settled on a favorite candidate. He writes on Facebook: “The Stranger could endorse either candidate next month — or another candidate in the race. Anyone who tells you differently has a dog in the fight. And the Seattle Times has a dog in the fight. The paper has been campaigning against mayor Mike McGinn for four years and they’re keeping it up today.”
You’ll have to take a look at The Stranger’s (very funny) piece and reach your own conclusion, as I did.
*The mayor’s spokesman, Aaron Pickus, also worked for The Stranger, as an intern.