Some of the first attack ads of the primary season have been mailed by Albert Shen’s campaign for Seattle City Council. Two large, glossy fliers highlight Shen’s professional work as a civil engineer who has managed large public projects such as Sea-Tac’s new parking garage. One says, “Albert Shen makes things work.”
But in the lower corner of each is a picture of a smiling Mayor Mike McGinn with a tiny, creepy smiling City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, Shen’s opponent in the race, superimposed against McGinn.
The first piece shows the small O’Brien pasted onto McGinn’s chest, with the words “Your other choice — Mike O’Brien who is in Mayor McGinn’s pocket.” The second has a tiny O’Brien on what seems to be the mayor’s raised index finger and says “Mayor McGinn’s finger puppet – Mike O’Brien.” The juxtaposition of the small O’Brien with the large McGinn gives an impression of O’Brien as a sort of witless homunculus who does McGinn’s bidding. It also suggests that just associating O’Brien with the unpopular mayor is enough to win voter support.
O’Brien is a personal friend of McGinn’s and both are former Sierra Club activists. But the two couldn’t be more different in temperament; O’Brien is typically friendly and self-deprecating and enjoys good working relationships with his colleagues at City Hall. The two share progressive politics and both opposed the deep-bore tunnel.
Political consultant Parker Butterworth is managing Shen’s first foray into elective politics. He said the flyers are a fast, visual way to show that O’Brien and McGinn are chief allies.
“We only have so much space.”