Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and state Sen. Ed Murray are headed to a November election matchup, easily rising above a pack of rivals in Tuesday’s mayoral primary.
Murray led with more than 30 percent of the vote, to McGinn’s 27 percent.
Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell and former Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck were vying for third place with about 16 percent each.
Battling low job-approval ratings and a pack of viable challengers, McGinn’s campaign had downplayed expectations for Tuesday’s vote, suggesting he might wind up in third place on election night.
But such worries for McGinn supporters were quickly doused Tuesday when results were posted after 8 p.m., showing the mayor comfortably in second place.
At a Capitol Hill sports bar, McGinn backers chanted “four more years” as the results flashed across TV screens and smartphones.
McGinn took the stage and declared, “Four years ago people asked how this activist got elected. They’re still asking.”
“I’m proud of what I’ve stood for,” McGinn said, citing his support for the environment and for standing up for low-wage workers. “We’re going to run a hell of a race.”
McGinn acknowledged he’d face a tough fight against Murray but said he would continue to press his vision of a forward-looking city.
And he said he’d likely contrast his record and plans with Murray, who has emphasized leadership style but failed to outline many policy differences.
Murray, speaking to supporters at the Crocodile Cafe, said the real race had only just begun.
“One thing is clear from today’s results: The people of Seattle want new leadership,” he said.
Signaling his line of attack on McGinn, Murray wasted no time in hitting the mayor’s leadership. “Too often in recent years, it has seemed that Seattle’s success has come in spite of its city government … I intend to change that,” Murray said.
Some Murray supporters were talking like the general election is only a formality.
“This result means that Ed Murray is the next mayor of Seattle,” said former City Councilmember Jim Compton.
At Harrell’s election-night gathering, a pall fell over the room as results showed him in fourth place. A disappointed Harrell reminded supporters that he’s still in office and isn’t going anywhere.
“It was a great race and I think my message resonated,” said Harrell, who said he believes the results show that voters “want change and a new mayor, too.”
But Harrell said many voters appeared checked out of the summer election and did not have enough information to make a choice.
Steinbrueck was more defiant as results were announced, vowing to wait for more results in coming days.
“Don’t think for a second that it’s over, because it isn’t,” he told supporters at the China Harbor restaurant on Lake Union. “We have a lot of uncounted ballots. I’m in line there, holding a strong showing.”
But Steinbrueck’s chances appear nonexistent. King County Elections officials had predicted 35 percent turnout in Seattle. If that turnout figure holds, the 93,400 ballots tallied Tuesday night would represent more than 64 percent of the eventual total.
Despite poor poll numbers, McGinn mounted a spirited re-election campaign — defending his accomplishments and highlighting his late effort to rally low-wage workers and their unions by moving to block a Whole Foods in West Seattle over wage concerns.
As Murray emerged as a likely front-runner in the campaign — amassing key endorsements and raising more money than any other candidate — McGinn increasingly singled him out for criticism.
McGinn tried to link Murray to the budget logjam in Olympia and the failure to pass a local-option funding package for transportation.
Many voters never forgave McGinn for his 2009 election eve promise not to interfere with agreements in place between the city and state to build the Highway 99 tunnel.
Once in office, he attacked tunnel supporters, including most the City Council, Seattle’s legislative delegation and the governor, and helped qualify a referendum on the project for a public vote.
An electorate weary of 10 years of Seattle process voted overwhelmingly to go forward with the tunnel to replace the seismically vulnerable Alaskan Way Viaduct.
McGinn faced further criticism over his response to the Department of Justice’s probe into use of force by Seattle police. That investigation ended with a settlement that included new policies and monitoring of police.
McGinn boasted that the final settlement included a new citizens commission that brings together police critics and officers at the same table. But the mayor’s detractors, including City Attorney Pete Holmes, attacked him for a combative stance before that eventual agreement.
McGinn was proud that he had shaken up City Hall and given access to a wider range of voices — including immigrants and minorities. But he also used a traditional tool of politicians — city funding — to reward supporters. In Southeast Seattle, where he located his first campaign office and continued to court community leaders, he increased social service funding from $9.3 million under his predecessor Greg Nickels to $23.3 million this year.
He said he was trying to widen the circle of economic prosperity and deliver more services to some of the city’s neediest neighborhoods.
Among his accomplishments was the creation of a civilian oversight board to implement and review reforms to the Seattle Police Department ordered by the U.S. Department of Justice after a 10-month investigation found excessive use of force, often against minorities.
He called “historic” the presence of police critics along side officers and commanders in crafting new policies for the force. And despite the animosity he created during settlement negotiations with the City Council and City Attorney over the pace and breadth of reforms, he retained the loyalty of some of the community leaders who had called for the federal investigation in the first place.
Murray campaigned as a conciliator who would bring new leadership style to the mayor’s office.
A state legislator since 1995, Murray is best known for championing a series of gay-rights laws, culminating in last year’s law making Washington the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage.
But Murray also touted his experience chairing state budget panels and his work passing transportation packages.
If elected, Murray would be Seattle’s first openly gay mayor. He plans to marry his longtime partner, Michael Shiosaki, on Saturday.
Steinbrueck tapped into angst in the city’s neighborhoods about increasing density, lack of parking and permissive development rules under McGinn. He called for “smart growth” that coupled affordable housing, transit and open spaces with dense new development.
His campaign fliers characterized him as the “Neighborhood Voice. Neighborhood Choice.”
He was the only candidate to oppose the Sodo location for a new NBA arena, siding with longshoreman’s unions and the Port of Seattle, who argued it was a potential threat to maritime jobs.
His campaign targeted women, who were less likely to approve of McGinn’s combative style, and older voters who remembered the Steinbrueck name from his father’s fight to preserve the historic Pike Place Market a generation ago.
Harrell, a former corporate attorney and second-term city-council member, emphasized his Seattle roots and pledged to bridge the city’s racial and economic divides and create “One Seattle.”
He proposed turning community centers into “Empowerment Centers” where at-risk youth could receive tutoring and mentoring. And he said he would recruit corporations to help pay for the program.
Charlie Staadecker, a bow-tied commercial real-estate broker, ran as the political outsider with a lengthy résumé in business and philanthropy. But despite raising more than $200,000 for his campaign, he took less than 5 percent of the primary vote.
Times staff reporters Brian Rosenthal, Maureen O’Hagan and Lornet Turnbull contributed to this report.
Lynn Thompson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8305. On Twitter @lthompsontimes
Jim Brunner: email@example.com or 206-515-5628. On Twitter: @Jim_Brunner