Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and his challenger, State Sen. Ed Murray, met for the first time in the general election campaign at what was intended to be a civil, niche forum on cancer research, hosted by the American Cancer Society’s political arm.
But tensions ran high going into the debate, and the two candidates didn’t hesitate to wander off cancer-related topics and toss verbal bombs at each other.
Murray went first, telling the crowd at the Washington Biomedical & Biotechnology Association headquarters on Seattle’s Eastlake Avenue East that McGinn referred to Murray-campaign donors as “those people” in a recent fundraising letter.
McGinn has worked to try to cast Murray as the establishment candidate.
“I don’t think you should be stigmatized as ‘those people,’ ” Murray said.
“You should be happy,” McGinn shot back. “You’ve raised a lot of money from downtown businesses.”
Murray said, as McGinn’s time began on the next question: “As have you. Almost exactly the same amount, actually.”
McGinn took the mike and chastised him: “Excuse me, my turn now.”
Later, Murray made reference to an analysis by the news site PubliCola that showed McGinn had collected the same amount of downtown business cash. I couldn’t find it, although I did find this post, which seems to support McGinn’s claim about Murray’s establishment support.
(UPDATE: PubliCola posted this explainer, with a link to the post in question: according to a City Ethics and Elections analysis, each candidate has gotten 9% of his money from downtown and Belltown.)
In general, Murray was much more aggressive than he was during the primary debates, which usually had about eight candidates repeating their rehearsed answers on issues. This was the first time the two candidates were really able to spar, and Murray was prepared for a fight.
He accused the mayor of attacking him, of being divisive, and of trying to start a unions vs. business debate in the campaign.
“Mr. Mayor, I’m happy to compare my record with yours,” he challenged the mayor at one point, telling McGinn to “stop the divisive politics.”
McGinn, on the other hand, presented his own version of his first term. He insisted there is no animosity between him and the City Council. Murray said the mayor created a “poisonous atmosphere” with the council. McGinn said Murray made that up so he would have something to run on.
It could be the council’s fault, or it could be McGinn’s, but there is no denying that the council and mayor have relationship problems.
Three of the sitting council members have publicly endorsed Murray, and Murray promised another would come forward Thursday.
Asked for his biggest accomplishment, McGinn said the unexpected: police reform. The mayor has been largely criticized for dragging out a settlement with the Department of Justice over police reforms, and for being in a fight with the City Attorney over who was in charge.
Conventional wisdom holds that McGinn’s police-reform spat was a low point of his term, so it’s interesting he’s advertising it as his proudest moment. He said he was proud he insisted a citizens commission be formed to weigh in on the work, and predicted that element would be key to the reform’s success.