State Sen. Ed Murray’s promise of a more collaborative leadership style carried him to victory Tuesday night, as voters signaled they were fed up with four years of Mayor Mike McGinn’s political brawls.
Murray grabbed a commanding 56 percent of the votes counted on election night, compared with 43 percent for McGinn.
At a jubilant party at Neumos on Capitol Hill, Murray took the stage before 9 p.m. to cheers and hugs from supporters, including a pack of elected leaders who’d endorsed him.
Signaling the change in tone he hopes to bring to City Hall, Murray said his campaign “was energized by the belief that Seattle can show the nation that government can work once again.”
Although he acknowledged votes remain to be counted, Murray said if current trends hold, “we are here tonight to declare victory.”
About 90,000 votes were counted in the mayor’s race Tuesday. If King County elections officials’ estimate of 57 percent turnout in Seattle hold, McGinn would have to capture 54 percent or more of the remaining votes to make up his big deficit — a virtually impossible task.
At McGinn’s election-night party at a 95 Slide, a sports bar just a few blocks away, the previously rowdy room was deflated as the vote totals came in.
McGinn stopped just short of conceding, but spoke as though he’d lost his office. “I’m proud of what we did,” McGinn said, saying his administration had lived up to the Sierra Club rule to “leave a place better than you found it.”
In an interview, McGinn said he was not conceding to Murray Tuesday because his supporters deserved to see more votes counted. But he acknowledged “this is a very very deep hole to climb back from.”
Murray, 58, will be Seattle’s first openly gay mayor, and his campaign capitalized on his signature legislative accomplishment — helping to lead the 2012 campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington. He took the stage Tuesday night with Michael Shiosaki, his longtime partner whom he married this summer.
Although he was the incumbent, McGinn ran an underdog campaign for a second term, portraying himself as the righteous warrior willing to take on the city’s business and political establishment.
Trailing in the polls by double digits just weeks before the general election, McGinn’s campaign bet on an energetic get-out-the-vote effort that sought to attract younger voters and others who don’t reliably vote in off-year elections.
At dozens of candidate forums and three televised debates, McGinn, 53, cited accomplishments in office including guiding the city through a recession, doubling the Families and Education levy, a bond measure to rebuild the waterfront seawall and passage of a paid sick-leave ordinance.
But voters remained unconvinced. During the August primary, McGinn faced eight challengers and attracted less than 30 percent of the vote. Polls since then never showed him gaining much ground.
In the final days of the race, the Murray campaign appeared increasingly nervous by a run of bad news, including negative reports about political donations by Comcast to a pro-Murray political-action committee.
After seeming ready to coast to victory, Murray hastily called a series of last-minute news conferences, including one Monday attacking McGinn’s record on downtown crime and police issues.
McGinn’s fate was forecast two years ago, when voters slapped back his efforts to obstruct the Highway 99 tunnel project, opting to move ahead with the long-debated project. McGinn’s anti-tunnel agitating was viewed as a reversal from his 2009 election-eve pledge not to stand in the project’s way.
One political consultant called McGinn a “dead man walking” after the 2011 vote on a largely symbolic tunnel referendum.
During the 2013 campaign, McGinn said he’d only tried to raise tough questions about the tunnel plan, including a provision added by the Legislature that said Seattle taxpayers would be on the hook if there were any cost overruns.
McGinn’s record in office also includes highly publicized fights with the City Council, City Attorney Pete Holmes and former Gov. Chris Gregoire over the tunnel and with the Department of Justice, the council and Holmes over the breadth and pace of police reform.
Gregoire, Holmes and five of nine City Council members endorsed Murray. When asked about their opposition in a recent interview, McGinn said they were part of “the same old power block” that financed Murray’s campaign.
McGinn pushed back against Murray’s constant talk of collaboration, saying leaders should demand swift action on important issues such as climate change rather than waiting for consensus. At one candidate forum, McGinn said he didn’t want to tell his children “we didn’t do enough, but the politicians got along.”
Murray came across flat in some campaign appearances, but advanced a progressive agenda nearly identical to McGinn’s — including expanded transit and a promise to pursue a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
He highlighted his 18 years as a state lawmaker representing Seattle’s 43rd Legislative District. In Olympia, he earned a reputation as a pragmatist who could work across party lines to craft budgets and major transportation packages.
Murray spoke often about the need for the city to take a more regional approach to governance and to mend broken relationships with Olympia, in contrast to McGinn’s often go-it-alone style.
And while McGinn frequently cited statistics to show that overall crime in the city was at a 30-year low, Murray called for new leadership of the Seattle Police Department and clearer directions from the mayor about enforcement of crime downtown.
Murray raised about $776,000 for the campaign, compared with about $466,000 by McGinn.
Independent spending by political-action committees added $500,000 more to the races — with more than $300,000 of that spent by pro-Murray groups.
Although he faced criticism throughout the campaign that he was running on style more than substance, Murray gained confidence and familiarity with city issues as the race wore on and both men attended community forums and three televised debates.
By mid-October, when McGinn repeated his explanation for his sometimes tumultuous first term by saying there is no mayor’s school, Murray retorted, “There is a mayor’s school. It’s called experience in government.”
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