Seattle's Last Mayor Wants a Rematch With Ed Murray

by | April 18, 2017 AT 12:10 PM

By Evan Bush

With Seattle politics reeling in the wake of the sexual abuse allegations facing Mayor Ed Murray, the opponent he unseated in the city's 2013 election, Mike McGinn, tossed his helmet into the mayor's race Monday.

McGinn, an attorney and former local Sierra Club chairman, served as mayor from 2010 through 2013 and brought a populist style to the office.

An environmentalist and outsider candidate in 2009 with strong grass-roots support, he faced a learning curve when he took office.

Known for his criticism of the Alaskan Way Viaduct project, he was almost immediately cast by critics as "Mayor McSchwinn," a bike-loving, car-hating newcomer without the requisite experience to lead the city.

He developed a reputation for conflict and clashed with Seattle City Council members over the viaduct plan, on police reform efforts and a new waterfront seawall.

McGinn found popular successes: He brokered a deal with investor Chris Hansen for a new arena in the Sodo neighborhood, ultimately reached a deal for police reform, managed the city's response to snowstorms and helped kick-start burgeoning conversations about wages.

His approach won over some activists and advocates who had felt ignored by previous City Hall administrations.

In the 2013 election, Ed Murray, then a state senator, entered the mayoral race with the support of downtown businesses and most of the city's nine council members. He out-fundraised McGinn by about $275,000.

Even as an incumbent, McGinn relied on grass-roots and volunteer efforts in his campaign. McGinn managed to garner 47.5 percent of the vote to Murray's 51.5 percent, but did carry South Seattle and liberal core neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Fremont and the Central District.

McGinn, who grew up on New York's Long Island, went to the University of Washington law school after a stint working in politics in Washington, D.C.

After school, he took a job at Seattle law firm Stokes Lawrence and then dived into neighborhood politics in Greenwood, his longtime home.

He went on to helm the local branch of the Sierra Club, quit his law job and founded the Seattle Great City initiative, a nonprofit, before his election as mayor.

Since his time as mayor, McGinn has hosted a podcast called "You, Me, Us, Now with Mike McGinn" and has written regularly for Crosscut.

He also took a turn as a kayaktivist, paddling to Bill Gates' Medina mansion, to protest the Gates Foundation's investments in fossil fuels.

The city's political scene looks quite different since McGinn's time in office.

The tunnel he railed against has finally finished drilling, but it hasn't always been smooth. For years, McGinn called for light-rail projects. Voters last year approved a $54 billion plan to finance light rail and other public-transportation projects.

Police reform, a dispute-filled topic for McGinn, recently reached a milestone here as the federal monitor overseeing the effort reported a dramatic turnaround in how officers use force.

McGinn pledged to support the $15 minimum wage as a mayoral candidate (and go higher, if possible). The City Council in 2014 approved that historic measure, and it is currently being phased in.

The issue of homelessness, which McGinn struggled with during his time in office, has grown.

(c)2017 The Seattle Times