There’s a Gun to Your Head: Who’s Going to Be Elected Mayor in 2013?
The Stranger’s News Staffers— Eli Sanders, Dominic Holden, Cienna Madrid, and Goldy, Plus the Interns— Are Forced to Guess Who Will Run the City Two Years from Now
Why he can win: That current state senator Ed Murray can win is not in dispute—and if you disagree, he has your phone number and is leaving you an irate message in 4... 3... 2...
Simply put, Ed Murray can win because he knows how to win. He's been doing it in Seattle for the last 15 years—first gaining the state house seat previously held by Cal Anderson (namesake of the Capitol Hill park and Washington's first openly gay legislator), and then moving over to the state senate in 2007. He's openly gay himself; he has a touch of that fabled Irish-Catholic, uh, intensity; he knows he could do better running this town (and working with the people who hate us in Olympia) than any other professional local politician; and he's totally right on that last point. If you disagree, read the first sentence again.
Why he would be a good mayor: Ed Murray gets shit done. Community-college construction, mammoth transportation packages, domestic partnership rights that took literally decades to achieve, state budgets (he was chair of the House Capital Budget Committee and is now chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee)—the guy works. Fixing potholes and soothing nine crybaby council members? No problem, after laying down highways while working with 146 other crazy state legislators.
His weaknesses: That fabled Irish- Catholic, uh, intensity. Also: the ability to hear whispered criticism 60 miles away, plus thin skin and a touch of paranoia.
Representative on-the-record quote: "I think that guy has a very interesting argument."
Representative off-the-record quote: "I'm going to fucking strangle that guy. Why are you repeating his shit? You have it out for me! When are we getting a drink?"
Why he'd be better than the mayor we have now: He's a roller coaster, but a functioning one.
Why he can win: Sure, Tim Burgess is the most conservative member of the Seattle City Council. But he's also part eagle—just look at him in profile. See? And American voters love eagles.
As if that's not enough, Burgess has endeared himself to a business bloc capable of bankrolling his mayoral campaign and persuaded progressives that he's not completely evil. Take public safety. A former Seattle cop, Burgess has been tough on crime and has scrapped for enforcement in trouble spots—like cleaning up nasty ol' Belltown. But he's also been a leader on police accountability (popular with lefties) as chair of the council's public safety committee, issuing the most concrete directives yet to reform the police department.
Unlike most Seattle politicians—a bunch of mewling squirrels—Burgess is also unapologetically liberal when he's liberal and boldly conservative when he's conservative. He's earned progressive cred by staunchly supporting increasing density around light rail, banning plastic shopping bags, requiring a phone-book registry, and raising car-tab fees to fund transit. Meanwhile, he's won over the downtown business lobbies by pushing a bill to punish poor panhandlers, working to build more freeways, and freezing spending for transit planning. See? Clever eagle.
Why he would be a good mayor: Burgess can get along with enemies, compromise with opponents, lose with grace, admit when he fucked up, and keep going with a smile. It's almost like he's a real public servant—something we haven't had in a long, long time.
His weakness: Advocates for the homeless, hardcore progressives, and environmentalists will rightly oppose him because in Burgess's anti-crime zeal, he sometimes loses track of his ethical compass. That panhandling bill mentioned earlier was found to violate the city's human rights standards, but he pushed it anyway (and lost). Burgess is essentially a new version of Mark Sidran—that draconian city attorney who ran for mayor in 2001 and lost—but with an eagle's head.
Fun fact: Eagles can pick up prey animals and drop them from incredible heights to kill them—or just eviscerate them up in a tree.
Why he's better than the mayor we have now: Burgess can graciously compromise with his opponents and take a calculated political loss without having an aneurysm. The mayor we have now can do neither.
Why he can win: Former Seattle mayor Greg Nickels is an unemployed career politician who has nothing better to do with his time than draft new ordinances governing the operation of his West Seattle home (e.g., An ordinance relating to the eating habits of the Nickels family; whereas Sharon believes our sodium intake must be decreased, and whereas I believe salt licks should be a free and unalienable right for both cattle and men...) and obsessively plot his mayoral comeback while stroking his three mayoral chins. Also, Nickels has recently grown a beard, making him the new darling of Seattle's bear-loving swing voters—a key demographic in this town.
Why he would be a good mayor: Nickels has never held a job that he didn't win via popularity contest (except for a brief stint at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2010), which means he's a shrewd man whose success hinges on learning from his mistakes. And he was never an incompetent mayor—he brought light rail to Seattle and led the nation's mayors in pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. More to the point, Nickels's faults have been eclipsed by those of his clumsy successor, leaving Seattle voters filled with more regret than a goat on a sex farm. At the 2013 ballot they'll be thinking, "Let's pretend the last four years didn't happen. Rewind, rewind!"
His weaknesses: The weather. His long and storied hostility toward nightlife. His mulish personality. Carbs.
Representative on-the-record quote: "If I had the fire in the belly and I saw a series of issues that I thought I could make a difference, I might run [for mayor] again someday."
Representative off-the-record quote: "I would suck donkey cock for another shot at this job—in fact, consider that my first campaign fundraiser. Honest, you guys, I just really need to get out of the fucking house already. Fuuuuuuck."
Why he'd be better than the mayor we have now: Because he is not the mayor we have now.
Why she can win: Some people consider her a mover and a shaker—she's the chair of the usually influential Seattle City Council Built Environment Committee, she's a three-time council race victor, and she's the most likely candidate to succeed Richard Conlin as council president. But Sally Clark would be the first to point out that she doesn't necessarily move or shake, although she can see the benefits to moving, as well as shaking. After all, as Clark herself would argue, some people have good reasons to shake, while on the other hand, some people have good reasons to move, while on the other other hand, some people have good reasons to be paralyzed.
When she was asked this summer at a forum whether she might run for mayor, and instructed to stand on one side of the stage if the answer was yes and the other side of the stage if the answer was no, she literally stood on the piece of tape dividing the stage in half. If she ever makes up her mind (there's a first time for everything), Clark has a healthy reelection campaign bank account—stuffed by lobbies that do business in front of the council—ready to seed a rock-star mayoral campaign. And that's after spending more than $172,000 this year to remind voters of Clark's crucial role in pissing off absolutely nobody.
Why she would be a good mayor: Clark's vague, noncommittal likeability would doubtless serve as her biggest asset. Next to people with "ideas," "opinions," and "passion," the pleasant Clark—always dripping with inoffensive humor and mildly complimentary publicity—doesn't give a lot to push back against. Her ability to outlast everyone else in the listening-to-other-people department could allow her to quietly put through an agenda, if she had one, which she very well might, although she might not.
Her weakness: Melts when asked a yes or no question.
Representative on-the-record quote: "It's up to you make that decision."
Representative off-the-record quote: "Like I said, it's up to you make that decision."
Why she'd be better than the mayor we have now: Unlike the mayor we have now, she'd boldly solicit positive public opinion.
Why she can win: Anne Levinson is a renaissance lesbian—a contemporary polymath of politics, business, and law—with the connections to pave her campaign trail with cash. She also has a vagina! The last and only mayor of Seattle who had a vagina: sanctimonious teetotaler Bertha Knight Landes (1926–1928). Levinson denies she's definitely running for mayor, but that's what everyone says just before they run for mayor.
Why she would be a good mayor: Levinson already knows how to run the city. She was a Seattle Municipal Court judge, deputy mayor under Norm Rice, and legal counsel to mayors Norm Rice and Charley Royer; she served on the police chief search committee, and was most recently appointed as civilian auditor for the Office of Professional Accountability (the police oversight board). Plus, as former co-owner of the Seattle Storm, she knows business. Levinson could rule with an iron fist, but she's savvy enough to know when to wrap that fist in some velvet.
Her weakness: Levinson lacks the folksy warmth voters love so much. She'll need to kiss some babies or play some on-camera hopscotch with kids in wheelchairs.
Why she'd be better than the mayor we have now: She has credibility coming out of her ass.
Why he can win: Former King County Executive Ron Sims wins elections. Maybe not statewide, where he's had his ass kicked in races for governor and US senate, but here in Seattle he's six for six in local elections, even racking up an impressive 16-point win for a third term as King County Executive. (It's hard for executives to win third terms. Ask Greg Nickels.) To paraphrase Sally Field: "We like him, we really like him!"
Why he would be a good mayor: Honestly, a one-eyed baby could run City Hall, and apart from the occasional spitting up, who would notice any difference? I mean, the personalities change and all that, but in terms of the day-to-day policy stuff, the city's been running on autopilot throughout the 22-year McNickelschlachtenhaufenrice administration. Sims could do that. And he'd hug people. A lot. Most people seem to like hugs.
His weakness: As pointed out above, a one-eyed baby could run city hall, so why would Sims want to? And if he did run for and win the job, it's hard to see him not quickly losing interest. Sims is a big-picture kinda politician, while Seattle is an awfully small canvas, so apart from the state-voters-hating-him thing, he'd probably be better off running for governor.
Representative on-the-record quote: "Eli Sanders is an excellent reporter. This is well worth reading." —Ron Sims's Facebook page, 10/27/11
Representative off-the-record quote: "Wow! This is an incredibly thoughtful opinion piece by David Brooks." —Ron Sims's Facebook page, 11/2/11
Why he'd be better than the mayor we have now: The mayor we have now has never offered me a job, whereas there's always the hope that if elected, Sims might save me, the way he did Sandeep Kaushik, from the daily drudgery of writing fluff pieces like this for The Stranger. Run, Ron, run!