In what can safely be described as one of the least surprising news conferences of the year, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn announced today that he will run for reelection. I mean, it's not like it was a secret or anything.
Still, an enthusiastic crowd of supporters and a gaggle of reporters packed into a small, hot room at the Filipino Community Center to hear McGinn tell them what he'd already told Dom: "I'm here to announce I'm running for reelection for mayor!" Cue the applause.
Of course, there's never much news at "news conferences" like this, but there was certainly a lot of color, demonstrating the strong support that McGinn still maintains in many of Seattle's minority communities. Campaign co-chair and El Centro De La Raza executive director Estela Ortega emceed the event, describing McGinn as "the first mayor who has come into communities of color and asked us what our needs are." Take that, Norm Rice.
For a city with a reputation for being one of the whitest in America, you certainly wouldn't know it from the folks in the room. McGinn won big in 2009 within the immigrant and minority communities of Southeast Seattle, and he may have to run even stronger here to have a hope of winning reelection. It's a base that none of his challengers (so far) can lay claim to, one that consultants and pundits ignore at their peril when handicapping this race.
When McGinn finally took the podium from his co-chairs he launched into a recitation of his accomplishments as mayor, a list that some people might find surprisingly long. Yeah, I know, McGinn's administration has supposedly been a "disaster." That's the narrative his opponents take for granted. But actually, Seattle has done quite well during his tenure.
While the county and state (and much of the rest of the nation) are still struggling to make ends meet, McGinn has consistently balanced the city budget without major cuts to social or other services, and without the bitter political wrangling we're accustomed to seeing elsewhere. Seattle is even on target to rebuilding its rainy day fund to pre-Great Recession levels. Not bad. And during McGinn's term in office, home prices, employment, manufacturing, and tax revenues have all increased faster than the national average.
Not exactly a disaster.
Sure, McGinn failed to block the tunnel, but he surrendered graciously once the people spoke at the polls. And it's certainly fair to criticize McGinn for failing to adequately address the cultural and management problems at SPD. There were also a handful of early initiatives (seawall and transit come to mind) that the council swiftly killed.
But after a year or so McGinn seemed to learn the ropes, and his accomplishments since then have been many, including a doubling of the Families and Education Levy, passage of Seawall and Library levies, and his shepherding of the Sodo arena deal that now looks likely to bring the Sonics back to Seattle for the 2013-2014 season. Add in the sick-leave ordinance, the mayor's veto of aggressive panhandling legislation, and successful starts to his school attendance and broadband initiatives, and McGinn starts to look quite accomplished.
As for the future, McGinn laid out a handful of priorities for his second term, including finding a Seattle-funded source (separate from Sound Transit) for investing in a transit infrastructure, and an initiative near and dear to my heart: A new early learning initiative aimed at gradually implementing universal access to high-quality preschool for all of Seattle's children. If the state as a whole won't fund this obvious reform, we should do it ourselves, I figure. And apparently the mayor agrees.
I know the conventional wisdom is that McGinn is "embattled," and that the odds are against him winning reelection. But at today's news conference he didn't have the feel of a politician who was beat.
McGinn won in 2009 not on the basis of his ideas—voters ultimately rejected his trademark issue—but because he was the only candidate to run with the support of an actual grassroots base. And judging from the people who packed the room today, that base is largely intact.