FROZEN IN CARBONITE: The empire struck back, but the rebels also put up a shitty fight.
  • FROZEN IN CARBONITE: The empire struck back, but the rebels also put up a shitty fight.
Only 43 percent of voters had picked Mike McGinn as of election night, officially making the “most progressive mayor in America” a one-term phenomenon. That may be surprising to outsiders. Since McGinn took the reins of city hall in 2009, deep in the pit of the recession, crime has dropped significantly, workers have filled potholes speedily, and downtown has boomed, while the unemployment rate dropped well below the state average.

But locals saw McGinn stumble—and even face-plant on his own key issues.

As of election night, state senator Ed Murray became the mayor-elect with 56 percent of voters, a horde of endorsements, and enough money on his side to outspend McGinn by more than 50 percent.

While Murray used that wide cast of supporters to demonstrate that he could unify Seattle, he hammered on McGinn’s acrimonious style and ineffective leadership.

Four years ago, McGinn had run on the promise to put a light-rail extension on the ballot within two years, stay clear of the controversial deep-bore tunnel, bring bicycling inside the mainstream, and make Seattle more equitable for people of color and the poor. Instead? Light rail never materialized in any election. He unsuccessfully fought the tunnel anyway, to his detriment, while, even more detrimentally, he failed to present a viable transportation alternative. And bicycle lanes, ironically, became a whipping boy for all the city’s traffic frustrations. Worst of all, McGinn stood by haplessly with a lame police chief while Seattle Police Department officers punched, kicked, shot, and killed racial minorities. Once the US Department of Justice forced the city into a court settlement to fix SPD, McGinn’s fate seemed sealed.

McGinn became toxic even to much of his base, which could neither defend his missteps nor cite many concrete accomplishments. Lacking a list of big victories, McGinn and his supporters couldn’t change the conversation from his style back to policy. In the end, this mayor’s race was about style—about whether or not people liked McGinn. And they didn’t like him.