Originally posted at 1:33 pm and moved up with updates.
Tim Burgess withdrew his bid for mayor today, the last day candidates are eligible to file election campaigns, thereby leaving a wide-open gap for candidates vying for conservative votes and funding.
The Seattle City Council member took a parting shot at Mayor Mike McGinn, naturally. "It is critically important that we elect a new mayor," he said in a statement this afternoon. "However, with so many qualified candidates in the field, my continued candidacy may dilute the chance of achieving the positive change Seattle needs. After much deliberation, I have chosen not to continue as a candidate. Instead, I will continue to serve this city that I love from my position on the City Council, the most rewarding job of my life."
Although the statement sounds altruistic, it seems Burgess knew he couldn't win.
From his botched announcement last November to this abrupt end, Burgess's campaign never caught the tailwind many expected. He was considered a leading challenger last year—a sort of mayor in waiting, after Mayor McGinn's two years of floundering—but McGinn seems to have found sea legs at City Hall, and a pack of heavyweight contenders crowded into the race in January and February. In particular, state senator Ed Murray and to a lesser extent Council Member Bruce Harrell have emerged in the race as safe bets for institutional backers that represent downtown business, and, unlike Burgess, can't be portrayed as conservative outliers (Burgess infamously sponsored a controversial aggressive panhandling bill that failed in 2010).
Burgess has also been unraveling this week.
After the news that the 36th District—Burgess's home district—would split its endorsement between him and Murray, yesterday came the news from PubliCola that Burgess fired his spokesman. And then the 46th District Democrats, who represent the relatively wealthy, white district of northeast Seattle that seems like Burgess's base, didn't endorse him at all. Also the city council's biggest advocate to bring back the Sonics, Burgess took a blow when the NBA nixed the deal Wednesday.
Wednesday night was also a poor, petulant showing for Burgess. I was emceeing a mayoral straw poll at the Phinney Ridge Community Center when I asked Burgess about his divisive actions in the last few years that belie his campaign theme of collaboration. Specifically, Burgess booted the city budget director Beth Goldberg from his finance meetings last fall. I said it appeared unprecedented. Burgess insisted I was wrong; he said he blocked the budget director from only one meeting, and then, apparently flustered after the questioning, he told me to "go fuck yourself." Granted, I had it coming: I was wearing a shirt that said "The NBA can go fuck itself." But he didn't say it like a joke—he seemed pissed. And when I followed up by e-mail to ask if he could prove I was wrong—that kicking out the budget director had precedent and that it was only one meeting—he didn't reply. City records show that Burgess held seven budget meetings without the budget director, not just one. In other words, he was wrong, he was angry, and then he went silent. Not very mayoral.
Burgess had raised more money that anyone else in the race ($232,000, according to the latest election reports), but most of it was already spent, with a $100,250 reported balance. Meanwhile, Murray's fundraising has been frozen through the legislative session, and Murray is widely expected to be a fundraising power house through the summer months leading up to the August primary.
Paradoxically, Burgess quitting could benefit Mayor McGinn more than anyone else in the primary. Although McGinn is generally considered to be on the liberal end of the spectrum of candidates, he got 34 percent of the Republican support in a March SurveyUSA poll. Burgess was second among Republicans with 15 percent. If those fiscally conservative voters flock to McGinn—who's run a tight budget and famously fought the expensive deep-bore tunnel project—it may give him the boost needed to push through to the general election.