Super-close election for Seattle Mayor

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

It was primary election day yesterday for municipalities throughout Washington State yesterday.

And WOW! they've got a seriously close race for Mayor up there in Seattle.

Running for re-election, Mayor Greg Nickels drew seven opponents - and at latest count, he's in third place. He trails Sierra Club activist Mike McGinn by 1016 votes (out of nearly 82,000 cast). McGinn trails cell phone executive Joe Mallahan by just 221 votes.

Percentage-wise, that's Mallahan with 26.8%, McGinn with 26.5%, and Nickels with 25.2%. Placing fourth is former Sonics basketball player James Donaldson with 8.8% and, in fifth, Seattle councilwoman Jan Drago with 7.64%.

In Washington, vote-by-mail ballots only have to be postmarked by election day - not delivered. So, there's still a long way to go before we know which two candidates will make the runoff in November. There could be as many as 40-50% of the ballots still in transit and to be counted.

But the prospect of an incumbent Mayor placing third in a primary - in the absence of scandal - is quite stunning. As Goldy writes at Horses Ass:

But it’s just hard to believe that a scandal-free mayor of a relatively well-managed city with few if any major problems ... might potentially fail to make it through such an unimpressive, if crowded field of primary challengers.

How very Seattle of us.

As Randy Stapilus at Ridenbaugh Press notes, if Mayor Nickels survives the primary, he's probably toast anyhow:

Even if Nickels survives the primary, his chances in the general are, as the lawyers would say, de minimis. An incumbent in a primary like this should get, or at least approach, half of the total vote if his position is decently strong at all. An incumbent getting a quarter of the vote in a field of modest candidates (no insult intended, but the group isn’t a collection of established local political superstars) is extraordinarily weak. In the primary, the anti-incumbent vote was splintered among a bunch of candidates; the mayor won’t have that luxury next time. Nickels will need either an amazing campaign or astounding luck to survive the next contest in November. If he gets there.

There's a pretty cogent tactical analysis at Crosscut of "What went wrong with Mayor Nickels' campaign" - and a quick summary of the big-picture problems for Nickels at the Seattle Times.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    Thanks for the update Kari, perhaps a better headline would be that over 75% of votes counted DID NOT go toward the incumbant, democrat Nichols. This is a widespread repudiation of his politics and tax and speand governance.

    King county only has 70,000 ballots left to count and it is for certain that all of them will not be from Seattle proper. It may be impossible for King County elections to pull yet another deus ex machina out of the hat to protect a democrat incumbant like they did for Gov Gregoire.

  • Time in Seattle (unverified)

    Actually, the Nichols administration is not viewed quite the way you present it here.

    To be sure, he is a fairly typical NW Democratic politician (when he served on the King Co. Council which is partisan he was a VERY partisan Democrat), in that he is always cozied up to the powerful development interests and thumbed his nose at what most would consider to be the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. Something I assure you Kari you, and most of the Blue Oregon staff demonstrate little true knowledge of.

    If people want to get a little taste of what real Democrats used to fight for, values that have been long lost amongst a too-large percentage of people who call themselves Democrats in the NW these days, and the battle with Nichols and the City Council, check out the Seattle Displacement Coalition website.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)


    But the prospect of an incumbent Mayor placing third in a primary - in the absence of scandal - is quite stunning.

    Bob T:

    I'd like to see more incumbents have a hard time getting renominated or reelected. Too many of them get arrogant knowing they have jobs for decades if all they do is manage to not get caught at something (and even if they do, they play the "I must be kept because I have clout" game.)

    Bob Tiernan Portland

  • Time in Seattle (unverified)

    Bob T - as you phrase referring to "more incumbents", I agree with you.

    The Nichols administration has been one of ongoing arrogance for sure. In many ways, it was like the Bush Administration that it was largely concurrent with. What Nichols and Bush actually did was to slowly elevate the level of nonfeasance, misfeasance, or malfeasance it took to declare their behavior to be a scandal. Like the old saw about a frog in a pot of boiling water.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    Nichols continues to mount his lossess. that, along w/his vaunted "bag tax" a $0.20/bag fee on plastic grocery bags has been soundly (pun intended) defeated by Seattle voters tired of heavy handed democrat social mandates.

    the bag tax has been defeated by almost a 2 to 1 ratio with 60% so far voting "No".

  • Stephen Amy (unverified)

    Kurt Chapman: if the bag tax is the reason Nichols is losing then how's come McGinn is almost in first place, just 221 votes behind, as he'd probably favor more of these types of "social mandates" than does Nichols?

  • fbear (unverified)

    Kurt, 58% - 42% isn't "almost a 2 to 1 ratio". It's more like a 1.4 to 1 ratio.

    You wouldn't say 140 is "almost twice" 100, would you? Maybe you would, but you'd look silly.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    Stephen Amy, Nichols is the closest ally to the bag tax and the one who rammed it throough council earlier. a citizen's referendum has repealed it; and him. Of course he has plenty of other detractors such as the Alaskan Way Viaduct, handling of snow removal, having a city DOT that was rampant with cronyism and favoritism, etc, etc. It wasn't the bag tax all by itself, but it was a telling tale.

    <h2>fbear, thanks for correcting me. When I first responded the numbers were more of a landslide against the ill-concieved bag tax. The "yes" votes have crept up, but the landslide rejection via voter referendum continues.</h2>

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