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Ed Murray - Seattle's next mayor? Possible write-in?
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Ed Murray - Seattle's next mayor? Possible write-in?

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Will Senator Ed Murray be the next mayor of Seattle? Rumors began to circulate this week that Murray - a veteran state legislator representing the 43rd District - was interested in running for the job.

In an exclusive interview with SGN on Wednesday, Murray insisted that he was not the source of the rumors. "I'm surprised and flattered that people who know me started all this on their own," he said. "It didn't come from me."

Murray did not file for the primary election, so his name will not appear on the November 3 general election ballot. If he intends to run, he will have to wage a write-in campaign, a much harder way to win an election.

"I need some time to figure out if a write-in campaign is doable," he said. "I will have a decision by Labor Day."

Write-in campaigns present several challenges. First, write-ins require the voter to take an extra step: to actually write down a candidate's name rather than just filling in the appropriate circle on the ballot.

The rules for write-ins are not as stringent as some might assume, however. According to King County Elections, if Murray formally files as a write-in candidate, any spelling of his name that can be "construed" as a match will count as a vote. If there are questions, the County Elections Canvass Board would then make a ruling on a case-by-case basis.

Write-in campaigns also give the candidate far less time to raise money and get his or her message to potential voters.

"If people remember, after Cal [Anderson] died, there was a short campaign for his Senate seat, which I lost. So I'm well aware of the practical problems involved in a short campaign," Murray told SGN.

"The only winning one was in 1994," Murray noted. "Linda Smith in the Republican primary. That's it. Not much to go on."

The failure of incumbent Mayor Greg Nickels to advance to the general election created space for Murray to jump into the race if he chooses. Nickels fell some 2,200 votes short of a spot on the general election ballot.

Neither Mike McGinn nor Joe Mallahan - the successful candidates - has any experience in government, or much appeal for the coalition of labor unions, Democratic Party regulars, and Downtown interests who supported Nickels.

"If I run, I expect I'd get the support of people who voted for Greg Nickels, plus many who didn't," Murray told SGN.

Murray's popularity in his own 43rd District, which he has represented for 14 years in both the state House and Senate, would create problems for McGinn, who carried only the 43rd and 34th Districts in the primary. Murray has also enjoyed friendly relationships with many of the labor unions who endorsed Nickels in the primary.

SEAMEC, which has interviewed, researched, and rated candidates on LGBT issues since 1977, did not rate any of the primary candidates for mayor very highly. McGinn and Mallahan merely "meet expectations," according to SEAMEC. In contrast, Murray has always received SEAMEC's highest rating and its endorsement.

Murray also has new polling data from the weekend of August 22-23, which suggests he could be a credible candidate.

"The polling shows about what you'd expect," Murray said. "After 14 years I have high name recognition. It doesn't say that I'd win or lose - or if you can win a write-in campaign."

Murray denies he had anything to do with commissioning the poll. While he would not say who did, it has been reported that polling was paid for by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of the area's largest labor organizations.

Murray is taking a cautious approach, talking to both longtime friends and potential new supporters before making a final decision.

"I'm talking to advisors I've worked with over the past 14 years," he told SGN. "I'm talking to leaders of labor, business, communities of color & I want to know if the support is real and if it's going to last, or if it's just the people who like me, just talking&."

Murray is quite clear about what he sees as issues in the race.

"Transportation will be a big issue," he says. "People have framed that mainly as viaduct replacement, but what we really need to be talking about is 520 replacement. How do we mitigate the problems that will be caused?"

"Housing is not affordable," Murray continued, "not just for the homeless but for just average people making average salaries."

"And while education is not up to the city," he adds, "we should talk about how to partner with the school district to improve our schools."

"This is the last interview I'll be doing for a few days," Murray concluded, "out of respect for Sen. Kennedy. We need to recognize his passing."

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