Last night, state senator Ed Murray (D-43) got to see results of polling conducted over the weekend that shows he may have a shot at becoming Seattle’s next mayor. “I’m not going to give you numbers, but it definitely shows a path there,” he says. Conducted by a local union (he’s not saying which one, but it’s widely rumored to be the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union), the poll “shows softness on support for the two people who won the primary,” he says.
Murray would have to run as a write-in candidate against Mike McGinn and Joe Mallahan, which is sub-optimal—to say the least—and his advisers know it. “A new generation of political people are saying ‘Absolutely, go for it,’” he says. “And a wiser group of people, who were in politics before I was, say, 'Write in campaigns just don’t work.'” He adds, “They say that if I were on the ballot, I would win.”
In addition to a very late jump on fundraising, a write-in campaign presents two challenges. First: People don’t know how to spell “Murray,” he says. “As a kid I never understood why my mother spelled out our last name every time she said it.” Lots of people drop the letter “a” or replace it with an “e.” And he says King County elections officials wouldn’t accept a misspelled write-in as a proper vote. Second: While the candidates on the ballot simply have to advocate for themselves, Murray says he’d also need to tell voters that they’d need to write in his name on a blank line.
But Murray has a base of support within the political establishment—more so than McGinn or Mallahan—from 14 years in the state legislature, where he's been an advocate for gay rights (such as the domestic partnership bill) and other progressive bills.
“The people who called and asked me to do this are people who I have worked with on civil-rights issues, public-safety issues and affordable-housing issues,” he says. “They are saying that they have never worked with [McGinn and Mallahan].”
Murray won’t make up his mind for up to two weeks if a write-in campaign is “actually doable.” While he weighs his options, he points out that he didn’t begin the Murray-for-mayor buzz (he was vacationing in the Cascade Mountains when the poll was underway), but he’s up for the challenge if the numbers look good. “I am flattered. This didn’t start with me.”
The remaining question is from which candidate would Muarray take votes—McGinn or Mallahan? He could take more votes from fellow progressive McGinn, potentially handing pro-business Mallahan the election. On the other, Murray could also play up his establishment bona fides (and grab union support that neither campaign has locked down), taking votes from Mallahan and McGinn.