It's hard to explain how I came to be at Milepost 31, "Seattle's Most Boring Exhibit," on a Saturday afternoon.
But there I was, staring at a lifesized mural simulating a driver's seat view of the coming downtown Seattle tunnel, when I heard a man walk in from First Avenue and inquire about the subject of this "Most Boring Exhibit." He'd seen the slogan on the window but nothing else.
Someone at the front desk told him: It's about the downtown tunnel project. At which point I heard the man exclaim: "I lost my race for Seattle mayor by supporting this tunnel."
I turned around. There was Joe Mallahan, in a Huskies t-shirt and cargo shorts, introducing himself to the person at the front desk. The person at the front desk had never heard of Joe Mallahan, so Mallahan tried a different tack: "Heard of Mike McGinn?" That worked. Mallahan then explained that he's the guy who got beat by Mike McGinn in 2009. Because of this tunnel.
I caught up with Mallahan near the replica of Bertha, the tunnel boring machine. He told me he's still super excited about tunneling. "I think there's just such a huge opportunity to transform the waterfront," he said. But, he's currently focusing on his work as a management consultant, having suspended work on a start-up that he left T-Mobile to run with another McGinn-vanquished politician, former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels.
Mallahan wants to get back into politics "someday," and thought about a re-match with McGinn this year.
"I would have loved to run again," he told me, "but it just didn't fit with what was going on with the family. My family wanted me to take a break."
So what does Joe Mallahan think of the Ed Murray vs. Mike McGinn contest?
"Ed Murray has impeccable credentials as a progressive leader," Mallahan said. "And I think Mike is a master of positioning the other candidate as somewhat not progressive."
I asked: Is that what you think Mike McGinn did to you in 2009?
"Yeah," Mallahan said. "I can also tell you that I think I underestimated what a good campaigner Mike was. His positioning work in the last few weeks of the campaign swung a lot of undecided voters. He positioned me as a corporate guy, in the pocket of big business. I would count on Mike to be very smart about holding his most powerful messaging until the last weeks before the ballots drop. He did a great job with it the last time around."
So, have either of the candidates called seeking your endorsement?
"I'd rather not comment."
Is that because the candidate Mallahan's supporting doesn't want it known, for fear of hurting his campaign. Or is it because Mallahan hasn't made up his mind yet? Mallahan wouldn't say, though he had a lot of nice things to say about Ed Murray. For example:
"I've been impressed with Ed's ability to move big stuff through the legislature in a bipartisan fashion."
I asked: What about McGinn's claim that Murray is "hiding from his record" of voting in Olympia for cuts that hurt Seattle—particularly cuts to social services.
"Anybody who's involved in social services in the city knows that Ed Murray has done everything that is possible to maximize the investment in social services. And the fact that he has compromised from time to time with the other side is an example of his leadership."
"I think Mike has done a commendable job overall. I think his greatest failing was not taking an early leadership position on the police. I think the mayor didn't really take a position, and found himself without thoughts, or oppositional to the Justice Department."
Mallahan said McGinn should have embraced the Justice Department's early recipe for reform, while also standing "shoulder to shoulder" with the police—which he admitted would have been a difficult trick to pull off. He also said he thinks McGinn is "a great family guy" and "a great community guy," and that he was pleased to see McGinn pursue "management efficiencies" during his term (which I took to mean things like layoffs). And then, as we were wrapping up, Mallahan asked me to pass a message to The Stranger's news editor. The message:
"Tell Dominic Holden it pisses me off that he's a superb writer. I want to hate him, but he's actually quite good—not withstanding his fucking moronic article, Joe Mallahan Is an Idiot."
I promised to pass on the message. Mallahan then wondered if this quasi-olive-branch might end up reinforcing his Google problem. He laughed at the way things go sometimes, and then headed out to enjoy the rest of the Saturday afternoon.