By Ryan Pangilinan
Northwest Asian Weekly
For this off-year election, the race to the mayor’s chair was closely watched due to the fact that incumbent Greg Nickels didn’t even qualify during the primary elections. The polarizing personalities of activist-cum-politician Mike McGinn and telecomm executive Joe Mallahan also make for an interesting look at citywide politics.
Each candidate’s supporters said much of what the average voter may have already suspected — Mallahan is looking to better what’s already here in Seattle, and McGinn is looking to improve and shake the status quo.
McGinn’s party was held at the War Room, a swanky and prominent hip hop club, nestled on Capitol Hill. It’s usually frequented for its world renowned Yo Son Saturday night event.
On Tuesday’s chilly election night, however, news vans were camped outside as McGinn’s supporters and volunteers headed indoors, awaiting the results inside the club.
Most volunteers were posted in the bar, taking turns signing a print of the battle scene from “The Return of the King,” the third “Lord of the Rings” film — a gift to McGinn from his volunteers and phonebankers — stemming from a reference he made early on in the campaign.
For the people who weren’t imbibing — families and the under-21 crowd — there was the dance floor, which had a makeshift press podium and a DJ set up with a televised news broadcast right behind him. A place that’s more known for stiff drinks and wall-to-wall dancing bodies, McGinn certainly made the most of his surroundings.
When he actually arrived, McGinn was met with a flurry of reporters, cameras, and questions, and he alternated between facilitating the reporters who had camped out for the last hour and hugging and greeting his constituents and volunteers — all of whom he knew by name. Hot dogs were served instead of hors d’oeurves, cocktails instead of wine.
Ky Ong Min, 17, volunteered with McGinn’s staff as part of a school project.
“I liked his plans with the schools,” she said.
When asked if she would vote for McGinn had she been of age, she enthusiastically replied with a yes.
“This was definitely worth trying,” she said of her experience. “Two months of volunteering is better than four years of the same [thing].”
McGinn led early on. He shouted, “Thank you, Seattle!” as his supporters cheered.
While hip hop music blared from the speakers at McGinn’s party, Mallahan’s soiree at the Edgewater Hotel was considerably different.
It was a more traditional campaign event. Hors d’oeuvres were lined up on tables, while attendees ran back and forth between Mallahan’s party and Dow Constantine’s, which was two floors away.
The crowd was a bit different, too. At McGinn’s party, many of the people present were young, tattooed, and mostly white. Mallahan’s crowd was, by and large, Seattle’s working class. “Firefighters for Mallahan” signs lined the hallways, where union workers were talking business on their Bluetooths or with one another.
Though young faces were scarce, it didn’t stop people from packing the room further, beer and wine flowing every which way.
As the party continued, word had spread about McGinn’s lead, though Mallahan’s supporters didn’t seem discouraged. “The lead is razor thin,” said one man, who asked to not be identified. “I’ve seen this before, and we still have a chance to win.”
“It’s a great Seattle tradition,” Mallahan said to his supporters. “We never have any blowout campaigns. I think this thing is far from over.”
Though the position is nonpartisan, Mallahan and McGinn are both Democrats. Mallahan is a vice president at T-Mobile. McGinn is a lawyer and former head of the local Sierra Club chapter.
As of press time on Wednesday, Nov. 4, Mallahan barely trailed McGinn 49.33 percent to 49.77 percent.
This election may not be called until the end of month, after all ballots have been counted. Even then, if the results end with a narrow margin, there may be a recount. ♦
Ryan Pangilinan can be reached at email@example.com.