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In Washington state, two election results worth watching

Posted by Michael Andersen (News Editor) on November 6th, 2013 at 9:14 am

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Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, pictured here last year,
went down hard in Tuesday's elections.
(Photo: Seattle DOT)

In Portland, voters mostly take odd-numbered years off. But two races to Portland's north ended last night in interesting ways, for better or worse.

In Seattle, the deeply bike-friendly incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn lost in a 56-43 rout. And closer to home in Vancouver, Wash, the bike-and-transit-friendly but also Columbia River Crossing-supporting incumbent Mayor Tim Leavitt is headed to a second term.

McGinn: This race was a heartbreaker for many urban transportation advocates in Seattle. McGinn pedaled to work, hired the advocacy director of the Cascade Bicycle Club as a top staffer and empowered a city Department of Transportation to prioritize projects like Seattle's new protected bike lanes on Linden, Broadway and (in a design inspired by an anonymous guerrilla action) Cherry Street.

"His leadership has taken us from a city too timid to paint skinny bike lanes to a city that is now installing miles of cycle tracks and neighborhood greenways," Seattle Bike Blog's Tom Fucoloro wrote in his endorsement of McGinn.

Incoming Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, meanwhile, has made many official public statements that he supports biking and various bike projects, often in an effort to reverse his own previously stated positions. But when it came down to details, Murray held a fundraiser organized around blocking a bike lane proposal, claimed that a road diet was bad for "the elderly and disabled" because it removed free auto parking and once refused to pay a $60 parking ticket because he didn't realize he'd received it.

"Bicycle lanes, ironically, became a whipping boy for all the city’s traffic frustrations," the Stranger's Dominic Holden wrote Tuesday night in an analysis that the race was "about whether or not people liked McGinn. And they didn’t like him." The Seattle Times' Danny Westneat agreed, saying McGinn "didn’t do a bad job. The budget is balanced, jobs are up and the city is booming. His administration has been scandal-free. And yet ... McGinn just stuck in Seattle’s craw."

Policymakers Ride-28
Vancouver reelected Mayor Tim Leavitt.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Leavitt: The race for Vancouver mayor is especially interesting for two reasons. First, like his predecessor Royce Pollard, incumbent Tim Leavitt has cultivated a bike-friendly image, recently joining advocates for a ride along the new buffered bike lane on MacArthur Boulevard. Second, unlike Pollard, Leavitt is one of the few Clark County politicians in years who's managed to survive an election while supporting the Columbia River Crossing plan — tolls, light rail and all.

Though votes will continue to arrive for the next few days, Leavitt had a solid lead of 53 percent Tuesday over opponent Bill Turlay, who made opposition to the CRC a central campaign issue.

In fact, voters in the City of Vancouver rejected a whole bloc of city council candidates who opposed the current plan to expand the highway and extend TriMet's Yellow Line across the Columbia. Is it a reversal from last year, when (with much higher turnout) Vancouver rejected a sales tax hike that had become a referendum on the CRC? It's hard to say.

Speaking to The Columbian, returning City Councilman and CRC supporter Jack Burkman described the winning candidates in Vancouver as "progressive, and willing to take bold steps."

In both Vancouver and Seattle, time will tell what words like those mean.

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Comments
  • Mark Allyn November 6, 2013 at 10:09 am

    I don't live there, but I am curious as to what really sunk McGinn. I would hope that the issue is not just bike related, but there is something else bigger deep down inside that sunk him.

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  • Paul in the 'couve November 6, 2013 at 10:48 am

    On the Vancouver issues. I plan to write to Mayor Leavitt and the other council members. I want it to be clear that I overall support their vision of Vancouver, but that is despite my opposition to the CRC. The other thing in play for me was the Madore fiasco. I typically split between more progressive and conservative local candidates (usually based on who seems like the most normal *****moderated****), but this year I voted against anyone endorsed by Madore on principle.

    That's just me and I don't have access to polling, but I think I am not alone.

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    • davemess November 6, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      I think we need to be careful with not seeing any shades of grey in deeming people simply pro or against CRC. I have a friend who owns a new business in downtown Vancouver. He was excited to potentially get light rail access into town. There were a lot of moving parts about the old CRC plan that needed to be teased out and just because someone was for one part doesn't mean they were for the entire thing.

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  • Paul in the 'couve November 6, 2013 at 10:49 am

    My comment will appear when it clears moderation for one 5 letter word..... I presume

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  • Todd Boulanger November 6, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    Yes, overall for the City the vote seems an outcome that welcomes a more progressive hope for Vancouver issues over the next two years…if one looks to those selected as the Freeholders (District 3) and City Councilors + Mayor…as those who were not elected would have taken the City into a more reactive / pro Madore route. The composition of the City Council could have been radically flipped with only one or two new members from the "Madore Four".

    The elections up here was not a "pro" or "anti" bike vote, but there is hope that bike things and transportation livability issues will get back on track at the City now that Council can focus less on budget cuts/ filling holes and the CRC/ BRT division that has plagued the City since 2008. It will be exciting to see how the new council members effect change for transportation, especially Anne McEnerny-Ogle…who has been a long time neighbourhood advocate for such.

    The Mayor's race was one of the more odd ones for local politics of late…since the opposition to Tim was strong but unfocused …in that they could not find anyone who could campaign activity and draw enough of the silent middle majority support to turn the tide, as Councilman Turlay only ran at the very last minute since no one else filed before the deadline.

    Though regional transportation project planning and funding will still be in a funk and affected by the Clark County government and its new leadership staffing.

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  • Dave November 7, 2013 at 6:35 am

    To give Portlanders an idea of what happened in Vancouver, there is what you could call an anti-mass transit jihadist on Clark County Comission--one David Madore. He is wealthy enough to have bought his own seat and to fund others campaigns. He was a major backer of what have been nicknamed the "Madore Four" meaning mayoral candidate Bill Turlay and three city council candidates. It's looking like all four will lose their races at this point.

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  • Dave November 7, 2013 at 6:38 am

    Todd Hudson
    The Stranger has a good writeup. It wasn't just bike lanes.
    http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/why-mcginn-lost/Content?oid=18145401
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    Yeah, Murray took both the high road and the low road to win. Seattle is fickle--previous mayor Nickels lost to McGinn mainly because of a 100-year snowstorm and his reulctance to use destructive means to clear the streets.

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