Among the small army of campaign operatives, consultants and policy advocates that has attached itself to the fate of leading mayoral candidate Ed Murray, nearly all of them share a trait that Mayor Mike McGinn’s campaign considers more than a coincidence: They once worked for the man McGinn vanquished four years ago, Greg Nickels.
Murray’s closest advisers, including prominent Democratic strategists Christian Sinderman and Sandeep Kaushik have aligned themselves with Nickels (and cashed his checks) for much of his political career. Sinderman, who Nickels engaged to coordinate his ill-fated campaign for Secretary of State last year, will be overseeing campaign mailings and messaging for Murray. In 2010, Sinderman helped as a paid consultant to win Murray a second term in the state senate.
Kaushik, the ex-mayor’s press secretary in the 2009 campaign, is a partner in Soundview Strategies, which has to date been paid $6,000 by Murray for political consulting services. Kaushik is the spokesman for the Murray campaign.
The linkage is extensive between the mayoral wannabe and Nickels, the man who lost his bid for a third term to Mike McGinn and left office as a most unpopular figure.
Murray’s pollster, EMC Research – which conducted a large voter survey in mid-May, to the tune of $30,000, was Nickels’ pollster in 2009.
New Partners Consulting, which performed opposition research for Nickels in 2009 and helped, too, with crisis communications in the aftermath of the December 2008 snowstorm, which crippled the city (and, to a large degree, Nickels), is also in the Murray camp. The firm has so far been paid $9,790, according to campaign disclosure reports.
Meanwhile Nickels’ former deputy Tim Ceis, who earned the nickname “The Shark” during his tenure as the ex-mayors’ enforcer because of his hardball tactics, is, as he put it, “Just trying to raise a little money for Ed.”
Mayor McGinn’s campaign manager John Wyble, maintains this is all about payback by Nickels’ loyalists who found themselves on the outs after McGinn ousted Nickels.
“I think some of these people weren’t ready to leave. They liked running the city and they want to do it again,” says Wyble.
Counters Ceis, “I think these people are more motivated by their business interests. John shouldn’t be personalizing the campaign this way.”
Meanwhile, the independent political committee, People for Ed Murray, which was created earlier this month to raise campaign funds for Murray’s behalf while he’s tied up in Olympia and barred from augmenting his war chest, is being chaired by Nickels’ loyalists, many of whom believe Murray has the best chance of any in the field to defeat McGinn.
One of them is former Mayor Charley Royer, a longtime Nickels supporter who served on at least one occasion as a campaign surrogate to the ex-mayor in 2009, the year he Nickels finished third in the bruising August 28 primary behind McGinn and Joe Mallohan. (Royer’s son, Jordan, once worked as a Nickels staffer.)
Two other co-chairs of People for Ed Murray, environmental philanthropist Martha Kongsgaard and Aaron Ostrom executive director of FUSE, also have close ties to Nickels.
Ceis, a political consultant with Ceis Bayne East Strategic, is an integral part of the People for Ed Murray group, while Lisa MacClean, is expected to lend a hand as well. MacClean is a principal at Moxie Media, a political consulting firm that agreed to pay the state $290,000 in fines and legal fees for a campaign scheme – shuffling money among shell committees – that helped derail then-state senator Jean Berkey, D-Everett, during the 2010 primary.
MacClean, who could not be reached for comment, worked in all three of Nickels’ mayoral campaigns.
“Politics is a business. People go where the work is,” notes Democratic political consultant Dean Nielsen, who created the independent campaign committee.
The committee is permitted to raise unlimited amounts of money on Murray’s behalf , funds that can be used for TV ads, mailings and brochures. Says Neilsen, a Mallohan supporter in 2009, “I’ve never thought of this as a Greg Nickels thing. I’ve moved on with my life.”
Later, in an e-mail, Nielsen went on, “I really find the assertion that this is some kind of Nickels thing is kind of bizarre. I just beat Nickels in the Secretary of State race with Kathleen Drew … I was with [Paul] Schell in 2001 and didn’t support anyone in the 2009 primary. I personally haven’t spoken to Greg in at least 5 years maybe longer.” Kaushik stressed that everyone concerned is clear that no coordination is allowed between the campaign and the independent committee.
Beyond the newly created committee, the Murray-Nickels connections also extends to a group of former City of Seattle department heads and senior managers,. Many of them were once a part of Nickels’ administration who previously supported Tim Burgess, who abandoned the race last month.
A recent open letter e-mailed to other Burgess supporters announcing that they’re endorsing Murray for mayor include Patricia McInturff, former Seattle Director of Human Services; Adrienne Quinn, former Seattle Director of Housing; and Ken Bounds, former Seattle Superintendent of Parks. All of them lost their jobs when McGinn took over.
McInturff and Quinn attended the 34th District Democratic organization meeting last week, where Murray won a sole endorsement over McGinn by better than a two-to-one margin.
There is no love lost between Murray and McGinn. Recall that Murray seriously considered mounting a write-in campaign after Nickels lost the primary in 2009. Earlier this month, Murray told Seattle Weekly that if McGinn survives the August 6 primary – which the bird-watching hobbyist fully believes McGinn will – “I think this is going to be the ugliest campaign Seattle has ever seen.”
To which John Wyble responded on his blog, “Ed, you would be better served to keep your sleazy attack dogs on a leash, get your campaign out of the gutter and join the rest of us in a rigorous debate about the future of this city.
“We can all waste our time taking potshots at each other. But, I think the voters would appreciate if Ed Murray told his consultants to pull their heads out of the gutter and focus on why Ed should be the next Mayor.”