Fleeting Reflections on Last Night’s Mayoral Debate

First off, it wasn’t a debate, even though CityClub billed it as such. Second, the questions asked the candidates by moderator Joni Balter, assistant political editor at The Seattle Times, revealed nothing, unless you think that it’s useful to know that all the contenders are against closing down Key Arena, that they all favor food labeling, and, with the exception of Mayor Mike McGinn, aren’t terribly enthused about parking meter hours that stretch until 8 p.m.

You know you got a snoozer on your hands when Charlie Staadecker gets a big round of sympathetic applause when Balter (inexplicably) asked him about jail siting in Seattle, and poor old Charlie confessed he hadn’t studied the issue. Who the hell has?

The best thing about last night’s “debate” held before a decidedly older audience who slooowly filled the Central Library auditorium -- like they were heading in for the Early Bird Special at Denny’s -- was that CityClub didn’t invite the unknown candidates such as Mary Martin, the humorless socialist and the Frisbee fiend Joey Gray. CityClub executive director Diane Douglas said they wanted to focus on the most viable candidates, which apparently includes the man who hasn’t studied up on jail siting.

Peter Steinbrueck provided the most fitting metaphor for the current state of the city when he arrived 15 minutes late because the traffic was so bad and he ended up walking.

Some of more entertaining moments – awkward is a better word – came well before “the debate” began. There was dapper Ed Murray standing around all by his lonesome in his customary dark suit, and white shirt. Meanwhile, Staadecker was happily milling, while effusive McGinn chatted merrily with a few journalists.

No one approached Murray. Back and forth he paced. McGinn wouldn’t even look his way to exchange pleasantries, (and vice-versa) even though the two were seated next to each other at the dais. These two do not like each other, and that gets clearer every day.

Would someone please shake Murray’s hand. Thank you, Bruce Harrell.

Three major campaign issues dominated the dinnertime encounter: transportation, public safety and education. Little new ground was broken, though Steinbrueck did suggest that there be a six-month moratorium on tolling in the downtown tunnel.

The primary is August 8. Vote-by mail ballots are dropped today.

KCTS (Channel 9) is sponsoring the final debate of the primary season on Thursday, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. No word yet whether questions about jail siting will be asked.

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