For weeks now, the Punditocracy have been ladling out the conventional wisdom like soup. And when the political broth cools, they say with ever-growing conviction, Seattle’s mayoral race will boil down to a general-election dustup between Mayor Mike McGinn and state Sen. Ed Murray.
The unrelenting campaign mantra calls for urban planner and architect Peter Steinbrueck to finish third in next Tuesday’s primary, followed by Seattle City Councilman Bruce Harrell. These perceptions are fortified by Murray’s fund-raising prowess -- which Publicola rapturously chronicles each day – and the fact that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men (see The Seattle Times’ recent breathless endorsement of Murray) are putting their chips down on the longtime state lawmaker.
Then there’s that oft-cited KING5-commissioned SurveyUSA poll in mid-July that shows the mayor and Murray running neck-and-neck – 22 percent for Murray, 21 percent for McGinn, with Steinbrueck at 14 percent. Only cursory mention that these polls have for years proved to be wildly unreliable. In 2009, they showed Greg Nickel’s breezing to a first-place finish in the primary, and then, on Oct. 20, just two weeks before the election, had Joe Mallahan beating McGinn by 6 points.
To the question now: Is a McGinn-Murray contest inevitable?
Seattle Weekly, after a good deal of electoral number-crunching and with the generous assistance of King County Elections and a talented political demography guru named Ben Anderstone, unearthed a precinct in this blue-tinted town that has an uncanny penchant for voting time and time and again for the winning candidate.
And guess what? They don’t appear to be buying into the McGinn-Murray scenario.
In the heart of Seattle’s Maple Leaf neighborhood there lays Precinct No. 46-2292. Running north and south between 88th NE and 92nd NE streets, and west, from 15th Avenue to its eastern boundaries at Lake City Way, this is an old established slice of north Seattle. Citywide elections are won or lost here on these quite streets. Few pockets of Seattle are as representative and predictive of the electoral behavior of the city at large as this 46th legislative district precinct, pressed amid Lake City, Laurelhurst, Broadview and parts of Greenwood and Lake Forest Park.
In the 1997 mayoral race, Precinct 2292 voters closely mirrored the citywide result, splitting their vote between Paul Schell and Greg Nickels in the primary, before chosing Schell in the general. Four years later, its 515 registered voters swung heavily to Nickels over Schell, as did the city at large. In 2005, again Precinct 2292 went big for Nickels. Ditto the city. In the 2009 primary, in which McGinn won 27.71 percent of the vote to Mallahan’s 26.38 percent, Precinct 2292 awarded 54 of its votes to McGinn and 45 to Mallahan. Then, the in the fall election, which McGinn eked out 50.88 percent to 48.28 percent, 2292 chose McGinn over Mallahan – 127 to 113.
In the 2012 general election, Precinct 2292 gave 85 percent of its vote to Obama, the precise percentage that all Seattle voters handed the president, notes Anderstone.
In the gubernatorial race, the Maple Leaf neighborhood went 80 percent for Jay Inslee, compared to 79 percent citywide. On the legalizing marijuana initiative: 70 percent in 2292, 74 percent citywide. Gay marriage: 84 percent in 2292, 82 percent citywide.
Total voter turnout in last year’s fall election: 88 percent to 86 percent for the city at large. Also, reports Anderstone, the precinct’s median age of 48 is the same as the citywide median age.
Yesterday, Seattle Weekly went into this bellwether precinct and briefly querying 61 registered voters, asking only who they had already voted for, or intended to vote for, or were leaning toward in the mayoral race? And the envelope, please:
Joey Gray: 1
Undecided : 17
A sampling of some of the commentary that ensued:
“I think a lot of the negative hullabaloo about him has been overstated. He may not be the world’s greatest mayor, but he’s learned the job and he’s getting better,” says Alexis Kaushanski.
“We need someone who can do something about transportation. I don’t want someone who wants to run a bus service,” says Steinbrueck supporter Bob Manders.
“I liked his dad and I liked him when he was the council,” says Mark Johnson, another Steinbrueck supporter.
“I I could vote The Seattle Times into the Puget Sound, I would. They’ve trashed him all the way,” says McGinn supporter Cal Folsom.
“My son works in Olympia, and he’s very impressed with him, and I think he’ll do a good job,” says Dave, a Murray supporter who asked that only his first name be used.