Tense debate between Seattle mayor candidates McGinn, Mallahan
With the election 13 days away, the mayoral debate showed that the campaign between the two political newcomers has turned nasty and the accusations increasingly personal.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Two more debatesThe two candidates are scheduled to take part in two other televised debates this week. KCTS will air a debate live at 7 p.m. today. The debate can also be heard on KUOW and KPLU radio.
On Saturday, the candidates will debate at 9 p.m. on KOMO-TV. That event will be simulcast on KOMO NewsRadio 1000-AM and 97.3 FM and streamed live on komonews.com.
Again and again in Wednesday's televised debate, Seattle mayoral candidate Mike McGinn leaned across moderator Jean Enersen, looked straight at his opponent Joe Mallahan, and called him untrustworthy and in the pocket of special interests.
Mallahan scoffed at McGinn's credentials, noting his own experience as a businessman and repeating, "Mike just doesn't get it."
He said McGinn's opposition to the tunnel as a replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct would "bring our economy to a screeching halt."
This was the first meeting between the candidates since McGinn's announcement Monday that instead of fighting the tunnel he would go along with the plan, if elected.
With the election 13 days away, the debate showed that the campaign between the two political newcomers has turned nasty and the accusations increasingly personal.
The debate became so heated that Mallahan began calling McGinn by his full first name, "Michael," and at one point chuckled, "Pretty good show so far, don't you think, Jean?"
In a tense discussion about guns, McGinn accused Mallahan of blowing off an event this week attended by "mothers of children who'd been shot."
The tunnel re-emerged as the campaign's defining issue in Wednesday's debate, sponsored by KING-TV and The Seattle Times.
McGinn seemed to catch Mallahan off-guard by bringing it up in his opening statement.
Instead of introducing himself as he has in the many debates between the two men, McGinn launched into an explanation of his position on the tunnel. He said he is taking a different approach because he had heard people express concern that he would be an obstructionist of the plan agreed to this year by lawmakers after eight years of debate.
On Monday, after the City Council approved an agreement to move forward with the tunnel, McGinn said he would still ask "hard questions" but not try to stop it.
In a new line of attack Wednesday, McGinn said Mallahan can't be trusted to ask tough questions about the tunnel because his supporters stand to gain from it.
"Joe, you don't trust me? Your campaign is funded and run by the companies that stand to make millions of dollars from that deep-bore tunnel on the waterfront," McGinn said. "I don't know how we can trust you to protect Seattle's interests."
Mallahan called that "poppycock."
He said he was confused by McGinn's statements about the tunnel. "I don't trust that he will move it forward," Mallahan said.
Also, McGinn noted, the legislator who wrote a provision making Seattle property owners responsible for cost overruns — state Rep. Judy Clibborn of Mercer Island — is on Mallahan's campaign-advisory team.
Mallahan said he would work to get the tunnel done on budget if he is elected. Even if the Legislature won't remove the clause calling on Seattle to pay for cost overruns on the project, the tunnel should be built, he said.
"Sometimes a leader has to stand up and say, 'Hey, it's time to move forward.' "
McGinn laid into Mallahan for his voting record — he's missed 13 elections since 2001 — and his expensive campaign, which is run by a team of paid political advisers and funded by unions, business groups and $230,000 of Mallahan's own money. McGinn boasted that his campaign is volunteer-run. Mallahan countered that McGinn has "zero management experience and zero budget experience."
Mallahan is a T-Mobile vice president, and McGinn, an attorney, founded a nonprofit.
Mallahan painted McGinn as anti-road when McGinn said he suuports four lanes of traffic and two lanes of light rail across the the new Highway 520 bridge. The current plan has six lanes of traffic. A voter-approved plan has light rail only on Interstate 90.
Mallahan didn't answer a question about which option he supports for an exit at the west end of a new 520 bridge.
"I haven't chosen one," he said. "It's not really for me to choose."
He also skipped a question about the "missing link" of the Burke-Gilman Trail through the Ballard neighborhood. Business owners along the trail have sued to stop the trail's completion through Ballard. McGinn wants to complete the trail, but Mallahan said, "That link is now under litigation. ... To take a position would be bad policy."
Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or email@example.com
Information in this article, originally published Oct. 21, 2009, was corrected Oct. 22, 2009. Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story may have given the impression that candidate Mike McGinn favors light rail across the Highway 520 bridge instead of on Interstate 90. He supports light rail in both places.
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