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Originally published August 21, 2009 at 12:15 AM | Page modified August 21, 2009 at 10:14 AM

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Nickels all but finished in Seattle mayoral race

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels sagged further behind challengers Joe Mallahan and Mike McGinn. Nickels scheduled a news conference for 10 a.m. today to discuss the vote results.

Seattle Times staff reporters

Seattle mayor's race

The numbers Thursday, with about 30,000 ballots left to tally, countywide. The top two advance.

JOE MALLAHAN

Votes

28,126

27.2%

MIKE MCGINN

Votes

27,586

26.7%

GREG NICKELS

Votes

26,416

25.6%

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Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels' bid for a third term appeared all but over Thursday as he sagged further behind challengers Joe Mallahan and Mike McGinn.

Nickels scheduled a City Hall news conference for 10 a.m. today to discuss the vote results.

Campaign spokesman Sandeep Kaushik acknowledged Thursday that the "numbers did not go in our direction."

He refused to say whether the mayor will concede.

Barring an extremely unlikely turnaround in late ballot counts, Nickels stands little chance of getting past the primary.

He now trails McGinn by 1,170 votes for second place. Mallahan remains in first place, 540 votes ahead of McGinn.

The top two vote-getters advance to the Nov. 3 general election.

The new totals came as King County released a count of 56,000 ballots, including 25,000 Seattle votes. A county elections spokeswoman said the county has received an additional 30,000 ballots that have yet to be counted.

Mallahan, a T-Mobile executive who spent $200,000 of his own money on the primary campaign, now leads with 27.2 percent of the vote. McGinn, an attorney and environmental leader, is in second with 26.7 percent. Nickels is third with 25.6 percent.

McGinn said he was pleased to see his lead over Nickels widen in the latest count, but didn't call on the mayor to concede.

"He's entitled to see the votes be counted if he wants to," he said.

But McGinn said he is already trying to recruit volunteers for a general-election campaign in which he expects to be outspent.

"We have to scale up everything we're doing ... to reach twice as many voters," he said.

Mallahan was celebrating with his family and couldn't be reached Thursday evening, according to his spokeswoman, Charla Neuman. She said Mallahan is "ecstatic" about the numbers.

"I think it's confirmation that more and more people want change, and more and more people are convinced that Joe Mallahan is the best person to bring about that change," she said.

If the trend holds, it appears that Nickels will suffer the same fate as Mayor Paul Schell did in 2001. Schell finished third in that primary, behind Nickels and then-City Attorney Mark Sidran.

Nickels went on to narrowly beat Sidran in the November election. He easily won re-election in 2005.

But as he approached a run for his third term, Nickels suffered from lousy job-approval ratings even before a series of December snowstorms paralyzed the city. The city's response to the storms further degraded Nickels' popularity — especially after he gave the city a "B" grade at a news conference for its snow-removal work.

Nickels spent more than $500,000 trying to remind voters of his accomplishments, such as his years of work getting Sound Transit's light-rail line running. But it was like trying to run in concrete boots — the mayor's numbers never budged.

Three-quarters of Seattle voters picked one of his challengers in the primary.

Seattle political consultant John Wyble said voters were grumpy with a city government they viewed as out of touch. He cited the snowstorm and the continued push for a $4.2 billion tunnel project to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, despite voter rejection of a previous tunnel plan.

"Whether or not the mayor is to blame, it just played into people's frustration that the city doesn't really seem to listen," Wyble said.

Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or jbrunner@seattletimes.com

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com

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