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Originally published November 9, 2009 at 4:41 PM | Page modified November 10, 2009 at 1:23 PM

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McGinn next Seattle mayor; Mallahan concedes as vote gap widens

Joe Mallahan conceded the Seattle mayor's race to Mike McGinn on Monday evening as the vote gap between them widened.

Seattle Times staff reporters

Mayor's race

Mike McGinn: 96,514 (50.88%)

Joe Mallahan: 91,575 (48.28%)

Joe Mallahan conceded the Seattle mayor's race to Mike McGinn Monday evening, saying McGinn's message seemed to resonate more than his with voters.

"I learned a lot from Mike," Mallahan said in a brief, prepared speech. "All I can say is he beat me. He seemed to be the superior campaigner this time around."

The latest vote count showed McGinn 4,939 votes ahead of Mallahan. He more than doubled his lead from Friday, when he led by more than 2,384 votes.

At one point last week, 462 votes separated the two candidates and a recount seemed likely.

As Mallahan read his statement to the media at his Eastlake campaign office, McGinn spoke to a packed room at his headquarters in Southeast Seattle. Supporters cheered "We like Mike!" as McGinn entered to make a statement.

"We went out and we spoke to people. We went out and we listened to people," McGinn said, in explaining his victory. "We talked to them about the future of the city we wanted, but also, we listened, and we heard from people."

Mallahan, a T-Mobile vice president, was unknown in local political circles before he decided to run for mayor. He wrote his campaign a $200,000 check, he said, so he would be on equal financial footing with the incumbent, Mayor Greg Nickels.

In the general-election campaign, Mallahan — who ran in the primary by attacking City Hall and Nickels' management of basic services — became the insider candidate as he gained endorsements from the local police and firefighters, most of the labor and business communities and Gov. Chris Gregoire.

McGinn, a former Sierra Club leader and neighborhood activist, held town halls all over the city and railed against plans for a tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

"A lot of people thought somebody that ran an all-volunteer campaign couldn't win, but conventional wisdom is often conventional," McGinn said Monday.

Mallahan said he learned a lot from McGinn's persistence and passion. He said he regretted that some people thought of him as "a conservative business person, when in fact I'm a social-justice Democrat who happens to have business credentials. I think people are conflicted about that, to see a business person talk about running government."

McGinn seized on Mallahan's business background in the final weeks of the campaign and tried to paint him as an establishment candidate with questionable liberal credentials.

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In televised debates, McGinn repeatedly brought up a brief internship Mallahan did with Republican Sen. Slade Gorton as a college freshman. Mallahan rebutted that he was a lifelong Democrat and noted he went to Indiana to campaign for Barack Obama for president.

Charla Neuman, Mallahan's campaign consultant, said Mallahan was sucked into the same anti-establishment sentiment that took down Nickels in the primary. Mallahan's big-name endorsements did not sway undecided voters seeking change, she said.

"People really wanted an activist," she said.

Neuman also discussed McGinn's Oct. 19 change in position on a deep-bore tunnel on the waterfront. After campaigning hard on a vow to stop the tunnel, McGinn responded to a City Council vote to move forward with the project by announcing he would not stand in its way, if elected.

Neuman said she was thrilled, at first, thinking the announcement would give a huge boost to Mallahan. But Monday she called McGinn's switch "brilliant."

Mallahan said he hoped McGinn would make good on his campaign promise not to obstruct the tunnel project.

"I'll take him at his word that he'll help move that project forward," he said.

Neuman said she regrets the campaign didn't run more negative ads against McGinn. Before Election Day, she said, polling indicated Mallahan was winning and there wasn't a need to attack.

McGinn hasn't been willing to give specifics about whom he will hire or how he will move forward. He said he will be "deliberative."

He motioned toward volunteers and advocates in his office Monday and said he would be reaching out to people such as them as he prepares for the transition but said he has done no formal transition work.

"If you're willing to be passionate, if you're willing to do hard work, if you're willing to listen to each other, if you're willing to make a community, you can do things together," he said.

Staff reporter Mike Lindblom contributed. Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com

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