In Washington state, two election results worth watching

In Washington state, two election results worth watching

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Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, pictured here last year,
went down hard in Tuesday’s elections.
(Photo: Seattle DOT)

In Portland, voters mostly take odd-numbered years off. But two races to Portland’s north ended last night in interesting ways, for better or worse.

In Seattle, the deeply bike-friendly incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn lost in a 56-43 rout. And closer to home in Vancouver, Wash, the bike-and-transit-friendly but also Columbia River Crossing-supporting incumbent Mayor Tim Leavitt is headed to a second term.

McGinn: This race was a heartbreaker for many urban transportation advocates in Seattle. McGinn pedaled to work, hired the advocacy director of the Cascade Bicycle Club as a top staffer and empowered a city Department of Transportation to prioritize projects like Seattle’s new protected bike lanes on Linden, Broadway and (in a design inspired by an anonymous guerrilla action) Cherry Street.

“His leadership has taken us from a city too timid to paint skinny bike lanes to a city that is now installing miles of cycle tracks and neighborhood greenways,” Seattle Bike Blog’s Tom Fucoloro wrote in his endorsement of McGinn.

Incoming Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, meanwhile, has made many official public statements that he supports biking and various bike projects, often in an effort to reverse his own previously stated positions. But when it came down to details, Murray held a fundraiser organized around blocking a bike lane proposal, claimed that a road diet was bad for “the elderly and disabled” because it removed free auto parking and once refused to pay a $60 parking ticket because he didn’t realize he’d received it.

“Bicycle lanes, ironically, became a whipping boy for all the city’s traffic frustrations,” the Stranger’s Dominic Holden wrote Tuesday night in an analysis that the race was “about whether or not people liked McGinn. And they didn’t like him.” The Seattle Times’ Danny Westneat agreed, saying McGinn “didn’t do a bad job. The budget is balanced, jobs are up and the city is booming. His administration has been scandal-free. And yet … McGinn just stuck in Seattle’s craw.”

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Vancouver reelected Mayor Tim Leavitt.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Leavitt: The race for Vancouver mayor is especially interesting for two reasons. First, like his predecessor Royce Pollard, incumbent Tim Leavitt has cultivated a bike-friendly image, recently joining advocates for a ride along the new buffered bike lane on MacArthur Boulevard. Second, unlike Pollard, Leavitt is one of the few Clark County politicians in years who’s managed to survive an election while supporting the Columbia River Crossing plan — tolls, light rail and all.

Though votes will continue to arrive for the next few days, Leavitt had a solid lead of 53 percent Tuesday over opponent Bill Turlay, who made opposition to the CRC a central campaign issue.

In fact, voters in the City of Vancouver rejected a whole bloc of city council candidates who opposed the current plan to expand the highway and extend TriMet’s Yellow Line across the Columbia. Is it a reversal from last year, when (with much higher turnout) Vancouver rejected a sales tax hike that had become a referendum on the CRC? It’s hard to say.

Speaking to The Columbian, returning City Councilman and CRC supporter Jack Burkman described the winning candidates in Vancouver as “progressive, and willing to take bold steps.”

In both Vancouver and Seattle, time will tell what words like those mean.

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