by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
Like his opponent, Mike McGinn, mayoral candidate Joe Mallahan expected to be facing Greg Nickels in the general election this November.
'I was stunned he didn't make it through the primary,' Mallahan told SGN in an exclusive interview.
A first-time candidate for public office, Mallahan decided to run for mayor of Seattle because he felt that Nickels had worn out his welcome with the public.
'I've long had a plan to enter public service,' he told SGN, 'and I thought there was a need for change in City Hall. The mayor just wasn't effective anymore.'
For Mallahan and his opponent, the fight is on to win over Nickels' supporters. "Many groups in Seattle are just getting to know me," he says.
"The mayor's support came from a number of quarters," Mallahan says. "He was good to the labor community, he supported them, and they gave him their support."
"I've worked hard to reach out to labor," he continues. "I recognize the roles of unions in creating and maintaining the middle class in this country. I think they'll respond to my progressive values."
"I've picked up a number of [labor] endorsements, and those endorsements will continue to come," Mallahan says, noting that he's already received endorsements from the Police Guild, the Firefighters union, Council 2 of the County and City Employees, and a Carpenters local.
Wednesday evening the Martin Luther King County Labor Council - which represents some 150 union locals and 75,000 workers - added its endorsement to Mallahan's column.
"The mayor was also well regarded by the environmentalist community," Mallahan adds. "McGinn, at first blush, is their choice, but I've also reached out to them."
"I've joined the governor on a program to save Puget Sound," he says, referring to Gov. Gregoire's allocation of NOAA stimulus money to clean up the Sound and develop a salmon recovery plan.
"There are three targets to improve, and two of them relate directly to Seattle: vehicle waste, and the human impact - in other words, sewage," Mallahan says.
On what is arguably the most debated issue of the campaign - the replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a deep-bore tunnel - there is a stark contrast between the two candidates. Mallahan is for the tunnel, McGinn is against it.
"It's irresponsible to revisit decisions that have already been made," Mallahan says. "We risk jobs, we risk public safety - if the viaduct is not replaced pretty soon, it's gonna fall down. & It's irresponsible on the economy. We've got to keep Seattle moving forward."
"Like everybody else, I'm frustrated it took eight years to get to a decision," he adds. "The mayor needs to work with the state and SDOT to accomplish something."
Organized labor favors the tunnel, especially the construction unions who backed Nickels, and this issue helped Mallahan secure the MLKCLC endorsement Wednesday. Environmental activists, on the other hand, have been skeptical.
Sen. Ed Murray (D-43), who was chair of the Transportation Committee when he was in the State House, has argued that the whole debate on the tunnel is misdirected. Murray believes that 520 replacement and its consequences are the key transportation issue the city must face.
Asked about Murray's position, Mallahan says, "Well, the Alaskan Way Viaduct and 520 are both important."
T-Mobile, the company Mallahan works for as a vice president, has a reputation for being unfriendly to both union organizers and its LGBT employees. HRC, which issues an annual "Corporate Equality Index" rating, gave T-Mobile only 50 points out of a possible 100 - the lowest rating in Washington state, and the lowest in the telecommunications industry.
Asked about his own role in formulating T-Mobile's LGBT policies, Mallahan is silent for a long time.
At last he says, "You know, at T-Mobile I lead a relatively small team of white-collar professionals with advanced degrees. I've never managed a big front-line department. Those issues didn't come up."
"A number of my colleagues have been LGBT professionals," Mallahan continues. "People who know me know I'm absolutely supportive of LGBT rights, and I think it's outrageous that the LGBT community has to have its rights up for a vote [in Referendum 71]."
"SEAMEC gave me straight As in my interview," he adds.
The other charge against Mallahan is that he has failed to vote in 10 separate elections since 2000.
"I voted at least 12 times in recent elections," he responds. "I regret that I missed votes sometimes, as have 95% of Seattle voters. But I pledge to do better."
"It speaks to my character that that's the one issue that's highlighted," he says.
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