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Seattle mayor concedes in bid for re-election

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels conceded the election this morning at a City Hall news conference.

“I think the people of Seattle decided it was time for a new generation of leadership,” he said, answering a reporter’s question after his opening remarks.

Environmentalist and attorney Mike McGinn and T-Mobile executive Joe Mallahan will move on to the Nov. 3 general election.

In Nickels’ brief speech, attended by his family and many city workers, he recalled what he considered to be accomplishments during his time in office.

“I’m very proud of the many accomplishments that we have made these past eight years … We have made a difference each and every day.”

Ballots continue to be counted, but after Thursday’s tally, Nickels trails McGinn by 1,170 votes for second place. Mallahan remains in first place, 540 votes ahead of McGinn.

King County Elections still has about 30,000 ballots left to count, but the trend would have to change drastically for Nickels to have a chance at overcoming McGinn.

After Thursday’s count, Nickels had 25.6 percent of the vote. Mallahan, who spent $200,000 of his own money on the primary campaign, had 27.2 percent, while McGinn had 26.7 percent.

As for what he’ll do after leaving office, Nickels said he has “no idea.” He added, “The best days are ahead.”

Nickels’ primary loss makes him a lame-duck mayor for more than four months. During that time, he will have to grapple with a $72.5 million budget shortfall.

During his two terms in office, Nickels has gained national prominence for his environmental policies. Since 2005, he has gotten more than 900 mayors to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol, an international effort to reduce environmentally harmful emissions.

This summer, he was elected president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Locally, however, Nickels’ popularity has waned in his second term. Polling throughout the spring and summer showed Nickels with a low job-approval rating, and it was widely reported that he was in political trouble.

His opponents criticized his style. They said he was too quick to take credit for things and insisted on getting his way. He was a bully, they said, and alienated regional and state leaders.

In December, Nickels’ image was further tarnished by the city’s poor response to a record snowstorm. Afterward, he gave the city a “B” for its response, infuriating people who were stranded by icy, rutted, unplowed streets during the busy holiday shopping season.

The snowstorm revealed myriad management problems within the city’s transportation department.

Before being elected to his first term as mayor eight years ago, Nickels was a Metropolitan King County Councilmember and an aide to then-Seattle City Councilmember Norm Rice. He has been involved in local Democratic politics since he was in high school.

In 2001, Mayor Paul Schell lost the primary election to Nickels and then-City Attorney Mark Sidran. Schell got blamed for the city’s response to 1999 WTO riots and 2001 Mardi Gras street brawling that killed a 20-year-old man.

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