SEATTLE – Sierra Club activist Mike McGinn led T-Mobile executive Joe Mallahan by 910 votes Tuesday in the race for Seattle’s next mayor.
McGinn took the early lead after Election Day’s initial count. With 38 percent of the expected vote counted Tuesday night, about 84,000 votes, McGinn led Mallahan with roughly 50.54 percent.
McGinn remained cautious after Tuesday’s results, preparing for a long week of waiting for county workers to count the mailed-in ballots.
“Elections in Washington state can take a long time to be decided,” McGinn said. “We’ll have to watch it everyday.”
Calls to Mallahan’s campaign were not immediately returned Tuesday night.
“I’m still very optimistic that the remaining 60 percent will break my way,” Mallahan told KCPQ-TV.
Mallahan and McGinn are two political newcomers. Both outpolled Mayor Greg Nickels in the August primary and advanced to Tuesday’s election. Nickels, a two-term incumbent, had been dogged by criticism of the city’s response to a December snowstorm that paralyzed Seattle for nearly two weeks.
Following the primary, Mallahan and McGinn – both Democrats – set out to establish their names among Seattle voters. The position is technically nonpartisan.
Mallahan won key endorsements from established local politicians – including Gov. Chris Gregoire; business organizations, and labor unions, largely because of his support for a highway tunnel under downtown Seattle that would replace the earthquake-damaged Alaskan Way Viaduct.
McGinn made opposition to the tunnel a centerpiece of his primary campaign, but softened his position a few weeks ago. His campaign highlighted experience he had leading parks levy campaign and his activism with the Sierra Club, the national environmental organization.
“We’re very gratified that we have a lead on election night. It was a very close race,” McGinn said.
But the winner of this race will likely not be known for days.
At a popular park in Seattle on Tuesday, voters queried about the election were split on their choice for mayor.
“I ended up voting for Mallahan because I felt that the whole thing about the tunnel was a mess. I thought let bygones be bygones and just move on. I didn’t want to have any more studies,” 41-year-old Seattle resident Anne Aliverti said.
Meanwhile, Krista Means, a 41-year-old stay-at-home mother, said she voted for McGinn, but that if Mallahan wins, she wouldn’t be disappointed.
“I just like the way McGinn was looking down the road for ways of getting around the city, using your bike, using mass transit … I liked his vision,” she said.