Murray builds solid lead in Seattle mayoral race

SEATTLE — Seattle is on its way to electing a new mayor.

State Sen. Ed Murray, the architect of Washington state’s gay marriage law, carried 56 percent of the vote in the first round of ballot counting Tuesday night, building a comfortable lead over bike-riding incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn. Because Washington state elections are done by mail, and ballots only needed to be postmarked by Tuesday, many votes are left to count.

Murray spoke as if the race was settled Tuesday night, saying that he would be a mayor of all of Seattle and that the election was a chance for city to come together — both internally and with counterparts around the state.

“Seattle wants to reach out and create a new relationship with our region, create a new relationship with our state,” Murray said.

McGinn said he expects he will have to concede but said he wanted to wait and see more votes counted before doing so. He also asked his supporters to continue to press to hold Seattle to its ideals.

In their campaign to court the left-leaning voters in the Northwest’s largest city, the two mayoral candidates largely embraced similar policy positions, including a $15 minimum wage, new taxes and legal marijuana. They each have lengthy backgrounds championing liberal causes in the Seattle area.

Murray is a longtime state lawmaker who for years led efforts to legalize gay marriage in the state. He’s also led efforts to broker major deals in Olympia, such as two transportation revenue packages that were passed in 2003 and 2005. If elected, he would be Seattle’s first openly gay mayor.

Murray talked Tuesday night about growing up in a working class family in Seattle, saying his family had a belief in public service.

“Those who sacrifice for us as public servants are not our enemies but our friends,” Murray said.

Before becoming mayor, McGinn was an activist with the environmental group Sierra Club, and he has continued to stake out a message of environmental stewardship. McGinn often rides his bike around Seattle, is pushing for pension fund money to be divested from coal companies and is an advocate for expanded transit services.

During the campaign, the two candidates offered a contrast in their strategies for pushing policies. Murray said McGinn’s approach during his first term has alienated groups and political leaders in Olympia, making it harder for Seattle to win support for its priorities. McGinn has questioned Murray’s effectiveness given that a Republican-dominated majority now controls the state Senate.

Murray’s message helped him build a broad coalition of backers, including substantial endorsements and financial support. Combined, Murray and McGinn raised and spent more than $1 million, with Murray leading the money race by a few hundred thousand dollars.

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