Seattle mayor

Mike McGinn

The people's mayor. On a bike.
Big idea
Tax soda and other sugary drinks to raise money for parks.
$317,000 house in Greenwood.
Conventional wisdom
Seems to be in trouble, but don't count him out.
Doesn't play well with others.
Married to Peggy Lynch; three kids.
A dog, Midge.

On the issues

Light rail

Both candidates want to get light rail to Ballard, West Seattle and other neighborhoods as soon as possible. Both support the regional transit agency, Sound Transit, and want to ask voters region-wide to fund a light-rail expansion in 2016.

To get light rail to the neighborhoods as quickly as possible, McGinn wants to ask Seattle voters to vote for additional, Seattle-only taxes to help pay for it.

Living wage

McGinn has declined to endorse a $15 minimum wage for Seattle, saying the wage is best set at the state level. The mayor moved to stop a proposed Whole Foods in West Seattle, recommending blocking the sale of a public alley needed for the project. In doing so, he sided with the grocery-worker union’s argument that the nonunion store would drive down wages.

Paying for parks

McGinn recently floated the idea of a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages. The tax could raise more than $21 million a year and McGinn is suggesting that money be dedicated to parks. Like Murray, he supports renewal of an expiring parks levy in 2014, and exploring other stable funding options such as a possible new taxing district.


McGinn is committed to reform of the Seattle Police Department under the oversight of the U.S. Justice Department. He says he would conduct a national search for a reform-minded police chief with a track record of leadership and culture change. McGinn has questioned whether there is a problem with crime and disorder downtown, and has launched the Center City Initiative to direct chronic, low-level offenders to more social services. McGinn froze police hiring in 2010 and 2011 as the city budget crisis deepened, and has since asked for 42 new officers, including 15 he wants to hire in 2014.


McGinn supports renewing the Housing Levy when it expires in 2016, and he supports programs that entice developers to help provide affordable housing when they build new apartments. McGinn has opposed a moratorium on APodments, or microhousing. McGinn is open to city-sanctioned tent encampments as an option for homeless people. The City Council rejected his proposal to loosen restrictions on encampments.

Excessive force by police

McGinn says htat although his work on the agreement with the Department of Justice about the police department was at times controversial, he ultimately brought together civil rights leaders, community leaders and Seattle police leadership to work on a long-term, sustained and open process of reform.

Domestic Violence

McGinn said he has taken domestic violence seriously, and points out the city has increased funding for domestic violence services over the last few years, while he was mayor.


McGinn made a 2009 campaign promise to pursue a city-owned broadband network. When he got to office, he discovered it would be too expensive. Instead, he set up a public-private partnership with the University of Washington and Gigabit Squared to lease the city's fiber and make available cheaper, faster internet service.

More issues will be added regularly


The early years

McGinn grew up on New York's Long Island, the son of educators, the fourth child in a family of six. His mother was a pre-school teacher, and his father worked for the school district as an administrator. McGinn recalls playing stickball, handball, touch football, kickball and basketball with the other kids on his mostly Jewish block.

He went to Catholic school, where he was valedictorian and class president, despite being, he said, “awkward, scrawny and a mediocre athlete.”

He didn’t play basketball in high school, but practiced a lot and went on to play for the junior-varsity team at Williams College in Massachusetts, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics. He was not interested in politics in college, and worked for the Williamstown Boys & Girls Club, coaching the swim team, running the basketball league, and driving the school bus, among other duties.

Building a career

Mike McGinn and his wife, Peggy Lynch, on their wedding day. (Photo courtesy the McGinn for Mayor campaign)

In 1983, McGinn went to work as a legislative assistant for Jim Weaver, a Democratic congressman from Eugene, Ore. He met his wife, Peggy Lynch, in Washington, D.C., where she also was working in Weaver’s office.

Later, as a law student at the University of Washington, he took on the university's administration in several battles as head of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, fighting a proposed university office expansion and helping obtain benefits for teaching and research associates.

His took a job after law school as a litigator at Stokes Lawrence, a downtown Seattle firm where he eventually made partner. While working for Stokes Lawrence, he became active in his North Seattle neighborhood, eventually becoming president of the Greenwood Community Council.

He started volunteering with the local branch of the Sierra Club in 1994, the year Republicans took over the U.S. House and Senate. He went to work reviving the club’s inactive political committee, recruiting young members and mentoring volunteers to become activists.

His work changed the organization from a group of like-minded people to a political force. He was chapter chairman from 1996 to 1999, and, in 2007, led a campaign to vote down a multibillion dollar regional transportation package, which he thought spent too much on freeways. The measure failed despite major mainstream support.

In 2006, McGinn founded the Seattle Great City Initiative, a nonprofit intended to bring together different factions — developers, politicians, environmentalists — around the common goal of making Seattle a better place to live. He left his law firm to run Great City full time.

Time in office

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn bikes to his January 2010 news conference on the Seattle Waterfront. In the background is the Alaskan Way Viaduct. (Photo by Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

McGinn brought his populist campaign style to the 2009 mayor’s race. Relying on volunteers and very little money, he made a campaign issue out of a planned Highway 99 tunnel, promising to stop it. He and another political newbie, T-mobile executive Joe Mallahan, made it through the primary, ousting two-term incumbent Greg Nickels.

In the general election, McGinn ran as an outsider, leaving business and big-name endorsements to Mallahan. He promised to turn the city’s power structure on its head if elected.

His four-year term has been marked by conflict -- with the Seattle City Council and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, as well as former Gov. Christine Gregoire and downtown interests. McGinn spent his time holding 120 town hall meetings around the city, building rapport with people who felt ignored by previous administrations.

Mayor Michael McGinn gives a speech as he celebrates his victory in the Seattle mayoral primary at 95 Slide in Seattle in August 2013. (Photo by Marcus Yam / The Seattle Times)

On the campaign trail, McGinn is running on the refrain that despite some hiccups, he accomplished a lot in his first term. He worked to double the Families and Education Levy, expanded bike trails, and struck a deal with a private investor Chris Hansen to build a professional basketball and hockey arena in Sodo.

Campaign financing

The dots are colored to show which candidate has raised the highest dollar amount in each zip code. The size represents the total amount contributed in each area. (Updated weekly)


Financial disclosure