Incumbent falls behind challenger in Seattle mayor's race

State Sen. Murray leads McGinn with 56% of vote

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

State Sen. Ed Murray carried 56 percent of the vote in the first round of ballot counting Tuesday night, building a comfortable lead over 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.

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.

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.

Broad coalition of support

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.

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.