That's spelled M-U-R-R-A-Y.
Joe McGee returned to his office today from a three-week trip to hear some surprising news: there was talk among the staff about a possible write-in campaign for State Senator Ed Murray. What's odd about that is that Joe McGee is Executive Director of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 17. His union represents state, county and 2,500 city employees in the area and organizes the umbrella group that bargains with King County on behalf of most of the unions representing employees there. "Frankly we were kind of surprised to see the Ed Murray name pop-up," he says of his staff, one of whom participated in a poll feeling out Murray's chances as a write-in in November. (According to the Seattle Times, the poll is being paid for by some local unions, but McGee says his wasn't involved.)
That's spelled M-U-R-R-A-Y.
His union, like many others, wanted to see Greg Nickels get re-elected. With Nickels out, now the unions are looking at a choice between Joe Mallahan, who has taken heat from the Communication Workers of America for T-Mobile's past efforts to block unions among its rank and file; Mike McGinn, who has been lobbying to tear down the tunnel, a project that's enjoyed the support of organized labor; and backing some kind of a write-in candidate.
McGee says he's willing to consider the possibility of supporting a write-in candidate, but he's very skeptical that effort can be successful. "I personally think write-ins are an incredible uphill battle," he says.
McGee notes that in order to get elected as a write-in, you not only need to have more support than other candidates, your supporters have to be more conscientious voters, remembering to fill in the bubble next to "write-in" and managing to spell your name correctly. After hearing Murray's name being tossed around, McGee says, he started asking people in his office what they thought of him. One woman had never heard of him. He acknowledges that the woman lives outside Murray's legislative district (which covers Fremont to Capitol Hill via the UDistrict), but also notes that "we've got a pretty politically attuned group of people who work here."
County Elections spokesperson Kim van Ekstrom was only able to recall the name of one significant write-in victor in recent memory. In 1994, Vancouver resident Linda Smith launched a write-in campaign against the Republican nominee for the Third Congressional District. She successfully knocked off the other Republicans on the ballot, winning 34,000 votes. Second place Republican Paul Phillips, an official candidate, only managed 18,000. Still, she ran and won as a traditional candidate against Democratic incumbent Jolene Unsoeld in the general election.
A write-in upset has also happened in a local city election, just not one nearly as big as the Seattle mayoral contest. In 2003, after a court-ordered recount, Medina resident Katie Phelps won a seat on that city council over Daniel F. Becker, a three-term incumbent currently holding the council-elected mayoral seat, with 468 votes to his 441. That vote was hotly contested with the American Civil Liberties Union filing suit on behalf of voters who filled in her name correctly but forgot to fill in the bubble.
The ACLU suit might leave a little room for some errors were someone like Murray to run as a write-in. And McGee isn't ruling out the possibility of backing one of the other candidates, noting that Mallahan garnered some positive buzz around the office after a recent appearance on the Dave Ross show, he notes. "We're just sitting down here scratching our heads," he says.