Seattle mayoral election, 2009

Seattle mayoral election, 2009
November 3, 2009 (2009-11-03)

Candidate Mike McGinn Joe Mallahan
Party Nonpartisan Nonpartisan
Popular vote 96,514 91,575
Percentage 50.88% 48.28%

Mayor before election

Greg Nickels

Elected Mayor

Mike McGinn

The 2009 Seattle mayoral election took place November 3, 2009.

Incumbent Mayor Greg Nickels sought reelection but finished third in the August 18, 2009 primary election.[1] The general election was instead between Joe Mallahan and Michael McGinn.[2] After a very close initial count, McGinn beat Mallahan in the election, becoming Seattle's next mayor.


In a November 2008 poll of likely Seattle voters, 31% approved of Nickels's performance as mayor while 57% disapproved.[3] A January 2009 poll found a net job approval of minus 33.[4]

Nickels' administration was faulted for not doing enough to prevent the Seattle SuperSonics NBA franchise from relocating to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.[5] Nickels was also heavily criticized for the city's policy of not using salt for snow removal due to potential environmental concerns, which contributed to the city's congested traffic in December 2008 after one of the greatest snowfalls in the city since 1996.[6] The Proposed replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and a tax on plastic bags at grocery stores were two key issues of the campaign.

Primary candidates[1] (in alphabetic order)


Early polling

A poll conducted on August 12 showed incumbent Greg Nickels in the lead with 24 percent voter backing. While a significant lead over all other candidates, the undecided voter percentage of 26 percent indicated room for any candidate to take the lead in the primary held on August 18. In second place after Greg Nickels was Mike McGinn with 16 percent. And in third place, Joe Mallahan with 14 percent. The survey polled 500 people with a margin of error of + or - 4.3 percent.[9]

Primary results

The primary elections were held on August 18. The final results were posted on September 2,[10] and show Mike McGinn in first place with 27.7 percent of the popular vote, narrowly leading Joe Mallahan standing at 26.9 percent. Incumbent Greg Nickels showed with 25.4 percent. Due to Washington's top-two primary system, this eliminated Nickels from the running. Nickels gave his concession speech on August 21 at Seattle City Hall. Mallahan and McGinn advanced to the general election in November.[2]

Seattle Mayor,
Primary election, August 18, 2009
Candidate Votes % ±
Mike McGinn 39,097 27.71%
Joe Mallahan 37,933 26.88%
Greg Nickels 35,781 25.36%
James Donaldson 11,478 8.13%
Jan Drago 10,154 7.20%
Elizabeth Campbell 3,485 2.47%
Kwame Garett 1,479 1.05%
Norman Sigler 1,247 0.88%
Write-in 461 0.33%
Turnout 146,568 38.60%

General election

An October 20 poll commissioned by KING-TV and conducted by SurveyUSA showed Joe Mallahan ahead with 43% to Michael McGinn's 36% with a margin of error of 4.1%. Mallahan held a lead among college graduates, Democrats, Republicans, Independents and those describing themselves as moderates and conservatives. McGinn was shown to hold a lead among Asian-Americans, younger voters and those that describe themselves as liberals.[11] McGinn changed his position on the Deep Bore Tunnel that same day with following statement, "If I'm elected mayor, though I disagree with this decision, it will be my job to uphold and execute this agreement," McGinn said. "It is not the mayor's job to withhold the cooperation of city government in executing this agreement." [12] It was enough to push McGinn ahead of Mallahan by election day.

As of November 9, 2009, the vote totals were[13]

General Election 2009
Party Candidate Votes %
Non-partisan Mike McGinn 96,514 50.88
Non-partisan Joe Mallahan 91,575 48.28
Write-in 1,605 0.85

Mallahan conceded on November 9 after his deficit grew to nearly 5,000 votes.[14]


  1. 1 2 "Seattle Campaigns". Retrieved 2010-04-27.
  2. 1 2
  3. Erica C. Barnett (2008-11-03). "And Now for Some Election News". The Stranger. Retrieved 2009-01-07.
  4. "Blog Archive " Seattle Mayor Net Job Approval at Minus 33". SurveyUSA. 2009-01-22. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
  5. Jim Brunner (2008-07-06). "The deal: What was the city thinking?". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
  6. Emily Heffter (2009-01-01). "After storm of criticism, Seattle mayor reverses no-salt policy for snow". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
  7. 1 2 "James Donaldson to run for Seattle City Council". InsideHoops. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
  10. "Results - King County Elections". Retrieved 2010-04-27.
  11. "Results of SurveyUSA Election Poll #15920". SurveyUSA.
  12. "Seattle mayoral candidate McGinn backs off tunnel position". Seattle Time.
  13. King County Election Results, General Election 2009
  14. Mallahan concedes Seattle's mayor race to McGinn
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