Monday, October 19, 2009

"Will gun ban debate backfire on McGinn?"

Chris Grygiel (
The flashpoint in Seattle's mayoral race has switched from the Alaskan Way Viaduct tunnel replacement to Mayor Nickels' new gun ban on municipal property.

At Sunday night's KIRO-TV debate candidates Joe Mallahan and Mike McGinn clashed over robocalls McGinn's campaign is placing that accuse Mallahan of "siding with the NRA" because he doesn't fully support the gun ban.

Not surprisingly, Mallahan objected to McGinn's tactics. The Seattle Times reported on this debate exchange:

"Mike and his campaign chose to conduct a lie campaign," said Mallahan, adding that his wife received one of the calls. "Mike, the Seattle voters deserve an apology. I deserve an apology."

When asked if he would defend in court the ban enacted by Mayor Greg Nickels, Mallahan said he may not, because it is "not a pragmatic way of addressing public-safety concerns."

"I don't owe an apology, because we told the public that Mr. Mallahan did not support the gun ban, and you heard that right now, here, he doesn't," McGinn said.

Just as defeated incumbent Greg Nickels' last-minute attacks against Mallahan and McGinn helped boost their candidacies late in the primary, McGinn's gun robo calls could backfire on him.

First off, nobody likes getting robocalls. Then there's the substance. Mallahan, the T-Mobile vice president, has labored to come off as the level headed pragmatist to McGinn's dreamy idealist. In uncertain times, Mallahan is hoping Seattle voters will opt for a pragmatist.

Nickels' gun ban - which consists of signs posted on city property informing people of the weapons prohibition - will be challenged in court and the city will almost certainly lose. But it will cost real money defending the ban.

In his 2008 report, City Attorney Tom Carr said civil division attorneys provided more than 84,000 hours of legal service to the city, costing about $5.8 million. Carr said that worked out to be about $70 per hour - not bad at all for legal fees. But even at $70 an hour defending the gun ban will take money away from other areas at a time Seattle is facing a $72 million operating budget.

Mallahan would argue that $70 an hour could be better spent elsewhere. We'll see how many Seattle voters agree with him.

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