Union, Business Alliance Targets Joe Mallahan
An aggressive round of anti-Joe Mallahan robo-calls have been hitting tens of thousands of Seattleites’ phones in recent days and they mark an unusual alliance between labor unions and business interests which together are shelling out $50,000 on the calls late in the August 18 primary campaign for Seattle mayor. The calls came as a result of recent polling which showed Mallahan, a T-Mobile executive with no political experience, to be running a strong second place to Greg Nickels, Seattle’s two-term incumbent mayor. The usually well-funded Nickels campaign machine is out of money, as the PostGlobe reported last week.
The calls highlight Mallahan’s less-than-100-percent participation in local elections and cast aspersions on T-Mobile’s troubles with unions.
Two new so-called independent expenditure groups formed to fund the robo-calls, Qualified Leadership for Seattle and Working Families Coalition. The first is a strange bedfellows collection of SEIU and UFCW locals and other unions in addition to Paul Allen’s Vulcan, Samis Land Company, the Downtown Seattle Association and GLY Construction. The Working Families Coalition is made up of several unions including SEIU and UFCW.
While the union contributions make sense as a way to support Nickels, a known quantity and long-time union supporter who’s become quite unpopular with the public over the last few years, the business contributions for what are basically attack phone calls on Mallahan are unusual.
“Joe Mallahan from the start has made us the centerpiece of his efforts to unseat the mayor,” says Vulcan spokesman David Postman, himself the Seattle Times’ former chief political reporter. Postman says Mallahan is critical of Nickels for supporting development in South Lake Union–much of it controlled by Vulcan–and of a proposed fix to the Mercer Street mess in South Lake Union. So that makes Mallahan an unacceptable candidate for Vulcan, which has also contributed money to the mayoral campaign of Seattle City Council member Jan Drago.
“We’ve got an endorsed candidate and we’ve got to make sure” he gets through the primary, says David Freiboth, executive secretary of the King County Labor Council. Nickels has won endorsements from almost a dozen local labor unions. He describes Mallahan as an “unknown quantity” and that “some of the T-Mobile baggage is concerning to our affiliates.”
Among other things, T-Mobile is known to have fought against higher unemployment insurance benefits.
“I don’t know that he’s directly related with some of that stuff,” says Freiboth. “But that’s the environment he’s coming from and that’s where we end up defaulting.”
Freiboth had no comment on the irony of Mallahan’s 18-year-old daughter, who works at a local QFC, being a dues-paying UFCW member.
“In some ways it’s flattering they view us as such a threat,” says Charla Neuman, a spokeswoman for Mallahan’s campaign. “Otherwise, it’s disturbing that someone can dump so much money in the last few days of a campaign to spread lies and not let us correct the record. They’re absolutely wrong about Joe’s support for unions. He’s always been a supporter of workers’ right to organize.”
The calls themselves are pushy and benign.
“Has Joe Mallahan proved he deserves to be Mayor?” asks one of the two calls. “He’s missed 6 of the last 18 elections and his only community involvement has been with the Wurst Festival.”
“We’re concerned about Joe Mallahan’s campaign for Mayor,” goes the other robo-call. “The Seattle Times said Mallahan has yet to demonstrate why he should hold the city’s top job. He has little record of involvement in our community and didn’t even vote in 6 of the last 18 elections. About the only thing we know about his is that he was an executive at T-Mobile, a company that has had problems with unions and consumers.”
The call fails to point out that the Seattle Times’ editorial board endorsed both Nickels and Mallahan in an unusual joint endorsement.
Michael McGinn, an attorney and Sierra Club activist, is himself neck-and-neck with Mallahan for second place in recent polls. The August 18 primary also includes Dargo, former Seattle Supersonic James Donaldson, Norman Sigler, Elizabeth Campbell and Kwame Wyking Garrett. The top two vote getters advance to the November general election.