Five years ago, Peggy Lynch, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s wife of 22 years, never thought that her husband would be mayor. McGinn didn’t, either.During the height of his civic work with the Sierra Club and at the helm of his nonprofit Great City, he felt he was getting a lot accomplished without having to run for office. But his disappointment with city administration trumped everything.”I thought they weren’t really listening to the public. … They’d gotten distant,” he remembers.

“I thought they could be doing more on education. I didn’t like the support for big highway projects, and I didn’t think they were serious about global warming.”

Lynch, who raises three teens with McGinn in Greenwood, met McGinn in the nation’s capitol in 1983. She was a scheduler for Congressman Jim Weaver, an environmentalist who would soon hire McGinn. Lynch calls this “his christening” into environmental work. In 1989, they moved to Seattle, where McGinn attended law school at the University of Washington. After graduating in 1992, they married, and four years later, had their first child, Jack, around the time McGinn began leading Sierra Club’s local chapter and neighborhood advocacy in Greenwood.

More than a decade later, McGinn’s landslide electoral victory made him mayor of Seattle, where for nearly four years, he made the transformation from neighborhood activist and environmentalist into a mayor who had built new infrastructure for the city while pulling Seattle out of the red.

Peggy Lynch and Mayor Mike McGinn. Photo credit: Johnny Valdez y Uno.
Peggy Lynch and Mayor Mike McGinn. Photo credit: Johnny Valdez y Uno.

Twenty-eight days before Election Day, McGinn is also proud that Seattle is the first city in the nation to begin divesting from fossil fuels and that his evolution has largely been shaped by Seattle’s people.

“I believe in community,” he says. “Bringing communities to the table and bringing all communities and opinions of communities to the table, you have a stronger discussion about the future than if you’re just picking and choosing or just letting the powerful be the ones who speak for everyone else.”

Lynch expands.

“I’ve just been really moved by that — the strength in the people and the community organizations in the city,” she says. “If Michael’s not the next mayor, those people will still be working as hard next year as they have in the last four years. And those groups will always be there. They’re a strength and a foundation in the city I feel like Michael’s been smart enough to tap into to help build his work and make it more meaningful for everyone. It makes you feel a part of something special and really strong.”

It’s exactly 35 days before Election Day in Seattle’s Capitol Hill.  Sen. Ed Murray sits next to a radiant Michael Shiosaki. They’ve been married for nearly two months now — a 22-year road to the altar. Inside the conference room of the Seattle mayoral candidate’s campaign office, Sen. Murray says that since the campaign started, home projects have gone by the way side, particularly at his other office in their Capitol Hill home.

“It looks like someone just blew something up,” he laughs.“It’s kind of a disaster,” Shiosaki admits. “But usually, I let it go for a month or two before I say something about it.”

After 22 years with Sen. Murray — 18 of which his partner has spent in Olympia budget battles — Shiosaki has had to let a lot of things go. Plus, “you can only move the needle so far,” he laughs.

The needle has certainly moved in Washington throughout the legislative sessions they’ve been through. Today, they are the beneficiaries of Sen. Murray’s trademark Marriage Equality Bill and the passage of Referendum 74, a path paved by his late predecessor representing Washington’s 43rd District, former Sen. Cal Anderson, the first openly gay legislator in the state.
Inspired by Mayor Mike McGinn’s opposition to the tunnel replacement of Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct, Sen. Murray thought about running for mayor for four years before announcing his candidacy last December.

Shiosaki, who grew up in Spokane, is also in public policy and heads planning and development for Seattle Parks and Recreation, where he is leading the expansion of Hing Hay Park in the Chinatown-International District.
Though Seattle and Washington have seen a lot of progress lately, some things remain the same for the interracial couple, even in progressive Seattle. Says Sen. Murray:

“Michael, of course, makes a better living than I do because I’m a part-time legislator, so when we go out to dinner, he puts down the credit card. Eight out of 10 times —“

Sen. Ed Murray and husband Michael Shiosaki. Photo credit: Maggie Thompson.
Sen. Ed Murray and husband Michael Shiosaki. Photo credit: Maggie Thompson.

“They’ll return it to Ed,” Shiosaki completes his sentence. “It’s a real pet peeve of mine. … I have my independent career, and I have been on a different track, and I think people forget that. I think that people … make assumptions that I’m home vacuuming the carpet or something.”

The most recent October poll has Sen. Murray far ahead of Mayor Mike McGinn, but “we’re not counting our chickens yet,” says the senator. If elected, Shiosaki will be the first, first gentleman of Seattle.
And until the campaign is over, their house projects will just have to keep waiting.

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