SEATTLE – A new KING 5 News Poll shows Joe Mallahan has surged ahead in the race for Seattle mayor, just one day after opponent Mike McGinn reversed course on his vow to fight the tunnel that will replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
The poll of 581 likely and actual Seattle voters, conducted by SurveyUSA, found 43 percent are choosing Mallahan compared to 36 percent for McGinn. That's a five point gain for Mallahan and a two point drop for McGinn.
But, 21 percent of voters remain undecided, so it can still go either way.
The poll was conducted between Saturday and Monday, so it does not completely reflect how voters are reacting after McGinn announced that he would not try to stop the tunnel if elected. For months, McGinn has staunchly opposed plan to replace the viaduct with a 4.2 billion dollar tunnel. It has been the centerpiece of his campaign.
Then on Monday, after the city council's 9-0 vote to approve the tunnel, McGinn had a surprising change of heart.
"If elected mayor, although I disagree with the decision, it will be my job to execute and uphold the agreemnent," said McGinn.
So, why the reversal? With about 21 percent of voters still undecided, McGinn's move could win him votes among more moderate democrats who support the tunnel.
Mallahan calls it a desperate move.
"I can only assume he has flip-flopped because he has read the polls and know that's not flying with Seattle voters," said Mallahan.
Experts believe McGinn might have a hard time fighting the "flip-flop" factor.
"That never sits well with voters," says UW political scientist Matt Barreto. "It's going to cause them to speculate as to where he stands on other issues."
McGinn says he maintains his opposition to the tunnel and legally would have no choice but to support the city councils position. He adds, however that if elected he will be a staunch watchdog and will challenge the city council's vote if costs aren't kept in check.
Mallahan has a strong lead among Republicans and independents, but just a two point margin among Democrats. He also has the lead among both men and women.
McGinn has the advantage among younger voters, Asian Americans and liberals.
This is the first poll in the race for mayor since voters received their ballots in the all-mail election. Of those who say they've already voted, Mallahan has a four point lead. Among those who say they are likely to vote, Mallahan leads by 7 percent.
Votes will be counted Nov. 3.