By Jonathan Kaminsky
(Reuters) - Two left-leaning Democrats appeared poised to advance from a crowded non-partisan primary in the race for Seattle mayor on Wednesday, setting up a likely November showdown between an activist-minded incumbent and a challenger promising a more inclusive governing style.
Incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn, a bearded former Sierra Club executive, had roughly 27 percent of the vote, based on the ballots received so far in the August 6 mail-in primary. Ed Murray, the leader of state Senate Democrats who helped shepherd the passage of gay marriage legislation, had 30 percent.
The top two finishers in the primary will advance to a general election in November, and both Murray and McGinn were comfortably ahead of third-place candidate Peter Steinbrueck.
To be counted, ballots needed to be post-marked by election day, so final numbers could still change. As of Wednesday afternoon, 93,406 votes had been tallied.
McGinn, who faced speculation in the local press that he might not advance from the primary, greeted the preliminary result as a victory, saying: "They always seem to count me out until the votes are counted."
McGinn was elected four years ago on a progressive and environmentalist platform. He opposed replacing a rickety Seattle viaduct with a car-friendly tunnel, has moved to raise the cost of downtown street parking and makes a point of riding his bike to work.
Murray, a longtime state legislator who would be Seattle's first openly gay mayor, has portrayed himself as more willing than McGinn to work with the business community and other non-progressives. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"Murray is clearly reaching out to people who are perhaps a bit more conservative and made a point in his campaign to say he'll reach across the aisle," said Knute Berger, a Seattle-based columnist and political observer. "McGinn is much more in the progressive activist mode."
Coming in third place, out of nine candidates on the ballot, was former Seattle City Councilman Steinbrueck, a strong supporter of neighborhoods, with approximately 16 percent of the vote.
Finishing a close fourth was City Councilman Bruce Harrell, who made reforming the police department and empowering minorities his campaign issues. Harrell said he had not yet decided which candidate to endorse.
"One of the challenges with Murray is that I'm still not completely clear on his platform," Harrell said. "But I don't think McGinn should be our next mayor."
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Leslie Adler)