IF MONEY TRANSLATES into votes, Mayor Paul Schell and challenger King County Council member Greg Nickels are neck and neck in this year's race for Seattle mayor. But having begun tapping his wide base of traditional, and wealthy, supporters, Schell has now jockeyed back into the dollar lead. The mayor reports raising more than $200,000 from supporters, according to the latest city figures. That is about $12,000 more than Nickels, who was leading Schell by $22,000 last month.
The mayor has garnered $200,675, relying on 749 donors who each gave an average of $264 and apparently have forgiven his assorted screwups (what WTO?). With a weighty list of attorneys and developers in his camp, Schell has received the $600 maximum individual donation from 215 supporters (the individual donation limit has been upped from $400 in 1997).
In contrast, Nickels is relying on a wider, leaner audience, prying his $188,054 in contributions from 1,734 supporters who donated an average of $98. However, Nickels leads in the all-important "cash on hand" category, with $120,808 still in the bank as of May 1, as compared to the free-spending Schell campaign's $106,478.
Mayoral contributions have already hit $426,000 and could easily top 1997's $1.1 million total. The city's Office of Ethics and Elections says the average contribution so far this year is $148, compared to $107 in 1997.
Entering the stretch to the September primary election, Schell is more than halfway to the total contributions he received in 1997 ($394,000). Schell's then-opponent, City Council member Charlie Chong, raised just $171,062 and was soundly beaten.
Among Schell contributors giving the maximum thus far are actor Tom Skerritt, developer Ken Alhadeff, venture capitalist Tom Alberg, and billionaire Paul Allen, who last week notched a sweetheart deal with the city, agreeing to pay $20.8 million for eight city properties to add to his ongoing South Lake Union developments.
Other top contributors include Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, former mayor Charles Royer, jeweler Herb Bridge, Costco CEO Jeff Brotman, retired attorneys James Ellis and William Gates, investor Gerald Grinstein, U.S. Attorney Kate Pflaumer, developer and former U.S. official William Ruckelshaus and wife/consultant Jill, and attorney Judy Runstad and husband/developer Jon.
Nickels received $600 donations from Mariners president Chuck Armstrong, Seattle Post-Intelligencer copy editor Gene Achziger, businessman Michael Alhadeff (brother to Schell donor Ken), and investor Herman Sarkowsky, who also gave to Schell. Corporate contributors include Gary Merlino Construction, Weyerhaeuser Real Estate, and Nitze-Stagen construction.
New city financial disclosure reports also show that three of the four best-known candidates for mayor are millionaires, with Nickels the exception. Schell remains the city government's richest public servant, with $5 million in personal wealth. Mayoral opponent and City Attorney Mark Sidran is worth $3 million (he has just $36,636 in donations so far). Millionaire City Council member Jan Drago has also launched a mayoral exploratory campaign (she reported no contributions as of May 1 but has been conducting a telephone poll on voter preferences in the mayor's race). Nickels' personal financial worth is roughly $450,000, based on minimum values of reported assets and income.
CAMPAIGN CASH COUNT
May donations to three major mayoral campaigns (Nickels, Schell, Sidran): $198,911
May donations to three minor mayoral campaigns (Hegamin, Schaber, Wood): $1,521
Bill for Nickels kickoff at Westin Hotel: $18,620
Production costs for zany Mark Sidran kickoff video: $2,500
Least campaign cash a council incumbent has on hand (Richard McIver): $20,327
Most campaign cash a council incumbent has on hand (Nick Licata): $36,136
Salaries paid to Schell campaign employees (May): $9,090
Salaries paid to Nickels and Sidran employees (May): $0