CITY ATTORNEY Mark Sidran's quest to become mayor simply will not die. While Sidran, Seattle's Rudy Giuliani, trailed the liberal King County Council member Greg Nickels by 7,283 votes on election night, the city attorney has now closed that gap to 1,640 votes with the help of absentee ballots. If current trends hold, Sidran will eke out a victory.
For all of you who expected to know who won the mayor's race last week, this may be somewhat confusing. The key: those absentee ballots. Whereas once absentee voting was for people who couldn't get to the polls, in recent years Washington state has encouraged everyone to sign up to vote by mail. King County Election Superintendent Julie Anne Kempf figures there are around 95,000 absentee voters in the mayor's race, while 73,199 people actually schlepped to the polls to vote.
Nickels won the poll vote 56 percent to 44 percent. Sidran is winning the absentee vote by exactly the same margin. Since there are more absentee votes, the numbers favor Sidran.
Sidran's campaign manager, Karen Besserman, sounded genuinely upbeat: "We like the trend. We have been cautiously optimistic the whole time."
Laura Lockard, Nickels' spokesperson, counters hopefully, "We are in the lead; we don't have to make up any ground." While her words were optimistic, her tone was somber.
The Nickels camp estimates there are 32,000 absentee votes remaining. Nickels would have to win 48 percent of those in order to be the next mayor. Nickels' campaign manager, Marco Lowe, thinks that is probable. He says, "We expect [the absentee votes] will move toward Election Day poll numbers" when Nickels won 56 percent. He does acknowledge, however, "They have not moved there yet."
In another surprising trend, elections official Kempf says it looks like only around 45 percent of the Seattle electorate bothered to vote at all. Usually in a very close election, turnout is higher. Kempf speculates Seattleites may be still distracted because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Then again, voters may have been turned off by the choice between a law-and-order conservative and a mushy liberal.
George Howland Jr.