Jessie's Whirl

Israel’s attack ads against Licata didn’t do her political future any favors.

In this year's City Council Position 6 race, King County Parks employee Jessie Israel took on a huge challenge: unseating beloved lefty Nick Licata, a councilmember since 1998. But armed with a working knowledge of city government and a promise to be more open to big business than the incumbent, Israel racked up endorsements from the Alki Foundation (the political arm of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce), a trade union, and the guilds representing Seattle cops and firefighters. Even greenies like Friends of Seattle and Washington Conservation Voters gave her the nod. Israel made it through to the general election, but in the three-way primary, Licata broke the virtually insurmountable threshold of 50 percent. Nevertheless, in the race's final month, Israel took a chance with Seattle sensibilities and poured money into negative mailers. (She spent more than $80,000 in that month, nearly half the total budget for her entire run.) One flyer attacked Licata as an "obstructionist," and pointed out that he shared a stage with Ralph Nader in 2000, the year Al Gore lost the White House to Bush II. She also handed out flyers at the premiere of the film Sonicsgate, quoting Licata saying the Sonics weren't a significant local institution. These efforts failed to pay off, as Licata beat Israel handily in the general last week. Israel's mistake, in political consultant Rollin Fatland's mind, wasn't going negative—it was attacking Licata for being irascible. "People like him for that," he says, adding that he'd like to see Israel take another crack at public office: "I think she's an attractive, intelligent candidate." Of the last-minute money dump, Israel says: "We were expecting that the vast majority of ballots would be mailed in in the last few days, so most of our spending was targeted at those voters." And she claims it wasn't negative. "I see that I was running against a 12-year incumbent and talking very specifically about his track record. I actually think that Nick Licata did a laudable job focusing on the issues, and I think that's what he expected of me, and I think that's what I did. [The perception of negativity] plays more to Seattle's sensibilities than the race at hand." Adds Israel: "I'm not going anywhere. I'm still going to be involved in the political mix." Though if she takes another shot, she probably won't have Licata's vote. "I will be supporting progressive candidates," he says, "and especially those that eschew negative campaigning. And Jessie hasn't been that candidate this go-around."

 
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