Greg Nickels may have started his mayoral career as a neighborhood-friendly, nuts-and-bolts alternative, promising to fix the potholes and pretty up the streets. However, as he prepares to run for a third term, Nickels is kicking off his campaign at a private fundraiser in the law offices of Foster Pepper. Nickels apparently is anxious to shore up support in the business community now that Urban Visions' developer Greg Smith is mulling a run. The six-page invitation to tomorrow's event was sent out a week after David Brewster revealed Smith's intentions.
The invite, which includes a litany of Nickels' accomplishments, argues the city needs "strong leadership to build on the progress to date" and asks invitees to pay $250-$700 for the opportunity to help "launch the mayor's 2009 reelection campaign." It's signed by downtown business luminaries like Paul Ishii of the Mayflower Park Hotel, Pat Fearey of The Fearey Group, Ada Healy of Vulcan, and Judy Runstad and Tayloe Washburn of Foster Pepper.
"It's a very strategic list of people," says Don Stark, of public relations firm Gogerty Stark Marriott, and a founder of business PAC Forward Seattle. Stark says there's little doubt the intent, given the timing of the letter and the event, was to scare off Smith. "I guess if I were a candidate looking at that I'd say, 'Wow this guy's got a lot of support.'"
But Smith could also be dangerous. Not only because he has a lot of friends in the business community, but because he's got cash and could, if necessary, fund his own candidacy. Nickels to date has raised about $242,000.
Stark says Smith, if he runs, could successfully peel votes away from Nickels or potentially divide the business community, an important and increasingly vocal constituency. "I think he would. Sure, because he's a business person. He has a long history in Seattle."
Smith himself says he's not sure whether or not business leaders have grown tired of Nickels, but he says there seems to be a "growing dissatisfaction" in general with the status quo. "I think I could do a better job," he says, "come up with new vision and new energy."
Stark adds that if Smith gets in, perhaps it will encourage others to do the same. "Everyone's interested in having more dialogue," he says.
That dialogue will no doubt start tomorrow in the banquet rooms of Foster Pepper