Standing under the Hammering Man statute with her hair dyed blond and a fresh pink pedicure, Jan Drago kicked off her campaign against Greg Nickels by going on the offensive. Flanked by city council member Bruce Harrell (who'd better hope he needs absolutely no favors from the mayor for the next seven months or ever if Nickels wins reelection), Drago told the few dozen onlookers: "I don't think any of us can remember a time that Seattle was less respected."
As Nickels' spokesperson Sandeep Kaushik was quick to point out, that second part isn't actually true. The stimulus money is generally filtered through the state, but some of it came from Washington pre-assigned, including a $5 million shot in the arm for the homelessness prevention fund and $314,011 for maintenance on the South Lake Union Streetcar.
Many of those in attendance were other local politicos, some, like neighborhood activist Kathy Nyland, in support of Drago's run. Others, like city council member Richard Conlin, just to be present. Conlin says that he, unlike Harrell, won't endorse anyone in the race. "I'm just here to say [Drago] has been an effective council member."
The entrance of Drago makes it likely this race will take a sharp turn to the negative, and it already seems to be getting there. Drago attacked the mayor for focusing too much on national issues (he was featured in the 2006 Vanity Fair green issue). And predictably she went after Nickels for how the city handled the snow storm.
Drago sent a draft of the speech to the Seattle Times this morning and before she had even made it to the Hammering Man, Kaushik e-mailed a list of five questions he'd like area media to ask that go after Drago for missing votes at the council and her past backing of mayoral initiatives. He also worked in a dig at her for holding her announcement at the Hammering Man just days after several unions announced endorsements for Nickels.
A campaign of animosity might work in Drago's favor if polls are correct in showing spreading ill will toward Nickels. David Schraer, a local architect who stopped by for the announcement, applauded for a couple of lines, but says he didn't attend the announcement as a die-hard Drago supporter. "Honestly, I like Jan, but this is more of an anti-Nickels thing," he says.
Schraer says he doesn't disagree with Nickels on most issues, but he feels the mayor, along with his deputy Tim "The Shark" Ceis, has been pushing machine politics in Seattle--the notoriously strong-armed way things are done in Chicago. He says he didn't have any specific examples, but he worries that the kind of bullying Nickels has acquired a reputation for "really, that's the path to corruption."
Of course, Chicago has that expansive train system, built on the backs of mafia ties and graft. So maybe a little solid public corruption is just what we need to get a really top-notch rail and streetcar system.
Regardless, the gloves have certainly come off. Not wanting to miss out on all the fun, self-funded mayoral hopeful Joe Mallahan sent out a release this morning attacking both, saying: "People in Seattle deserve a leader they can trust, not the status quo or the mayor's Mini Me."