How to Unofficially Run for Mayor

If it walks like a candidate and quacks like a candidate and ducks into closets with prominent business leaders and campaigners to speak in whispered tones like a candidate, is it running for office?

Jan Drago is phone-testing her viability against Nickels, the Seattle Times reported yesterday. This comes after a few weeks of speculation that she might be considering a run. And this morning, the only thing suggesting she isn't running for office at the Alki Foundation forum in at the Washington Athletic Club, was that she wasn't actually up on stage with the other candidates.

Drago was quick to her feet and the first person to ask audience questions of the candidates during the lightning round, wherein the candidates raised cards saying only yes or no. She wanted to see where they stand on the city's industrial lands policy and annexing parts of White Center into Seattle.

Before and after the breakfast, Drago made the rounds, first ducking into the Crystal Ballroom coat closet with architect Marty Kaplan, who's after Nick Licata's seat. Later she pulled Boeing lobbyist Rich White in. She gripped both by the shoulder, talking in hushed tones. About what, she won't say.

In fact, she won't discuss the why's of her potential run against Nickels at all, saying she isn't ready to talk about the specifics. She allows only that "I'm seriously considering [running], that's all I'm going to say about it."

Drago left the forum with Sally Bagshaw, her anointed successor. But Bagshaw isn't just running with Drago's blessing, she's picked up an endorsement list that includes City Council member Tim Burgess, two county council members, the Maleng family and former Governor Gary Locke. If Drago takes a shot at Nickels, she'll certainly want to tap into Bagshaw's endorsement list as much as possible.

But that might be tough. When it comes to getting endorsements based on what they've advocated for in the past, she and Nickels might be stepping on each others' toes. As council transportation committee chair, Drago didn't just support the mayor on the tunnel, something downtown businesses wanted, she's been actively pushing for it at the council since 2006. She also pushed the unfortunately-named streetcar and the mayor's plan for dealing with Mercer Street.

She does differ from the mayor on annexation, voting twice against plans to bring parts of White Center into the city fold, including a recent one signed by Nickels and the city of Burien. Drago wouldn't talk about her distinctions (or lack thereof) with Nickels now, but said she'll have more to say in the next week. "It seems all the city council members have to consider [running for mayor]," Drago's potential opponent Mike McGinn observed.

Assuming glad-handing at the Alki Foundation was an attempt to cut into Nickels' support in the business community, Drago should have some competition in the form of Joe Mallahan. Mallahan has an MBA from the University of Chicago and came to Seattle nine years ago to take an executive position at T-Mobile. His wife came out of the Kellogg business school at Northwestern, just north of Chicago.

If anyone speaks the language of the mostly-men dining on breakfast quesadillas and sausages this morning, you would expect it to be this guy. But Mallahan was a no-show, causing buzz around the room. "Mallahan?" the guy next to me whispered to his neighbor. "Yeah, $200,000." That's a reference to the cash Mallahan put up himself to level the field with Nickels, who had cracked the $300,000 mark by the end of March.

Mallahan is a tough nut to crack. It isn't just his failure to appear at a presumably-welcoming function, but who his deputy campaign director, Susanna Williams. Williams is the person who organized the Facebook group "Peter Steinbrueck, for the love of Seattle, RUN FOR MAYOR!" It attracted 822 members before he decided to leave us for Massachusetts instead.

Neither Williams nor Mallahan responded to messages left earlier today.

Four years ago, the total raised by all mayoral candidates--but mostly Nickels--was about $558,000. This year, that total is already up over $575,000--if Drago (and her donor base) get in expect this race to get very expensive very quickly.

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