Democrats from five local legislative districts co-hosted a candidate forum last night in the sweltering Belltown Labor Temple. It was a top-heavy affair with the candidates for City Attorney, Mayor and King County Executive all taking a turn at the mic.
The same few dozen people tend to show up at these forums--mostly campaign staffers and Democrat die-hards. Less than an hour before the start the room was a lot of young volunteers in "Dow Now" t-shirts or khakis and button downs (Phillips' crew) taping up signs. City council hopefuls weren't on the ticket but arrived looking to rub elbows with potential endorsers. James Donaldson sat out the pre-show, going over extensive notes with new campaign manager Cindi Laws at the Cherry Street coffee shop a few blocks away.
Eventually everyone seeking the top spots arrived to greet the smallish crowd, save one. Made conspicuous by her absence once again (see Nina's story today) was former news anchor Susan Hutchison, who seeks Ron Sims' former seat. "We reached out to Susan Hutchison several times and did not hear back from her," the moderator said.But the Mayor's race was really the thing everyone came to see, as evidenced by the mass exodus to the back for rehashing, spinning and endorsement wrangling as the Exec candidates headed for the stage. This was the first time Nickels and Drago have faced off in person since she declared.
A few observations about that race from last night:
Mike McGinn is really opposed to the whole tunnel viaduct replacement. But it seems an odd thing to center your campaign on. I suppose we aren't past the point of no return, but with the city, county, port and state signing off, it seems pretty unstoppable.
Elizabeth Campbell also opposes the tunnel. But more interesting is her unabashedly pro-car take on transit. She says bikes and buses are getting in the way on the roads. "Actually, I think in this city there's a war on cars and I don't support it," she said.
James Donaldson answered most questions by punting to his athletic background. (Hilariously, he was seated next to the much more petite Jan Drago, who is barely taller than his midriff.) He talked about the general importance of incentives. It's a theme he's used in the past and in this case it was about getting people out of their cars. But he never says exactly what those incentives would be.
Jan Drago and Joe Mallahan went after Greg Nickels for disbanding the gang unit in 2002 (it's actually operating now). I suspect their campaigns as it concerns Nickels will sound very similar--gang violence and snow storms. Now they just need to figure out how to go after each other. Also spotted: Peter Steinbrueck walking out of the hall with Drago post-forum.
Norman Sigler wants to bolster competitive fairs in science, math and the arts. I'm not sure what the city's role in that could be, but when they got rid of placing at the science fair at my elementary school and replaced it with "participation" ribbons for all, no one was all that interested in it anymore. Sometimes a little vicious, childhood capitalism works.
Greg Nickels, rather than going after his opponents, said he's learned from his past mistakes and reminded everyone that he called for the city to meet Kyoto standards in emissions. Vanity Fair included him in their first "Green Issue" for it.