Was Jordan Royer a Victim of Anti-Nickels Sentiment?

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Maybe he should have gone for a Peter move and denied knowing his father.
Charles Royer, Seattle's only three-term mayor, was welcomed into his final four years with open arms by voters. Like Nickels, he faced a broad swath of challengers in 1985 when running for his final term. But in the field of eight candidates, only Royer and challenger Norm Rice managed to break five digits in the voting. Rice actually won a respectable 34 percent in the crowded field. But Royer still crushed him, winning well over 56 percent of the vote. In the general election that year, even more people swung to Royer, and he coasted to victory with nearly 64 percent of the city's support.

Yet somehow, despite that impressive and long-term popularity, Royer's son, Jordan Royer, wasn't able to translate the family name into victory in his bid for the city council. In fact, being the descendant of a quickly recognizable member of the political establishment might have hurt him. "Some of the conventional wisdom is that my strengths worked against me," Royer says.

Royer was in the crowded race to replace the retiring City Councilmember Richard McIver. Early on, political wonks figured that his name recognition and experience with both the Paul Schell and Greg Nickels administrations, where he served in an advisory capacity, would give him a leg up on the competition. A trip to Seward Park on Seattle's southern border in the days before the election seemed to confirm that. As he shook hands around the Lake Washington Apartments, residents told stories about meeting his father. People who remembered his father said they'd be happy to support him as well.

But when it came to election night, those fond memories didn't translate into enough actual votes for Royer get to the November general election. He came in third with 15.54 percent of the vote. That was well behind the top two finishers Mike O'Brien and Robert Rosencrantz, who received 34.47 and 20.72 percent respectively. Royer had raised $106,000, less than Rosencrantz's $131,000, but more than O'Brien's $78,000. (The vote totals are as of 1:58 p.m. yesterday. The election results won't be official until they are certified on Sept. 2.)

Royer campaign consultant McKenna Hartman did not respond to a request for comment, but political consultant Christian Sinderman suspects that in a year when two people with no political experience whatsoever knocked off a long-time local politico like Greg Nickels, name recognition was more problematic than helpful. "In an election where 'change' and 'new' were important values for voters, Jordan, in some ways, was the victim of this moment in time," Sinderman says. He adds that people still see Royer's father as one of the city's great mayors, "but voters in the meantime were busy turning out the current mayor in favor of two guys they'd never heard of."

Royer says he holds no grudge. Some primary election losers went to ground in the wake of the vote, but Royer has already endorsed Robert Rosencrantz for the November election. As a lobbyist for the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, Royer says it's important to him and his clients to keep traffic flowing along the waterfront to and from the commercial shipping ports. That makes him leery of anyone trying to stop the tunnel project. "You don't hear them talking about the working waterfronts on the docks," Royer says of tunnel opponents like Mike McGinn and O'Brien, who won Royer's race.

As to the campaign itself, Royer says not only did he have fun doing it, but it helped him reconnect with his past. "I had a lot of old friends from high school pop out of the woodwork to help out," he says. "I wouldn't trade it for anything."

 
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