New bad-boy senator

You could hear the sigh of relief at City Hall when that bad boy from West Seattle, Mike Heavey, stepped down as state senator to assume his new position as a King County Superior Court Judge.

Like his neighborhood, Heavey has given City Hall fits for years. When Seattle goes hat in hand to the state Legislature, which it does every year because state government controls the purse strings, the Legislature invariably hands the city not only its hat but also its head. (Eastern Washington and the King County suburbs especially seem to have a thirst for Seattle’s blood.) To make matters worse, even the city’s own state legislators are frequently at war with City Hall. Nobody loved that internecine battle better than Heavey. During the last session, he single-handedly killed Mayor Schell’s new tax for the zoo and the aquarium. Other past mischief includes famous failures like his West Seattle secession bill and his proposal to elect the Seattle City Council in neighborhood districts rather than citywide. Heavey was always fun for people who love the blood sport of local politics.

But just when city leaders thought their Olympian prospects might improve, along comes Heavey’s replacement: Dow Constantine. Barring death or imprisonment, Constantine will likely defeat his opponents and move from his current position as a state representative to the state Senate in January. How will City Hall fare with Senator Constantine?

He’s actually on record. Earlier this summer, yet another vicious political fight erupted between West Seattle and downtown. This one was over the neighborhood’s demand to get city assistance to build a parking garage for the Admiral business district. Constantine wanted to “have a beer” with one of City Council member Jan Drago’s staffers on the subject. Never worked out, so he sent the staffer, via e-mail, the following declaration of war:

“Sorry to be so blunt, but subtlety doesn’t seem to work real well down at city hall.

“Look. As you know, if Jan votes ‘no’, this [parking garage] goes down. Wills, Compton, McIver and Steinbrueck are already on the #%@! list. Pageler, Licata, Conlin and Nicastro are heroes. This is a much bigger issue over here than you imagine, and a very big small business issue. If this fails, I just hope the city doesn’t need anything from us next legislative session.”

In an interview, Constantine emphasizes, “I’m not going to be as entertaining as Mike.” He says he will cooperate with City Hall where their interests coincide, but he won’t hesitate to “lock horns” when necessary.

Hmmm, sounds like Oly’s gladiator season might be fun even without Heavey.

Nowhere man

Every year there’s a candidate like Lonnie Williams. Try as you might, you just can’t figure out why he’s running against incumbent Lieutenant Governor (and self-appointed drug czar) Brad Owen. There are tons of crank candidates, people who run because of their wacko issue. But Williams doesn’t have any pet peeves. There are deluded minor candidates who actually believe they can win. Williams seems sensible enough to realize he cannot.

Williams is a retired city bureaucrat, a veteran, and very genial. He says the lieutenant governor’s office holds his interest because “there is only one line in the State Constitution describing it. [And] it’s not a high-profile type of position.” He hastens to add, “This is not a complex job.” Finally the shoe drops when he explains he’s very concerned about health care, especially his own. “I’m being cut off myself December 31.” Running for statewide political office is certainly an odd strategy for getting health insurance, but hey, it’s a free country.