Dwight Pelz's announcement last week that he was dropping out of the race against city council incumbent Richard Conlin to take on Richard McIver, a three-term council incumbent, came as little surprise to those who've paid attention to the King County Council member's political trajectory. (Pelz initially decided against opposing McIver, in part, because his advisers counseled against taking on the council's only black incumbent. And he shares a consultant with council president Jan Drago, making her an unlikely target.) Last month, Pelz hired über-pollster Don McDonough to take a hard look at his political prospects; although neither Pelz nor McDonough has released the results, Pelz's move speaks louder than any poll. "I think he tested the waters, looked around, and figured out that my campaign was really organized," Conlin told me Monday. "One down, three to go."
One of those remaining three, former mayoral aide Casey Corr, could scarcely contain his glee at Pelz's decision. Stooped over a low table in the dark, claustrophobic Cherry Street Coffee House, Corr-a tall man with hollow cheeks and an intense, focused stare-acknowledged cheerfully that Pelz's departure from the Conlin race "should definitely help" Corr with labor and environmental groups-to say nothing of Nickels supporters. But despite his long association with the mayor, Corr insists he is his own political entity-albeit one with an unusually strong affinity for the mayor's own political positions.
"I can't run from Greg's agenda. I helped develop it," Corr said. "But where I disagree with him, I'm going to make different suggestions." (Pressed to name areas where he has disagreed with the mayor, however, Corr could come up with only two: the Bookmobile and school crossing guards, which Nickels proposed eliminating last year.) "My campaign hinges on the premise that people are fed up with the city council," Corr says. It also hinges on the continued success of mayoral fundraiser Colby Underwood, whose May efforts on Corr's behalf were expected to bring in as much as $25,000-nearly as impressive as Corr's $28,000 April haul.
Two weeks ago, Nickels sent out a memo informing council members that he was directing city departments "not to spend funds authorized" by the council for two projects: a traffic signal for pedestrians in Crown Hill and lighting improvements in Pioneer Square. The Pioneer Square lighting money-a relative pittance, $100,000-was supposed to serve as partial compensation for the city's decision to locate a new homeless hygiene center in Pioneer Square, rather than in the International District-the mayor's preferred option.
Some on the second floor read Nickels's letter as a petulant slap at the council for rejecting his hygiene center proposal. But Housing and Human Services Committee Chair Tom Rasmussen characterized the flap as a mere "misunderstanding," adding: "The mayor is not going to do anything that's going to harm the hygiene center." Nickels advisor Sung Yang said Nickels and Rasmussen have agreed "to take up the lighting as part of the overall budget process," which starts in September.