As we went to press, this year's incompetently slow vote count seemed to be tracking toward a slight monorail victory. The latest batch of absentees, however--a 6,200 count from South Seattle's 37th District, which was predicted to be decidedly anti-monorail--cut the monorail's lead to little more than 500 votes. That prompted the Elevated Transportation Company (ETC) to cancel its planned victory press conference on Tuesday evening.

The monorail camp was counting on the traditional trend that sees absentees--the later they come in--gravitate toward the poll day-count. (The monorail won 54 to 46 at the polls.) While the 37th District's count bucked the absentee theory, all the other post-Election Day absentee vote counts confirmed it. The first batch came in 44.5 percent pro-monorail, the second batch (nearly 20,000 votes) came in 45.13 percent pro-monorail, the next batch (nearly 10,000 votes) was 46.6 percent pro-monorail, the next batch (25,000) was 48.67 percent pro-monorail. While this certainly ain't 54 percent, number crunchers said the monorail only needed to net about 47 percent of the absentees.

Monorail supporters are confident that the last batch (roughly 23,000 votes)--which reportedly contains an important batch of Election Day absentees dropped off at the polling place at the behest of a "get-out-the-vote" drive organized by the monorail campaign--will put them over the top.

Peter Sherwin for City Council

We should say this, though. The monorail folks will be lucky if they eke it out. They ran, well, an underwhelming campaign. The monorail was hovering at nearly 80-percent approval before the campaigning started. No one had ever seen numbers like it. From a campaign perspective, it was the monorail advocates' to lose.

As anti-monorail guy Henry Aronson (a disgraced port commissioner who lives in the swank Newmark condos) stole the populist card and whittled away the lead, the monorail folks chose a "run out the clock" strategy. While Aronson peddled nonsense (one day he sold the press on the idea that the monorail tax was regressive, the next day he had them believing the tax was secretly progressive), the monorail campaign failed to tap its natural strength: feisty populist truth-telling in the face of the wrong-headed press and transportation establishment.

Exhibit A of the monorail campaign's lifeless strategy was the decision to keep monorail campaign co-chair Peter Sherwin on a leash. Rather than summoning Sherwin--a transportation wonk and a marksman with sound bites that disarm status-quo politicians--the monorail campaign sidelined Sherwin for fear he would alienate voters.

Alienate voters?!? Sherwin's the guy who ran the monorail campaign in 2000. Sherwin was successful then because he wasn't scared to voice public anger at Sound Transit and at double-talking politicians. In fact, that's how he was able to get 22,000-plus signatures in one month (!) in the summer of 2000 and win that November: with a whopping 56 percent. (By the way, if you don't think anger at Sound Transit resonates with voters, check out the I-776 vote; that can't be written off as an anti-tax vote, given that a monorail win would be pro-tax.)

Unfortunately, this time out, Sherwin was held in check and was repeatedly told to "stay on message." Guys, if Election Day had been postponed by one week, and Sherwin had continued to "stay on message" (i.e., shut up), the monorail would certainly have lost. (At press time, it still may.)

The monorail campaign "got out the vote" and may creep by; but they didn't win the hearts and minds of Seattleites. An unleashed Sherwin would have.

With that praise, we urge Peter Sherwin to run for Seattle City Council next year. Run, Peter, run! As the real leader of the most important civic campaign in Seattle's recent history, you've got the cred.

Henry Aronson Returns

Even Peter Sherwin admits that Henry Aronson's anti-monorail campaign, with its homestretch frenzy of contradictory charges (the tax is too high, it's too low; it's too easy to avoid, we'll be paying it forever; it won't get built, it will get built--but will be ugly) swayed voters.

"The other side quite clearly had an effective campaign," Sherwin says. Aronson's effectiveness at running the anti-monorail campaign, though it depended on a cynically masterful manipulation of a credulous mainstream media that ran his "questions" as headlines, was a personal success story. Even if his effort does come up a few votes short, like it or not, heeee's baaaack! (He was run out of local politics when he got caught up in conflict-of-interest scandals as a port commissioner in the late '80s ["Henry Aronson Background Check," Amy Jenniges, Oct 31].)

In the aftermath of his anti-monorail effort, Aronson's banishment to political oblivion is likely over.

Perhaps that was part of his point to begin with. Cynara Lilly, the 22-year-old anti-monorail campaign manager (who almost ended up working for the pro- monorail campaign before hooking with Aronson), says Aronson's role as leader was "accidental" and that he only got involved because "he had a lot of questions about the monorail, and he was the only one willing to stand up and [ask them]." (The previous anti-monorail leader, Tim Hatley, was too closely associated with Sound Transit guy Ron Sims--and that muddied the waters.)

While Aronson's "questions" were more deceptive campaign sound bites, the end result was still the same: Aronson has restored himself as a political wheeler-dealer.

Joel Horn at the Helm

If victorious, the ETC plans to announce some optimistic goals this week about deadlines and budgets.

Most importantly, the ETC board will name the agency's executive director pronto. Naysayers may critique the "hasty" move, but the ETC's probable choice for the $160K job, gregarious monorail campaigner and former ETC technical staffer Joel Horn, is in sync with the hyperactive, make-it-happen spirit of the monorail.

Horn's definitely a consultant-friendly Seattle insider when compared to monorail folk heroes like cabbie Dick Falkenbury. But Horn, who joined the ETC just last year, quickly proved to be an invaluable asset both politically and intellectually. (The developer with a Stanford MBA became a monorail zealot right before the eyes of his Wright Runstad establishment friends sometime last spring.)

As the guy who ran the failed Commons campaign in 1995 and '96, Horn--a 47-year-old, idealistic environmentalist--may finally get his opportunity to help transform Seattle into a 21st-century city.