And They're Off

The 2003 Seattle City Council race kicked off this week on April 15 with a candidate forum breakfast--hosted by the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce. It was the first formal meeting of all the incumbents and most of the challengers.

Here's a wrap-up:

Running Joke: The bevy of challengers taking on incumbent Judy Nicastro.

Best Play on the Nicastro Joke: Seattle City Council President Peter Steinbrueck introduced himself, saying, "Hi, I'm council president Peter Steinbrueck, and I'm running against Judy Nicastro."

Worst Answer: When moderator, Seattle Times columnist Joni Balter, challenged candidate David Della to disprove the criticism that he was "reticent on the specifics," the former Norm Rice aide and current Heidi Wills challenger stated, "I know the issues. I've studied the issues. I have no problem giving the answers to issues that are important to Seattle." A bewildered Balter responded, "Okay, well, we'll look forward to hearing them then."

Boldest Answer: Asked to answer a series of yes or no questions by simply holding up green or red flash cards, Steinbrueck was the only one of the 14 folks who gave the thumbs down to Mayor Nickels' $45 millionproposal for South Lake Union trolley. Asked about it after the meeting, Steinbrueck, in his inimitable style, told me, "That's one I don't need to study anymore. It's a dumb idea. It's a joke. We don't have enough money right now to cover our basic transportation needs. This is not where we should be focusing right now. There's no basis for it right now. You really should talk to the biotechs before you propose such a big plan. This isn't even the mayor's idea. It's Vulcan's idea. They came to me with this a year ago."

Worst Defense: Council energy committee chair Heidi Wills, under fire about drastic rate increases and giant debt at Seattle City Light, defended her job by blaming the problems on previous decision makers (they played the free market) and their policies (no reserve fund). Question is: Why did Wills vote to confirm Gary Zarker, who advocated playing the market and was responsible for the lack of a reserve fund?

Most Tactical Player: Weirdly, the least charismatic of Nicastro's challengers, Robert "Crispin Glover" Rosencrantz, stole the show from the anti-Judy pack by taking every opportunity to contradict Nicastro. His ploy worked best when he caught her saying she wouldn't give money to light rail until a better plan was in place. Rosencrantz cleverly pointed out that Nicastro offered city funds to the monorail before the project was even approved by voters.

Weirdest Candidate: Incumbent Margaret Pageler's talk about Shanghai and "facing the world" solidified her "How did this woman ever get elected?" status.

Most Uncomfortable Moment: Asked if he could overcome the scandal that forced him to resign from the city council in 1997, John Manning (accused of domestic abuse) stated, "Well, my ex-wife has endorsed me."

josh@thestranger.com