Robert Rosencrantz, who has run for city council twice before and lost, believes he can do anything if he keeps trying. He has an inspiring story to illustrate this. Rosencrantz grew up with a hip disease called Perthes but triumphantly rose to athleticism, to financial prosperity, and now—if his third campaign pans out—to the dais of the city council. "I was the kid on crutches, and the other kids were saying I was a cripple who could never walk," says Rosencrantz. "And all I could think is that some day I will be a champion athlete." On his fourth try, Rosencrantz won the national junior championship and broke a record at the age of 19 for the most shameless sport of all—racewalking. "I have learned in my lifetime that a person committed to a cause who puts sweat and tears into it can do amazing things," says Rosencrantz, who now brokers multimillion-dollar deals as a real-estate agent and owns four apartment buildings.

But by Seattle's liberal standards, a city council influenced by Rosencrantz would make for a less-than-inspirational story. And Rosencrantz has a good shot of actually winning this time. His fundraising is already far outpacing his rival, Mike O'Brien—who is more progressive than Rosencrantz on transportation, the environment, homelessness, and virtually every other issue—and Rosencrantz's campaign has the potential to benefit from the last-minute support of well-funded business interests.

Rosencrantz is campaigning on a conservative economic directive to protect industrial and maritime jobs in the city, primarily by building more roads. In interviews and campaign events, Rosencrantz has favored paving projects at the expense of building new transit, stressed the need for heavy-handed law enforcement over social programs for the homeless, and prized NIMBY complaints about noise over a vibrant nightlife (even in instances where new development has been built around existing nightlife institutions). To say nothing of his position on abortion.

"We typically don't make any endorsements in Seattle races, because the majority of candidates are pro-choice," says Alissa Haslam, public policy director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. She says Rosencrantz refused to return the group's questionnaire. But on his questionnaire for the King County Democrats, he didn't check a yes or a no box to answer a question about providing public funds for abortions for poor women or another question on "freedom of choice in contraception, abortion, and sterilization." Instead, he included a quote from Barack Obama, calling on people to "honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion."

In a phone interview, Rosencrantz said he believes families should be involved if a teenager seeks an abortion. Other than that, he would only say that he stands by existing state laws on reproductive rights. "They have been in place and I will fully respect them," he says.

"That raised concerns for us," says Haslam. "When we heard that there was someone running for Seattle City Council who is not 100 percent pro-choice, we wanted to endorse Mike O'Brien and let voters know that there is a very clear choice in positions." If the county budget continues to dwindle, she says, reproductive health and medically accurate sex education could be in jeopardy unless the city council continues to fund them. Haslam adds, "Especially now that we have a system that has so many nonpartisan races, people really look to core social issues to guide voting decisions."

Rosencrantz's strongest support comes from business interests. He argues that Seattle is losing its economic edge to suburbs, a point evident to anyone who has watched the cluster of skyscrapers rise in Bellevue. Seattle can retain those businesses and prosper into the future "by having traffic mobility that allows them to move efficiently throughout the city," he said in September on KUOW. In short, he believes we need more roads, better roads, and a $4.2 billion deep-bore tunnel under downtown.

In contrast, O'Brien, a former chair of the local Sierra Club, is a fierce advocate for tolling roads to reduce traffic and building more light rail—making the city more hospitable for people, and therefore businesses. "The question for Seattle is, 'Are we willing to make the commitment to become a transit town?'" O'Brien says. "We don't have the money to make investments in the transit we need and continue to make more auto capacity."

Asked directly if we should extend light rail to West Seattle and Ballard—as proposed by mayoral candidate Mike McGinn—Rosencrantz says, "More bus hours." And about his position on streetcars: "Not a big fan of them."

Several maritime workers' unions, development interests, and the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce have endorsed Rosencrantz. He has raised $168,391, more than double O'Brien's amount. But his biggest boon may be waiting in the wings. Forward Seattle, an upstart political action committee funded largely by development lobbies, has $110,844 in cash on hand, according to a report from the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission.

Forward Seattle paid Tulchin Research, a campaign pollster in California, over $26,000 this year. That may have been the unidentified polling firm that in mid-September called voters in Seattle, providing criticisms of Rosencrantz and O'Brien and asking the voters how those messages changed their opinions about the candidates. "It seemed a little harsh on Mike O'Brien," says Beth Dennis, a Ballard resident who got one of the calls. The pollster asked how her opinion of O'Brien would change if she knew he lived in a home that costs nearly a million dollars but opposes Seattle residents having extra rooms in their house and doesn't want them to have yards. The implication pulls on O'Brien's support for a high-density city (like apartments that don't have extra rooms or a lawn) concentrated around transit hubs, in contrast with Rosencrantz's auto-reliant city. "They were implying that he lives in a mansion," she says. "They just come up with the slimiest thing they can think of and see what resonates with people."

Was the poll sponsored by Forward Seattle? Calls to group spokesman Joe Quintana were not returned by press time. But it would make sense. The group's leading contributors are the Building Owners and Managers Association and the Washington Association of Realtors. And Rosencrantz splits his career between high-end real-estate brokerage and owning apartment buildings. If it was Forward Seattle, and the group did find anti-O'Brien messages that resonate with voters, and it did want to back Rosencrantz, it could spend a huge amount on mailers and ads to push for Rosencrantz and smear O'Brien. Rosencrantz says he doesn't know if Forward Seattle plans to support him, but he did acknowledge that he's donated over $25,000 of his own money to his own campaign.

On several other issues, Rosencrantz and O'Brien have some stark differences.

Rosencrantz, who doesn't drink, has espoused a philosophy that neighborhood complaints should trump nightlife. In an endorsement meeting with The Stranger, Rosencrantz said he supports a 2007 ordinance that subjects clubs and venues to fines if they amplify noise plainly audible inside a residence, even if the new building is constructed next door to a historic music venue (noise complaints have been a recurring problem with new buildings constructed close to bars and dance clubs). "I don't go out," he said. And he argued that "giving the control of neighborhoods to neighbors is more important than [the city's] jurisdictional authority." O'Brien, however, said he wouldn't let "people in a neighborhood shut down nightlife."

On density, Rosencrantz is reluctant to embrace taller buildings, even near the city's center. In Yesler Terrace (across the freeway from downtown on First Hill), the Seattle Housing Authority is considering mixed-­income housing up to 24 stories. Rosencrantz calls that "pretty darn high," while O'Brien says, "We have to do that."

And while Rosencrantz has served on the board of the Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness, his views on panhandling are severe. "The police should more energetically enforce the prohibition on aggressive panhandling and solicitation," Rosencrantz wrote in a questionnaire for the Downtown Seattle Association. "Cutting off their source of income is a good way to get people to engage in more productive uses of their time." Asked to clarify, he says, "Trading off civil liberties with having to maintain public order is a difficult balance, but we can do that." He added that his concern was specifically with aggressive panhandling.

O'Brien, a former Sierra Club leader and the 10-year chief financial officer of the law firm Stokes Lawrence, also opposes aggressive panhandling. But he stresses that the ultimate solution lies in fixing "structural problems," such as housing and health care, and that Metropolitan Improvement District security guards (the folks in the yellow jackets), not police, are the best people to deal with problematic beggars. "I worked hard to get where I am," O'Brien says. "But I have no illusions that there are people who have worked as hard or harder than me and have not had the breaks that I have received." He adds, "I think we as a society have a responsibility to look out for the people who have been left behind."

If elected, Rosencrantz would apparently be among the most conservative of all elected officials in Seattle. He would be a steady advocate for heavy-handed police action, limited density growth, a lackadaisical approach to building more transit, and resistance to funding women's reproductive-health programs. He would clearly push against the tide of the city council and Seattle voters at large—a city that adopts transit, that's ready to reduce carbon exhaust, that believes strongly in women's rights, that likes its nightlife institutions, and that treats its citizens (not just its businesspeople) humanely. recommended