A tippy-top-secret poll has ended up in my hands, and it's chock-full of info for those thinking of running for city hall in next year's municipal elections.

Five Seattle City Council members are up for reelection in 2003. And while it's traditionally a real trick to knock out an incumbent, this top-secret polling information provides some useful data for challengers.

Heidi Wills: While the numbers don't indicate that Wills is the most vulnerable candidate (that'd be Judy Nicastro), polling does show that, more than any other incumbent, Wills has gift-wrapped a perfect campaign strategy for potential challengers.

Wills will face a strong challenge from anyone smart enough to hammer home one point on the campaign trail: "Here's your electric bill when Wills became chair of the utilities committee--and here's your bill today." There's been a 30 percent increase in cost per kilowatt-hour over the last two years.

Wills was a pushover every single time Seattle City Light director Gary Zarker came around asking for yet another increase. (That was five times, to be exact.) Rather than doing Zarker's bidding, why didn't Wills make a stink about Zarker's shortsighted moves to shift 20 percent of Seattle City Light's business onto the free market, or his dumber decision not to enter into long-term, fixed-rate contracts? Seattle City Light ended up buying energy high (very high) and selling low (very low).

Wills will deflect her opponents by saying evil energy companies are to blame for artificially jacking up the newly deregulated market in California. She's right, but guess what: She's not doing a damn thing about that, either. A politician who was really looking out for Seattle ratepayers would be pushing Seattle City Light to follow California regulators' lead by suing the pants off those wily energy companies. (One utility has already agreed to pay California more than $1.8 billion in a settlement, and California is now taking a slew of other companies--like Duke and Dynegy--to court, claiming the firms were fibbing about costs and markets.)

Steinbrueck: Got a 62 percent "hard name ID" (meaning voters know exactly who he is). And 78 percent of those gave Victor a positive rating. Don't bother. Unbeatable.

Margaret Pageler: Despite her longtime incumbency, there is one strategy for taking out Pageler--offer her another job. She's jonesing to get out of city hall, and reportedly has her resumé out all over town.

Judy Nicastro: Pollsters found that half the people they contacted were actually running against Judy themselves. The other half, who seem to dig her, are renters.

Jim Compton: Get this--polling shows that voters would love to have this host of KING-TV's Compton Report start serving in city hall.

josh@thestranger.com

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