The Stranger Election Bowling League razzed Heidi "Whitey" Wills quite a bit during her first four years in office--hell, we didn't even endorse her in '99. But our animosity toward the first-termer has always been the kind of drubbing one reserves for friends--knowing it's worthwhile to push people toward their potential. It's worked. We think Wills--with her wonky smarts and worker-bee commitment--is poised to be the council's next progressive leader.

Time and time again, Wills has hunkered down with confusing policy details--City Light billing structures, the city's building-heights incentive program, and the Seattle Housing Authority's Rainier Vista development--to fashion legislation with an eye toward protecting poor people and creating more low-income housing. Indeed, underneath Wills' Nordstrom façade, she's got serious Robin Hood leanings. For starters, please note Wills' successful (and underreported) single-handed effort to thwart a richie-rich Washington Park guy from getting a sweetheart deal on 8,000 square feet of public property to expand his house. (Wills' work on that issue clarifies how overblown Colacurcio's eight measly parking spaces were.)

The Election Bowling League is most thrilled about Wills' third-tier-rate legislation, which forced the greediest City Light customers to pay higher rates. And it's pertinent to note that Mayor Nickels tried to squash Wills' program, arguing that her "third tier" was hitting poor people hardest. Wills was right to stand up for her program. The overwhelming majority of third-tier customers--perhaps 90 percent--were not low-income people.

Wills combines her class-conscious politics with an ACLU value system. She has a practically perfect record on the civil-rights issues: voting against the suspect special-events ordinance, instigating legislation to check police spying powers, voting to nix the teen dance ordinance (!!!), and pledging to thwart any effort by the city attorney to undermine last year's poster-ban repeal. And you can't hype Wills without mentioning her standout environmental record.

There are, of course, reasons for razzing Wills: She voted to kill the original monorail board, she bailed on overturning the car-impound ordinance (there goes her otherwise perfect ACLU record), she signed off on a controversial giveaway to campaign donor and developer Richard Hedreen, and to a small extent she mishandled her City Light assignment (Keep in mind: Wills inherited the mess from the council member who deserves the real blame for signing off on City Light's disastrous game plan, previous energy committee chair and senior council member Margaret Pageler).

A few dumb votes aside, our real gripe with Wills is that she's been too accommodating when dealing with the mayor (remember the budget note-passing embarrassment?). Wills' get-along attitude toward Nickels is troubling because Nickels is currently hard-selling a development agenda in South Lake Union that requires serious scrutiny.

Despite Wills' freshman flaws, however, we're endorsing her with confidence that she'll replicate her third-tier-billing fight and put the mayor's agenda under a class-conscious microscope. That's your strength, Heidi. Don't let the Election Bowling League down.

Wills' main opponent, United Way bureaucrat David Della, is an unimpressive candidate whose "plan" to rescue Seattle City Light is hardly distinguishable from the measures council has already put in place. (And what a cheap opportunist!) Della brings zero track record to indicate he'd have been more prescient than Wills. After all, throughout the campaign he's refused to talk in specifics, mumbling consultant-speak drivel about "leadership" that, quite frankly, comes up short in the face of Wills' impressive record.