THE PARADE OF POLITICAL fundraisers for this fall's city council race picked up steam last week as three newcomers--activist Judy Nicastro, King County legislative aide Heidi Wills, and ex-banker Alec Fisken formally kicked off their campaigns. Thanks to our "at large" election, the candidates also played a quick round of musical chairs. Nicastro switched from seat 7 (Tina Podlodowski's open seat) to seat 1 (Sue Donaldson's open seat), where she'll face off against Cheryl Chow. Wills, who donated $100 to Nicastro, formally set her sights on Nicastro's original goal, seat 7. Wills is challenging well-known Charlie Chong. Meanwhile, Fisken, who seems to have the financial backing of the big development (anti-Chong) crowd, kicked off his campaign for seat 9. The Stranger sent its crew of campaign correspondents out to party, taste-test some chardonnay, and size up the newcomers.

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(Happy) Heidi Wills. Wednesday July 7, 5:30 pm. Washington Park Arboretum.

How befitting that Nate Miles would emcee Wills' city council campaign kick-off party. Miles is the Pacific Northwest lobbyist for Eli Lilly, the $10 billion pharmaceutical giant that makes Prozac. And believe us, Wills, 31, is one seratonin-friendly candidate. With glowing eyes, bouncy coifed hair, and an Ultra-Brite™ smile, this is one upbeat woman.

The party--held at the modest Graham Visitors' Center--was more like an episode of the Mickey Mouse Club than a political fundraiser. The Coats, a shiny a cappella quartet, sang choreographed renditions of "Everyday People," "I Can See Clearly Now," and "Joy to the World," while the audience clapped and sang along. Picture House Co-Speaker Frank Chopp and an assortment of yuppies singing "Everyday People."

Wills' boss, county exec Ron Sims, introduced the position 7 candidate to the packed crowd--a mostly young, well-dressed set of movers and shakers, like 29-year-old State House Representative Laura Ruderman. The group, spilling outdoors, far exceeded the 95-person fire limit posted on the wall.

Wills' 15-minute speech went on five minutes too long. She pulled a Gwyneth Paltrow--slipping into a long and scattered list of radiant thank you's, an eye-glowing warning about the popularity of her "deeply concerning" opponent, Charlie Chong, and a nod to some recent endorsements. All this came after she'd signed off, twice. She was, however, concise about her campaign themes: housing affordability, supporting the neighborhood planning process, gun control for Seattle, and fixing those potholes. She called for doubling the gas tax, and said Seattle Center shouldn't host gun shows.

The $1,500 event, which featured a simple spread from Costco, pulled in $9,200. Wills says she has now raised $45,000.

The former UW student body president who shepherded through the U-Pass bus program is already out in front of the pack on fundraising, and may prove a surprising match for Chong. --Josh Feit

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We weren't able to make Alec (Hey, Where's Our Invite?) Fisken's party, but we heard the July 7 affair at Town Hall raised $4,000 and was attended by about 75 people. (Wills' overflowing crowd must have spooked Fisken, because a few days after his Thursday night party, he left the seat 7 race to take on Dawn Mason for seat 9, Martha Choe's open seat.) Council member Richard McIver's wife introduced Fisken. The candidate then gave a two-minute speech on affordable housing and restoring parks, sidewalks, and streets. Hugh Spitzer made the money pitch. Spitzer's support amps Fisken's reputation as the downtown development candidate of choice. As a bond attorney, Spitzer helped the Public Facilities District obtain credit and secure bonds for Safeco Field. He also made sure Nordstrom had tax-exempt status for their $74.5 million publicly funded garage. --Josh Feit

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(Godlike) Judy Nicastro. Thursday July 8, 6:30 pm. The Speakeasy.

Judy Nicastro turned 34 on Thursday July 8, and she celebrated by asking people to give her money to run for city council. Her campaign kick-off at the Speakeasy drew about 150 people, mostly sprightly 30-somethings--fellow UW law school grads with good posture and tans--and up-and-coming D-party hopefuls. Everybody vigorously shook hands with everybody else while chomping down slabs of endangered smoked salmon.

Activist Mary Bloom packed a stunning number of adjectives into her introduction, declaring Nicastro to be joyful, jubilant, and genuine; dynamic and determined; unyielding; smart, motivated, and inspirational. Not once but twice, Bloom referred to the blushing candidate as "a Goddess."

Nicastro blew the first line of her speech, but quickly gathered herself, and actually discussed specific ideas. She called for a Renter's Bill of Rights (modest applause), guaranteeing renters leases if they want them and mobile credit reports, so they don't have to keep paying landlord after landlord (big applause). She also called for an independent office for police accountability (surprised applause), and funding for the monorail (confused applause).

And then she asked for money. She raised $3,000. --Ben Jacklet

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