Just after the First numbers rolled in at 8:00 p.m., Judy Nicastro, decked in a full-length purple coat over a black dress, arrived at her primary-night party at the Hopvine Pub on 15th Avenue East. The initial numbers were not great. Nicastro was ahead with 22 percent, but just barely, over former Seattle Times columnist Jean Godden and real-estate guy Robert Rosencrantz. She did not seem perturbed, however. "I'm happy because I'm ahead," she said. (Later in the night, as we went to press, Nicastro was at 25.73 percent.)

Before 9:00 p.m., she climbed the stage and launched into a fiery speech before a crowd of perhaps 100 enthusiastic supporters. Catapulted to electoral victory four years ago on a renters' rights platform, she went back to what she does best. Casting herself as a tough anti-establishment fighter against "greedy landlords," she attacked current housing policy as "deplorable." As for her numbers, she told her cheering fans, "It's going to be close. I'm not a slam-dunk. I never have been and I don't think I ever will be, and that's fine with me."

Just getting through the primary--and as The Stranger goes to press, it looks like Nicastro will go through to face Godden in November--can be counted as a victory of sorts for the controversial council member. No, Nicastro, unlike 2001 primary loser Paul Schell, didn't have a WTO riot or a Mardi Gras murder on her score sheet, but given the blaring headlines (including an erroneous screamer in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Nicastro got illegal donations") she might as well have.

What Nicastro should be mindful of as she savors this brief respite from the beating she's been taking is this: She made it through the primary on the backs of hardcore Nicastro fans (like the Seattle Displacement Coalition) who--despite Nicastro's penchant for cockamamie letters, statements, and maneuvers--still believe it's critical to keep her populist, low-income voice on the council. They are people like Russ Scheidelman, a Nicastro stalwart four years ago, who came out again tonight. Asked why he was there, he said simply: "I am a renter."

Nicastro's penchant for weird screw-ups correlates with her urge to move outside of her base and impress the "big boys" (think: Richard Hedreen). Nicastro needs to get it through her head once and for all that Scheidelman is her base, and she should stick with him. Her base was kind enough to stick with her tonight (Scheidelman was out waving signs for Nicastro at 6:30 p.m. on Election Day). If she milks it, her gang of renters, housing activists, and younger voters could be enough to push her past the popular Godden--who Nicastro consultant Blair Butterworth optimistically said went into the primary with better name recognition than Nicastro and may have "maxed out."

Maybe. But probably not. At Godden's party, held at the elegant, dimly lit Pampas Room in Belltown, about 75 attendees, including several prominent remnants of old Seattle gentry, chatted cheerfully as a radiant Godden circulated through the crowd. Perched on a dark stage, the tiny Godden told the crowd she looked forward to "a grown-up city council."

It's not just Nicastro who has a fight on her hands in the general. All four of the Seattle incumbents have a tough battle ahead. But the incumbent that looks to be in the most trouble is Margaret Pageler. With only 37 percent of the vote to Tom Rasmussen's 26 percent, and with Dick Falkenbury's monorail fans and Linda Averill's labor supporters likely to walk over glass to vote against Pageler, a raucous crowd of 40 cheered at Rasmussen's party, held in a small Belltown condo. Rasmussen's partner, Clayton Lewis, seemed ecstatic. "It's pretty clear Margaret is toast," he crowed.

Heidi Wills and Jim Compton were in barely better shape for the general election, Wills in the low 40s, and Compton at 40. In a Fremont brewpub, Wills, in a blueberry suit, said she was feeling very good about her results. As a general rule of thumb, however, any incumbent that polls under 50 percent in the primaries is considered potentially in trouble, political consultant Christian Sinderman said.

One result that seemed clear from the first returns was that I-77, the latte tax initiative to help the cute wittle kiddies, was headed for a huge defeat. The mood was appropriately thrilled at the No on 77 party. Coffee-shop owners gathered at Uptown Espresso in Belltown where they swilled beer and scarfed down sushi as they celebrated the win. Meanwhile, the 20 or so attendees at the pro-77 party in lower Queen Anne were more subdued.

Whew! We can't say we feel too much pity. It was embarrassing enough that this patently idiotic initiative was on the ballot at all. I-77 has received immense national attention--and guess what, it wasn't of the "What a great idea! Those people in Seattle are really smart!" variety. In fact, the whinging liberal nut jobs who thought this up ought to be banished from the city for coming up with an idea so crackpot that not even the Seattle Weekly endorsed it (memo to pro-77 people: Next time, if you want the Weekly endorsement, tack on a non-binding preamble calling for the impeachment of George Bush).

Meanwhile, potheads were rejoicing--munching on sandwiches and chips, of course--at the back of the Rendezvous in Belltown. It was hot and sweaty, and the music was cranking, as jubilant anti-drug-war advocates followed the election results on three TVs. Their biggest concern seemed to be whether the yes vote on I-75, making pot arrests and prosecutions the lowest priority for Seattle cops and the city attorney, would crack 60 percent favorable. (It was at 58.56 percent as we went to press.)

It's unclear whether this new law actually will do much--given that only one percent of Seattle's misdemeanor cases are marijuana prosecutions--but activists say the law's specifics, like an 11-member review panel and a semiannual report to the council, will have an impact on marijuana users. Regardless, passing this law sends a message to the rest of the country (and John Ashcroft) that Seattle leans toward pot decriminalization and legalization.

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