arly in the evening at Seattle City Council candidate Judy Nicastro's primary election night party at the Hopvine on Capitol Hill, about 35 of Nicastro's supporters -- mostly women, nearly all white -- pick over veggies and pizza, waiting for the returns to come in. While the turnout for the primaries is expected to be low -- according to Jill Berkley, Nicastro's campaign manager, she was only voter number 33 at her polling station that morning -- the atmosphere at Nicastro's party is charged. Nicastro, dressed entirely in black, isn't eating, and despite the fact that it's incredibly hot in the bar, she isn't sweating either. "Right now, all I need is an aspirin," says Nicastro. Why aspirin? Is she worried about making it to the general election? "Nah," she says. "Just a pre-emptive strike." Having raised $36,000 -- which she spent mostly on bulk mailings -- Nicastro has the right to be confident. Endorsed by the P-I and The Stranger, Nicastro says that anytime anyone talked to her about her candidacy, they said they were a renter. Asked if she made any mistakes during the primary, Nicastro says she may have focused too much on renters' rights, allowing herself to be pigeon-holed as a one-issue candidate.

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There is quite a spread at Daniel Norton's party at a cozy house in Green Lake -- ham, cheese, turkey, roast beef -- but there are only about 10 people milling around when we arrive just before 8:00. There are corn chips and guacamole with real tomatoes, Chex mix, red and white wine, and beer -- like Norton, the party is nice, liberal, middle-class, and very Green Lake. Early in the evening, Norton's handful of supporters seem confident that their guy will make it into the general election.

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Sadly, when the first returns come in, it is clear that Norton -- despite having snapped up Seattle Weekly's prized endorsement -- will not be advancing to the general. In the race for Seat 1, it's going to be Nicastro vs. Chow. Nick Dysland, a supporter melting in his Nicastro sweatshirt at the Hopvine, boasts that his candidate is "running the best fucking campaign. She's got yard signs, visibility, and an issue -- the most important issue in Seattle -- housing. She's going to crush Cheryl Chow like a bug." By now, there are 60 people packed into the Hopvine. When Nicastro sees the first returns, she yelps.

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"I know who I am. I'm a grounded person. I don't need other people to validate me," says Cheryl Chow, at her primary party in an office building atrium. Good thing Cheryl isn't hung up on being validated, since she didn't get a single newspaper's endorsement. Nervous-looking Asian kids eat noodles and chicken, while The Simpsons plays on a TV set in the corner.

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Heidi Wills and Alec Fisken party together on primary night, though only Wills has anything to party about -- she'll be advancing to the general election in November (vs. Charlie Chong), while Fisken was bumped out of the race by Dawn Mason and Jim Compton. The party is co-sponsored by Washington Conservation Voters, and everywhere you look, it's all wonks and snacks. Unlike the earthy Nicastro, uptight Wills' party is in an office building, so it's not particularly happening.

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Wills finally shows up at her party to a stout round of cheers. She's glowing in her plaid pants and blue blazer, but doesn't make a speech. How's the campaign going? "Really, really good!" she says. Council Member Nick Licata makes a surprise showing, with two staffers. Other politicos are in attendance as well, including Bob Rohan and Adam Kline. Michaelanne Ehrenberg, Wills' campaign manager, takes a soft jab at Chong: "Charlie has run four campaigns in five years; he's got huge name recognition, and we are thrilled with this outcome." Fisken, who's out of the race, hasn't shown, and one attendee makes the joke that he's "probably out at a bar drinking."

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Compton may have the name recognition to draw votes, but he has no idea how to put out a spread. He's serving Gummy Bears, bad trail mix, non-alcoholic beer, and warm, limp sushi. The slightly sweaty Compton is jubilant, repeating his formula for success (presenting "solutions to the city," whatever that means), and wearing out the ratty carpeting at his office building party, pacing back and forth. We love the elderly greeter at the door, who, upon learning our identities, says, "Never turn a stranger away from the door!" and sticks his paw out for a hearty handshake.

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Dawn Mason, dressed in a bold red jacket, is feeling confident (she's made a strong second-place showing) as she enjoys a big glass of red wine at her well-attended party in Belltown. She says she'll win the general election in November because "Compton and Fisken seem a lot like downtown. I'm a lot of a neighborhood candidate" (she may have had more than one glass of wine). At one point, activist Charlie James and his kids try to join the party, but it's in a bar and his kids are turned away. "That's the first thing I'm going to do," Dawn says, "is get rid of those Sidran laws."

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Charlie Chong knows how to throw a party. And somehow he ran a successful campaign, although as he explains slowly... and... carefully... "bulk mailing difficulties" and his admitted lack of fundraising ability made for a slow start. The guest list is a who's who of local politicos and neighborhood hoi-polloi (from creaky oldsters to blissed-out hippie freaks). Mary Chong, the delightful hostess, rewards her beloved's supporters with a sumptuous spread of pasta, deli meat plates, and cake.

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