MayorThe Stranger Endorses Greg Nickels

Incumbent Mayor Paul "Bad Karma" Schell won't survive a run-off against The Seattle Times' favorite candidate, City Attorney Mark "Republican" Sidran. So The Stranger is endorsing the mayoral candidate with the best campaign tools, machinery, and troops to beat the suddenly surging Sidran. That candidate is King County Council guy Greg "Hoss" Nickels. A solid Democrat, Nickels has managed to rack up some major endorsements. When it comes time for phone calling, doorbelling, and fundraising, dedicated worker bees from the King County Labor Council, the King County Democrats, and the Washington Conservation Voters (who also endorsed Schell) will go to bat for Nickels. Indeed, the general election isn't going to be Nickels vs. Sidran. It's going to be a Democratic party onslaught vs. Mark "Republican" Sidran.

The Death Squad Doesn't Endorse:Paul Schell

We'll be honest: Schell mopped the floor with Greg Nickels during the Stranger Death Squad endorsement interview. And frankly, we weren't surprised. Schell simply isn't as bad as, um, we've lead you to believe. The mayor's job--bottom line--is setting priorities for the city budget. On this score, we're not likely to see better from any of Schell's opponents. The most progressive of the major candidates, Schell slated nearly $3 million in new money for homeless initiatives in his most recent budget-- and shelter bed capacity has increased by 282 beds since 1998. Indeed, Seattle's Human Services and Housing Now PAC gave Schell their sole endorsement. "In comparison to the other candidates," the lefty group's glowing endorsement stated, "Schell clearly stood out as the most informed and supportive on housing and human service issues."

Meanwhile, Schell put $4.5 million into 800 community projects, more than tripling the Neighborhood Matching Fund. On top of that, Schell's excellent Cedar River Habitat Conservation Plan, which eliminates logging from the entire upper watershed, garners high praise from local environmentalists.

But Schell let Sound Transit run amok, he undermined the monorail, he supported a rash of city task forces that met behind closed doors, he vetoed the repeal of the Teen Dance Ordinance, and he dropped the ball on independent police reviews. And, finally, there's WTO and Mardi Gras. Those fiascoes saddled the incumbent with a fatal case of malaise that is frustrating a city anxious for action and change. Whether Schell deserves all the blame for WTO and Mardi Gras is debatable (Schell certainly loves to debate it), but those events happened on his watch, and left the city spooked.

So, while the Death Squad likes Schell and his budget priorities--hey, we endorsed him in '97 for a reason--too many Seattle voters and Death Squad members look on Schell as simply jinxed.

Mark SidranIn terms of race relations, Seattle is facing one of the most strained moments in its history. Voters would be unwise to make City Attorney Sidran their next mayor at such a time. As city attorney, Sidran has a bad habit of targeting and shutting down nightspots catering to black clientele, using onerous (unconstitutional) "Good Neighbor Agreements," tacky (unconstitutional) drug stings, and weird (unconstitutional) proposals about "added activities" licenses. Moreover, his tough (unconstitutional) car impound ordinance and tough-love parks exclusion ordinance (the courts haven't ruled on this one yet) have angered black activists due to the skewed hit African Americans take.

Meanwhile, Sidran--who has made transportation the centerpiece of his campaign--has zero record as a mass transit advocate. Voters shouldn't have any confidence that he'll deliver on his Johnny-come-lately anti-Sound Transit rap. In fact, his politically motivated attacks on Sound Transit are downright uninformed. For example, Sidran says he wants to beef up bus service. Well, then perhaps Sidran should run for county exec--the office he's seeking doesn't have control over Metro bus service.

Finally, whatever you think about the justness of "civility" ordinances, it's a fact that the laws championed by Sidran haven't achieved what they set out to. Anyone who ventures out of downtown can see that Sidran's war on homelessness and alcoholism have failed. Sidran has simply pushed the problem into other neighborhoods. Following Sidran's approach to its logical conclusion would mean running Seattle's homeless out of town. How civil is that?

There's a slew of other mayoral candidates:Green Party activist Christal Wood mistook her Stranger Death Squad interview for her weekly primal scream/Rolfing session (blowing up when we suggested that she might not actually occupy the mayor's office come January); Scott Kennedy looks and dresses like a pol but his political activity to date consists of gathering a few signatures for the monorail. As for the infamous Omari Tahir-Garrett (accused of bonking Mayor Schell with a megaphone), we'd like to quote our September 11, 1997 non-endorsement of Tahir-Garrett, when he ran against Michael Preston for Seattle School Board: "On several occasions he has been seen leading large masses of people down to the Federal Building, megaphone in hand." See? We knew that man was a dangerous lunatic. Finally, there's Charlie Chong. The Death Squad was making fun of Charlie Chong before it was cool, so we're going to lay off now that everyone else is making fun of him.

Seattle City CouncilPosition No. 2The Stranger Endorses Michael Preston

Voting to promote longtime Seattle School Board member Michael Preston to the city council would do more than any other vote you cast this fall to end the wishy-washy go-along-to-get-along culture at city hall.

Preston has been one of the most outspoken, inspiring, and persuasive members of Seattle's school board for 20 years. (He even survived a challenge from Omari Tahir-Garrett!)

Most impressively, Preston got the ball rolling on the "Weighted Student Formula," the common-sense (and long overdue) plan that directs education dollars to students and communities most in need (read: South Seattle). He was also a powerful advocate for giving individual schools more control over curriculum and spending. In addition, Preston fought to stop corporal punishment, and to keep advertising out of schools.

Preston will approach issues with a consistent (though not knee-jerk) leftist analysis that we will make him a leader in upcoming council battles to preserve low-income housing and enforce police accountability. (Preston says he will lead the effort to get video cameras installed in all SPD cars.) Indeed, this isn't a guy who will simply be there when Comrade Nick Licata needs a vote; Preston, in all likelihood, will come knocking on Licata's door with ideas of his own.

Michael Preston has suffered some minor ethical lapses in the past--screwed-up business taxes, wayward bingo funds, and minor campaign disclosure violations. Clearly, Preston is better at taking positions and casting votes than he is at filling out forms. Once he's on the city council, Preston can direct one of his aides to keep up with the paperwork.

The Stranger Doesn't Endorse:Richard ConlinOne-term incumbent Richard Conlin deserves a round of applause for his efforts to repeal the evil and possibly unconstitutional Teen Dance Ordinance. (Mayor Schell vetoed Conlin's resolution.) Conlin also deserves props for his work as chair of the council's Neighborhood Committee, where he oversaw the implementation of the 38 neighborhood plans, tripled the Neighborhood Matching Fund, and fought for worthy community budget items like the $450,000 children's services center in Columbia City.

But Conlin has disappointed his progressive backers on key issues like low-income housing and transportation. For example, he supported the senseless Hope IV project, even though it was slated to displace low-income residents in Rainier Valley. He also signed off on plans to eliminate homeless services in downtown Seattle. Meanwhile, low-income housing and labor advocates say Conlin gave them the cold shoulder during his developer-friendly election-year legislation to revamp downtown building codes. (Some of Conlin's top donors--the $600 kind--are downtown developers Sellen Construction, Pine Street Developers, and Wright Runstad. Double-hmmmm? Conlin led the fight to up the city council campaign contribution limit from $400 to $600.)

More troubling, Conlin has supported the Mark Sidran menace with key votes on parks exclusion, car impounding, the noise ordinance, and alcohol impact areas.

Worst of all, "Mr. Sustainability" supported West Seattle's efforts for an unnecessary parking garage. And, in cahoots with Council Member Heidi Wills, Conlin wrote the council resolution scrapping voter-approved I-41, the monorail.

Also-rans in this race include:Former Charlie Chong aide Jay Sauceda, who lost the Death Squad's endorsement when he made it clear that he was only running to promote his upcoming ballot initiative campaign for district elections. District elections are a great idea, but a non-campaign for a city council seat seems a strange way to promote them. James Egan is a well-intentioned former public defender who wants to spend money on social services and summer youth programs. Dakotta J.K. Alex is an intriguing 21-year-old college student (taking a quarter off to run for the council) who brings giant transportation flip charts to community meetings. Dakotta demonstrated that he was too delicate for the rough-and-tumble of political campaigns when he pleaded with the Death Squad to stop picking on Richard Conlin. Hey, Dakotta, if you like Dick so much, why are you running against him?

Seattle City CouncilPosition No. 4The Stranger Endorses Curt Firestone

Everyone thinks it. Someone's got to come out and say it: Curt Firestone, who may very well be a lovely guy in private, is perhaps the most grating candidate in the history of Seattle politics. Just to put an end to Firestone's predictable, vapid, pompous leftist rants the Death Squad seriously--seriously--considered endorsing Jan Drago, who has the lousiest voting record in city hall. (Note to Curt: RAISING YOUR VOICE! and spouting phrases like "grassROOTS! People's DEMOCRACY! PEOPLE! People's GRASS people! Roots PEOPLE! Grass campaign ROOT!" doesn't make your tired rap sound any better.)

But we just couldn't bring ourselves to endorse Jan "I Like the Monorail Now!" Drago. So, here we are, endorsing Firestone once (yawn) again. It's time for Firestone to move aside, so the left can stop earning its reputation for boorish irrelevance and so younger, sharper candidates will stop bowing out for fear of hurting Firestone's feelings. And it's not as if Firestone really needs a city council gig anyway. Unlike, say, Grant Cogswell, Firestone already has a job. Nor are we convinced that it's entirely ethical or appropriate for the news editor of Seattle Weekly to run for a city council seat under a pseudonym. For George Howland Jr. to use his position at Seattle Weekly to promote his own campaign for city council must be a violation of some obscure election law or other.

Oh yeah--this is supposed to be a Firestone endorsement. So, let's see. He's got this great idea about holding city council meetings at night so working PEOPLE--people with Roots! People who mow GRASS!--can ATTEND! We need more bold ideas like that. Vote Firestone.

The Stranger doesn't endorse:Jan DragoTwo-term incumbent Jan Drago actually sat down with the Death Squad this year (after refusing to return The Stranger's calls for two years), and even made a follow-up courtesy phone call--wishing Stranger Death Squad member Josh Feit a happy birthday. But despite the charm offensive, Drago still isn't getting our endorsement. Call us rude, but her voting record is simply too scary. Drago has been a Xerox machine for Mark Sidran (yes on the poster ban, yes on parks exclusion, yes on the impound ordinance, yes on the noise ordinance). A corporate welfare cheerleader, Drago helped funnel nearly $100 million to downtown interests, in the form of city-backed loans, special grants, and direct spending. Drago voted to kill the monorail, and she was one of just three council members (joining tree stumps Jim Compton and Richard McIver) to vote against Judy Nicastro's excellent renters' bill of rights. The ordinance included a tenants' right to organize. "I had problems with making landlords allow meetings," Drago said.

Thanks for stopping by, Jan.

There is a third candidate in this frustrating race:

West Seattleite Susan Harmon pandered to the Stranger staff ("I'm involved in just about everything you can think of... I designed the float for the gay pride parade two years ago"), boasted about her vague experience as a West Seattle activist (oy vey), and told Death Squad member Dan Savage that she could channel psychic powers that lurk beneath the surface of the earth. As much as we hate having to endorse Firestone, we couldn't bring ourselves to endorse Harmon.

Seattle City CouncilPosition No. 8The Stranger Endorses Grant Cogswell

Cogswell has a gift for seeing the connections between issues. Catch the brilliant pro-monorail/pro-enviro/anti-Sidran/economics lesson he gave the Death Squad: "I'm running because we're going to build the monorail. You need a car in Seattle right now just to compete economically. Building a good public transit system will help people who can't afford their own car, who are struggling to survive. A lot of those people are having [their] cars impounded because they can't pay their tickets or afford insurance. I think this is one of those places where social justice and economic justice converges into a human rights issue."

The centerpiece of Cogswell's campaign is the monorail, and making sure it gets built. Cogswell cowrote the original monorail initiative that voters passed in 1997. And so, more than just latching on to the "West Seattle to Ballard" line that Johnny-come-lately monorail supporters are hyping, Cogswell is committed to the original monorail "X" that he--along with Dick Falkenbury--put on the ballot. Cogswell proposes that Sound Transit scrap light rail within Seattle proper and build a citywide monorail instead. Then, he argues, the agency can build light rail to connect the rest of the region to Seattle. Less expensive. More filling.

It'd sure be nice to have a council member who listens to Joy Division, Modest Mouse, and the Blood Brothers. Make checks payable to Grant Cogswell for Seattle City Council, and send them to 409 16th Avenue E. #16, Seattle 98112.

The Stranger doesn't endorse:Richard McIverIncumbent Richard McIver can usually be counted on to cast a good vote on civil rights issues. (However, it's usually in a supporting role to his council colleague, Comrade Nick Licata, who typically takes the lead--and the heat--on racial justice issues.)

But McIver can't be counted on when it comes to the civil rights of youth. McIver caved on repealing the Teen Dance Ordinance, helping sustain the mayor's veto. What's worse, you can't count on McIver to do the right thing on economic justice issues. Examples include McIver's failure to demand that the Seattle Housing Authority replace 100 percent of the low-income units being displaced at the Rainier Vista public housing project; his vote against Heidi Wills' low-income energy assistance plan; and his vote against Judy Nicastro's renters' rights package.

McIver's biggest failure, however, has been as Transportation chair. Indeed, McIver's efforts to kill the monorail and his steadfast support for Sound Transit's dubious light rail plan drew Cogswell into the race.

There are three other underwhelming wannabes in the race:Jerome N. Wilson basically claims to be blacker than McIver. Heath Merriwether, who--when you subtract his campaign manager, two reporters, the sound person, a school board candidate, three Merriwether volunteers, and the gospel choir--was the only person at his own campaign kick-off rally, bills himself as a longtime gay rights activist. However, he didn't even get SEAMEC's endorsement, scoring C's and B's on that gay group's candidate questionnaire. (Cogswell got straight A's.) And Stan Lippmann, who is undoubtedly the smartest, most important person on Earth, is simply too good for the city council.

City AttorneyThe Stranger endorses Tom Carr

Tom Carr, a former New York Assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted the mob in NYC, served as head of the Elevated Transportation Company (the group voters created to build the monorail) during its darkest days. Carr's refusal to roll over and die forced the city to kill the monorail in broad daylight, and voter outrage ultimately led to the passage of a second monorail initiative.

Unlike current City Attorney Mark Sidran, Carr has expressed caution in turning the office into a legislative bully pulpit. Carr is skeptical of Sidran's civility laws like the unconstitutional impound ordinance, and frowns on city laws like the court-bound Teen Dance Ordinance. Specifically, addressing things like Sidran's impound ordinance and parks exclusion law, Carr says he will remove the codes that impact minorities and the poor disproportionately. Easier said than done, of course, but Carr has a record of results. He sued the city last year when it dragged its feet validating monorail signatures. And in New York, despite the fear of finding a horse's head in his bed, he successfully prosecuted the Bonanno organized crime family, ending their control of Teamsters Local 814.

Vote for Carr.

The Stranger doesn't endorse:Edsonya Charles or Jim ClineAs with Carr, Edsonya Charles and Jim Cline have solid legal experience. However, neither candidate is as impressive as Carr. Though Charles is one of the few African American women running for office this year, she's been practicing law only a third as long as Carr, and in a very narrow field of practice at that (Social Security fraud). She has a glowing background in social services (she headed up the Seattle Human Services Coalition) and served as treasurer in the campaign against I-200, but when the Stranger Death Squad asked Charles what she would do to change Sidran's legacy, she had no specifics.

Cline, on the other hand, has vision, but it's misguided. Cline rashly says he would immediately (and irresponsibly?) fire Sidran's top managers, without reviewing their records. Cline also has the endorsements of the police department and the Police Officers Guild, which--in the Death Squad's book--isn't necessarily a good thing.

King County ExecutiveThe Stranger endorses Ron Sims

We don't usually make endorsements in uncontested races (Ron Sims is the only Democrat in the race, so he's guaranteed to move ahead.) However, Sims is listed on your ballot with a pack of freaky Republicans and Libertarians, so we thought we'd make it plain that you should pick him.

Everybody seems to be on a first-name basis with friendly county exec "Ron," but we're not sure why they like him so much. "Ron" whacks away at social services like a Republican, and has a weird obsession about the county taking control of Seattle's water supply. But vote for "Ron" anyway. We guess "Ron" did good recently by defending the urban growth boundary with a rock-solid veto on that stupid church expansion bill passed by the Republican council.

King County CouncilDistrict 1The Stranger endorses Carolyn Edmonds

Again, there's no race here. Edmonds, currently a state rep and the only Democrat in the race, is guaranteed a spot in November's general election. But mark the ballot for Edmonds anyway. At our candid endorsement interview with the 32nd District State Rep., the Death Squad got the distinct impression that Edmonds is way more liberal than she may be able to admit in her district. A strong showing will give Edmonds a boost going into November.

King County CouncilDistrict 5The Stranger endorsesDwight Pelz

There's actually a contested election here. Two Democrats are duking it out in the primary. However, blue-collar warrior Pelz is the far superior candidate. Pelz has serious hard-Democrat street cred: Pelz, a former union organizer, state senator, and founder of the lefty grassroots group Fair Share, relishes picking fights with the sheriff's office to defend county social service spending. He votes the right way on environmental issues, protecting the growth boundary and urban open spaces; he successfully restored Metro bus service after deep budget cuts; and he passed historic noise reduction measures around Boeing Field.

His opponent, an attorney and former educator, is hotly focused on protecting Rainier Valley from light rail. However, he's short on solutions and specifics on most issues, he's not pro-choice, and, compared to Pelz, he's a lightweight.

Seattle School BoardThe Stranger endorses Pat Griffith, Mary Bass, and Charlie Mas

There are three school board races this fall: District 4 (Magnolia, Queen Anne), District 5 (Central District), and District 7 (South Seattle).

The batch of candidates for District 4 ain't too impressive, but PTSA leader Pat Griffith has the most relevant resumé for the position.

The District 5 contenders are an earnest bunch, but we liked wonkish Mary Bass best. Her opponents include an overly Christian singer and an overly charismatic political climber.

The District 7 race features the best candidate running for school board this year--angry parent activist Charlie Mas. Mas, who is outraged that South Seattle is still the weak link in the school system, so impressed the Stranger Death Squad that we're willing to recommend him over well-qualified incumbent Jan Kumasaka. "This district needs a firebrand," Mas says. He's right.

Port of SeattleThe Stranger endorses Lawrence Malloy and Jake Jacobovitch

There are three Seattle Port Comm-issioner races this year. (Why is God punishing us?)

Issues like the environmentally questionable third runway, regional transportation, port labor negotiations, airport expansion, and unaccountable budgets and tax revenues drew a slew of hot-tempered candidates this year.

The Death Squad met, fell in love with, and proposed to one of our endorsees: King County Department of Transportation supervisor Jake Jacobovitch, our pick for Position No. 4. Jacobovitch's labor leanings, his beard, and his solid civic background on the Puget Sound Regional Council Growth Management Policy Board as well as the Vashon-Maury Island Council make him the standout candidate of all the port contestants. Meanwhile, extrovert environmentalist Lawrence Malloy gets the Death Squad nod for Position No. 1. And melancholy singer Morrissey gets the Death Squad nod for Position No. 3.

Amy Baranski and Lauren Walsh contributed to these reports.