Who's challenging Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels — or not?
Potential candidates are somewhere between in, out and not so sure, but the 2009 Seattle Mayor's race is taking clearer shape. Councilmember Tim Burgess is clearest of all: He thought about it but has decided to stay where he is on the council. Councilmember Nick Licata is probably running for his council seat.
Seattle Times staff columnist
RUMORS are rampant. Candidates and maybe-candidates for this year's Seattle mayor's race are picking their words as gingerly as a veggie-averse kid making selections at a salad bar.
But amid the flurry of careful phrasing, the 2009 mayor's race is taking some shape, as several key players drop out, or all but drop out, of a race they never officially entered. And two others can't say no. Yet.
A few weeks ago, at least four candidate names were in circulation — council members Nick Licata and Tim Burgess, former Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck and former NBA player James Donaldson.
The list has narrowed with Licata and Burgess both stating — with varying degrees of certainty — that they are not running for mayor. Burgess said unequivocally Friday he is not running for several reasons: It is too soon for another political campaign after a council bid only a year and a half ago; he has much to do at City Council and he doesn't disagree with the mayor all that much on the issues.
Burgess could have been a formidable candidate because he is a new face. He would challenge from the political center, citing his background as a police officer. But his newness — he's only been on the council a year and change — also works against him because he needs more seasoning to rise to the mayor's office.
Licata who disagrees more often with Nickels says he is "probably" sticking with his current job — news in itself because he toyed with running for mayor or not coming back to the council. His decision will deflate the numerous candidates aiming for an open seat.
So is Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, who has fairly low poll numbers, looking at Easy Street?
He shouldn't be. Mayors seeking third terms ought not be allowed to skate to re-election or worse — coronation. A mayoral campaign sharpens an incumbent and forces him to evaluate the way he presents himself. Citizens need and deserve a debate on the issues.
Can you, Mayor Nickels, promise to manage the next snowstorm better than you did the December storms? Can you improve communication with the state to finally get something accomplished on the Alaskan Way Viaduct? What would you achieve in a third term that you couldn't get done in your first two terms?
Burgess and Licata may have opted out (or all but opted out) but Donaldson and Steinbrueck are very much alive as potential mayoral opponents.
Steinbrueck says he is not there yet — not running nor able to say he won't run. Such a tease. To my ear, he sounds like he wants to take on Nickels and he would be a major challenge. He has name familiarity from his years on the council and from his father, Victor, who led the way in saving the Pike Place Market. It sometimes seems as if Peter has a park named after him instead of his dad.
The next possibility is former Sonic Donaldson, who would follow a few athletes in politics, including former University of Washington linebacker Bruce Harrell on the Seattle City Council and Kevin Johnson, who played for the NBA's Phoenix Suns before becoming mayor of Sacramento.
Donaldson, a small-business owner active in the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, was squirrelly in an interview, "I don't have any plans to at this point," followed by, "My eyes and ears are open." But other indications are he is preparing to switch from a run for City Council to challenge Nickels.
Bring it on. Bring them on.
Joni Balter's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. Her e-mail address is email@example.com
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
About Joni Balter
Joni, a veteran Seattle Times reporter, has been on the editorial staff 11 years. She is the political writer for the page, covering local, state and national politics. She lives near Seward Park with her husband, an author and journalist, and her son who is a high school student. A good weekend always includes a run along Lake Washington with close friends.
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Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
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