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Originally published Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 8:02 PM

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Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer has earned fans' vote

Sounders FC fans get to determine whether Adrian Hanauer will return as general manager. His record stands for itself.

Times staff columnist

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TUKWILA I drive into the Sounders' training grounds at Starfire and am greeted by rows of yard signs proclaiming, "What time is it? It's the Han-hour."

Inside campaign headquarters, I see a bank of phones manned by volunteers in T-shirts that read, "Hanauer. You think you could do better?" In his corner office, general manager Adrian Hanauer is recording a robo call promising, "If you vote for me, I will bring Lionel Messi to Seattle."

None of this happened, of course, but Adrian Hanauer is running for re-election as the MLS team's general manager. He'll win because there is nobody running against him and he is the best man for the job. The 66,000-plus who will attend Sunday's Cascadia Cup game against the Portland Timbers are proof of the Sounders' success.

But the campaign goes on (sort of), and after Wednesday's training session, I sat down with Hanauer and asked him to give me his stump speech.

"The last 3 ¾ years have been a pretty good ride," he said. "I think we have a very healthy culture, chemistry, infrastructure, and our organization is in place to be successful for many years.

"But we live in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately society, so a loss on any given week, I'm assuming, affects how people vote the next week. So I guess anything can happen."

Hanauer's record is impressive. This will be the fourth consecutive season this 4-year-old franchise has qualified for the MLS playoffs. It has won three U.S. Open Cups and reached the final this season. It has set all kinds of American attendance records.

Sounders FC really is a phenomenon.

But the team still hasn't won a playoff series. Despite the Sounders' success, there always has been a Houston, Los Angeles or Real Salt Lake in their playoff path.

"My one major objective with this team is to win an MLS Cup," Hanauer said. "That's what I and everyone in this organization is craving for right now."

Another minor cause for concern is the team's history with designated players like Freddie Ljungberg, Blaise Nkufo and Alvaro Fernandez. The Sounders need to find a player like Robbie Keane or Thierry Henry, big names who still are big scorers and MVP candidates.

Hanauer, however, hasn't been complacent. He has continued to add talent that has made the Sounders one of the deepest teams in the league, capable of succeeding in three separate competitions.

"There are articles and blog posts with the anti-Hanauer message," he said. "And that's good. It's good for me to read those and know, whether they're true or not, what the perception is out there."

This election, which begins Sunday and ends on Dec. 7, is another genius move by a franchise that, time and again, has shown that it cares about its fans. It's another gesture that allows Sounders supporters to feel truly involved.

Where was this idea when Bill Bavasi was running the Mariners into the ground? Where was it when the Sonics were drafting 21 feet of untalented centers?

"I love the process," Hanauer said. "I love that we're going through it. It is revolutionary in pro sports in this country. Something completely out of the box and unique, and hopefully other teams will take notice."

Let's be clear, Hanauer's livelihood won't be affected by this vote. He doesn't take a salary. He owns 32.5 percent of the team. Win or lose, he's going to be around and involved.

"The fact that I do own 32 ½ percent of the team, if there is someone who can do it better, then it's certainly in my best interest to allow that person to do it better," Hanauer said. "The equity that I own in this team would appreciate. I'm also a fan, a huge fan, and if someone can figure out how to win championships on a more regular basis, that would make me happy as well."

But Adrian Hanauer is the right person for the job. He has positioned this franchise for a long run of success. He has given this city an extra jolt of adrenaline.

And, today, I would like to announce that I'm endorsing Hanauer for GM.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

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