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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Where Have All the Candidates Gone?

posted by on March 28 at 16:44 PM

Erica’s got a story in the new Stranger about this year’s race for City Council Member Peter Steinbrueck’s open seat. (Steinbrueck, elected in 1997, has decided not to seek reelection, so he can be a full-time activist for the surface/transit option on the waterfront.)

One thing we didn’t have room for while profiling the two candidates, Venus Valazquez and Bruce Harrell, was a nagging, larger question: Why are there so few candidates running for City Council this year?

Five out of the nine positions are up this year and so far there are only four candidates running: Valazquez and Herrell for Steinbrueck’s open seat—and Tim Burgess, running against incumbent David Della. Meanwhile:

(Former Council Member John Manning—who had to leave the council in disgrace in 1996 because of domestic violence arrests—is also going to be running against Steinbrueck.)

Tom Rasmussen, Sally Clark, and Jean Godden are still unopposed.

I don’t know if the Seattle Times endless harping about the “Circus Animals Council” worked to the point that the council is no longer considered an important or worthy body; if transportation and education (the two issues everybody’s obsessed with, even though education isn’t on the Council’s docket) seem so hopeless that the public has simply become disengaged; or if the bickering between Mayor Nickels and the council has become so juvenile that no one wants anything to do with City Hall.

But seriously, five seats are up—and the only story so far is that one Council Member (Steinbrueck) decided the council was so irrelevant he’s leaving the council?

I imagine with all the consultants in town talking people into running (so that they’ve got some business), more candidates will file. But it’s nearly April already, and with the primary bumped up to August, filing deadline is June 8—as opposed to late July. Where are all the candidates?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: A way to get people more engaged in municipal politics would be to make our council elected by districts—rather than the 9 at-large seats. With districts, candidates wouldn’t be able to get away with their disappearing acts (anybody seen Richard Conlin lately?). They’d have a constituency and accountability. And come election time: Opponents.

RSS icon Comments

Posted by City Comforts | March 28, 2007 4:46 PM

Perhaps it's the $100K price tag to run a viable campaign.

Jean Godden and David Della are proof that ANYONE can get elected in this town with enough $$ behind them. They're certainly not there because of new ideas, good looks or winning personalities.

Posted by DOUG. | March 28, 2007 4:51 PM

Quality candidates are out there, working on behalf of their neighborhoods and the like. It's just that they can't afford to take a year off from their regular full time jobs and fund raise.

$100K is a low figure. Rumor has it the price is actually closer to $250K.

What does that say about our "representative" government?

Posted by Holly | March 28, 2007 5:07 PM

Word is John Fox is running against Jean.

Posted by SeMe | March 28, 2007 5:14 PM

I also like district representation in the council. More accountability, and in theory less $$ to campaign, because you're not campaigning city-wide.

I'm not sure it would encourage opponents, however. It would be like alot of the legislative seats within the city: not much turnover, unless there's an open seat or the candidate somehow pisses off the SEIU.

Posted by Joe M | March 28, 2007 5:27 PM

Also, districts is the way to go. As it stands now, running for council here is like running for congress. Its a huge chunk of territory, and you need serious cash. Cash that can only be provided by the DEMS and the people that love them. If the left had a solid organization that could run inside and outside the Democratic party and had built a base in communities of color and everyday working folk than this would be a perfect time to run some serious non hippie lefty candidates. But the left in this city is in diapers.

By the way I liked ECB's piece. I think Venus is a good candidate and is absolute crap that she is getting blamed for the divisiveness around CASA Latina. No one at city Hall was calling Darryl "I ran the Mexicans out" Smith divisive,though, he and his Mount Baker allies were the ones that started that whole divisive crap. Its just plain sexist crap that Venus has to be nice and lady like. Who says we have to like our candidates and elected officials? I would rather that they fight for the things I care about. I dont have to like them. Is not like Im going to be downing tequilas with them.

Posted by SeMe | March 28, 2007 5:28 PM

I'll gladly run against one of them if someone tells me how.

Posted by Jeff | March 28, 2007 5:38 PM

Who would people like to see run?

Posted by Paige | March 28, 2007 5:41 PM

oh goodness, nice looking people, not like old wrinkled ladies or round faced Filippinios of small stature --- gosh yes, pretty and handsome, they are major pluses for civic leadership

some of these comments are pure shit, from shitty assholes, get fucked you stupid sexist and racist punks, and out of Seattle and take you puke stupid political theory with you

Posted by eric | March 28, 2007 5:44 PM

if you want district elections, you better run it as a ballot measure. it would never pass a city council elected citywide.

Posted by wf | March 28, 2007 6:08 PM

The Stranger's jackal-like treatment of people in public life has nothing to do with people not wanting to run.

Posted by Editor's note | March 28, 2007 6:15 PM

@9 - me so hoinry drmaqueen, be playing dragking nor o Lake Ciddy friay night, camon out beeg boy

Posted by darling463 | March 28, 2007 6:29 PM

Kane? Kodos? Are you listening?

P.S. The Stranger's "treatment" is more like a Laughing Hyena.

Posted by Zander | March 28, 2007 6:32 PM

TWICE - in recent memory district elections have been voted DOWN by the all too stupid voters.

DEAD issue, NON issue.

Districts invite corruption and nepotism....the mini machine system.

All council members now work for all voters. True. Once you figure out the committee system, you can talk issues with all of them.

Districts can enbolden a safe seat for a racist or homophobe. Neither would stay in office in this city past one election.

And, so forth. In any case, old news....except for Josh, who moved here from somewhere else, and is still amazed.....

Posted by Thrice | March 28, 2007 6:33 PM

John Manning - the convicted wife beater - former star cop type - on the comback???

How very funny.....but the Stranger might like his glib and charming manner, the sellout black guy.

Posted by Grunfeld | March 28, 2007 6:43 PM

Districts it not dead. It won't be a dead issue until we have a relevant City Council.

Strippergate happened under the At-Large system.
We have Districts for the State and Congress. Give an example of nepotism in either legislature?

What "District" of Seattle do you think would elect a racist or a homophobe these days?

Posted by Zander | March 28, 2007 6:50 PM

Seriously, how do I go about running in this thing?

Posted by Jeff | March 28, 2007 6:50 PM

I think Bill Sherman should run. Its a damn shame that he jumped into a race in the 43rd when there were so many other candidates because Bill is a political gem that any of us would be lucky to have working for us.

Posted by i think he should run... | March 28, 2007 8:00 PM

Jeff, I think figuring out where to pick up the proper forms on your own is one of the prerequisites for holding office... Although I guess it would be kind of cool to have a council member who comes to Slog and goes, "OK, anyone know how I should vote on this thing?"

Posted by Jude Fawley | March 28, 2007 8:01 PM


I see Richard Conlin all the time. What's your fucking problem? Pick up the phone and call him.

Richard is one of the most visible and most accessible public officials in this area.

Posted by ivan | March 28, 2007 10:11 PM


"What's your fucking problem?"


Your anger here on the Slog is wildly out of proportion. Get a grip on yourself, sir.

Posted by Goofus & Gallant | March 28, 2007 10:33 PM


"out of proportion?" On THIS blog? That's just too silly.

Posted by ivan | March 28, 2007 11:20 PM

My vote is for Sherman (AKA Sexy Breeder Daddy).

Posted by Jackass | March 28, 2007 11:31 PM

the fucking problem is that it is OK to say fucking and insult what you wish

Ivan is a very sensible poster.

When does the Stranger start pushing Steph Pure into the ring?

She does have city hall resume...

Posted by WELL NOW... | March 29, 2007 12:47 AM

Sherman is surely Max Breeder Daddy and virility flasher to the max....

His boys, his connections, his good looks, if only he had a program to match.

Venus and Breeder Daddy in the same race, too much to expect.

Posted by WELL NOW... | March 29, 2007 12:51 AM

#21 - above
Want to meet the mom who named her son Goofus....the old blue trailer with the junk cars and broken windows?

Posted by kk3 | March 29, 2007 7:03 AM

Via the cocktail talk chit chat last night - Venus has made some big mouth anti gay comments - if true, even slightly, that will kill any political future in this city for her natural life, and maybe corrode any city job.

Ck it out Josh - the facts - just the facts.

Posted by hilda | March 29, 2007 7:07 AM

The obvious reason no one wants to run: it's a terrible job.

No one likes you. You get zero strokes from the press (not just The Stranger). The mayor's got his hand in your pants before you've even taken the oath, tearing off your balls.

And most of all, the issues that you are likely to face in the coming session are intractible and have no good solution, none that will fail to mortally piss off 2/3 of the city. Namely the Viaduct.

Posted by Fnarf | March 29, 2007 10:11 AM

Insider comment for what it is worth - During the appointment process for the vacant slot that Sally Clark got, I was sleeping with a city hall insider.

There was a lot of staff time/feedback and time spent on evaluating this long list of applicants.

Venus had more negatives, more than all the rest of the candidates put together.

That alone chilled her chances.

For what it is worth. She apparently has burned a lot of bridges - and I suspect the knives will come out during a political campaign.



Posted by John | March 29, 2007 10:28 AM

I was sleeping with a city hall insider.

What a tool.

Posted by SeMe | March 29, 2007 10:45 AM

#29, SeMe - above

Indeed, what a tool. About 9 inches and hard for hours. Very sweet, torrid, and now over. You know, the ten week thing.

Slightly repressed wonks can be wildfire at night, of course, it takes the right stimulus package, too.......

Posted by John | March 29, 2007 11:21 AM

The creation of an open seat draws away doesn’t just steal away the strongest potential challengers to incumbents (Velasquez was eying Jean Godden; Harrell was going to run against Sally Clark), it also draws away media attention from the other races. The 2003 elections showed that even a so-so group of challengers attacking the Council as a group can create an unsafe situation for multiple incumbents. Likewise, a high-profile open seat race and a lack of strong challengers for incumbents makes potential candidates more likely to sit this election cycle out and wait for a 2009 open seat race.

One more thing: There are only two good reasons to run for office. They are:
1) You think you might win, and
2) You think your candidacy will draw attention, engage supporters, etc. and give you a better chance to win in a future election.

These are not good reasons to run for office:
1) To “give people a choice.”
2) To “hold incumbents accountable”
3) To entertain the news media and the chattering political classes

Posted by J.R, | March 29, 2007 12:01 PM

They're just afraid of getting skewered on the Slog. After Dan's outbursts last year on Jamie Pedersen, among other commentaries in the Stranger, I'm amazed anyone would run for office in this city.

Posted by Why no candidates? | March 29, 2007 1:33 PM

If a candidate is afraid of taking some heat on a blog, than they mos def have no biz running. Looking at Pedersen's support for corporate interests in Olympia, I would say that Dan's "outbursts" werent that far off.

Posted by SeMe | March 29, 2007 3:05 PM

your slam of Jamie is shit

sore losers abound

Jamie jumped in tot marriage/domestic partnership thing just like he said he would

for a low life newbie, he is doing great, get a clue

Posted by John | March 29, 2007 4:34 PM

#29: Gross.

Anyway, this City Council doesn't really get decent coverage from the media except for the Stranger so many voters really don't know who these people are. Most of the Councilmembers hide from the press, keep their heads down, and don't do anything to attract attention so they can keep their jobs.

I wouldn't have said this about previous Councils, but this one is zzzzzzzz....

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