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Originally published Monday, March 2, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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So far, no major candidate running against mayor

So far, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels doesn't face a serious challenge in his bid for a third term, but more than a dozen people have filed to run for City Council.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels has his share of critics, but it looks like he could coast to a third term this year because so far, no major challenger is promising to run against him.

City Councilmember Tim Burgess is the latest potential candidate to take a serious look at a run and decide to skip it. He announced Friday that he agreed with Nickels on issues and wasn't up for a race that ultimately would be about personality.

He's not the only political observer to note that, even if some people dislike Nickels — one recent poll by Survey USA shows his approval rating at 33 percent the mayor has a record of support from the environmental and business communities that would be difficult to overcome.

The list of people who have considered, then rejected, taking on Nickels this year includes Burgess, City Councilmember Nick Licata, Council President Richard Conlin, developer Greg Smith and Mark Sidran, the former Seattle city attorney whom Nickels beat to first win the mayor's post in 2001.

Many thought when Peter Steinbrueck left the City Council just over a year ago that he might take on Nickels. But only two challengers have listed their candidacies with the city. Executive recruiter Norman Sigler just put up his campaign Web site Sunday, saying he wants to "usher in a new era where our government genuinely cares about and respects its citizens' concerns." Local activist David Wolbeck is also listed as a mayoral candidate but does not have an active campaign.

Meanwhile, a flood of candidates has filed to run for Seattle City Council. As of last week, 12 challengers had registered to run for the four seats up this year.

Councilmember Jan Drago, who was first elected in 1993 and is the longest-serving member, announced in an e-mail to supporters Sunday that she will not seek re-election.

She wrote: "During last year's presidential campaign, Barack Obama echoed the clarion call 'It's time for change.' ... I have decided that it IS a time for a change — change for the City Council and change for me. Therefore, I will not be seeking re-election this year."

Licata says he is leaning toward running, and Conlin announced several weeks ago he will run. Councilmember Richard McIver plans to retire at the end of 2009.

"There's a definite mood out there that says, at least I can try," said Cathy Allen, a political consultant.

A crowded primary ballot means lesser-known candidates with "neighborhood" agendas have a better chance, Allen said. Most council candidates have not announced which seats they will seek, and they don't have to until June.

Jessie Israel, whose job is to make King County Parks and Recreation more entrepreneurial, is challenging Licata. Jordan Royer, who worked for Nickels and former Mayor Paul Schell and is the son of former Mayor Charles Royer, announced he will run for the seat McIver is vacating.

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Other names on the candidate list are David Miller, owner of a biotech stock research company and a Maple Leaf resident who has fought plans to cut down two stands of trees in his neighborhood; James Donaldson, a former Sonics player and small-business owner; David Bloom, an activist for homeless people who founded the Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness and co-founded the Downtown Emergency Service Center; Sally Bagshaw, a King County deputy prosecuting attorney; Mike O'Brien, chairman of the local Sierra Club chapter; and Pete Holmes, a local attorney and an advocate for police oversight.

Repeat candidate and real-estate broker Robert Rosencrantz, restaurateur Robert Sondheim, Iraq war veteran Dorsol Plants, and David Ginsberg, who works at Washington Mutual as a solutions architect, have also announced they intend to run.

"It's shaping up to be a pretty exciting field," said Christian Sinderman, a political consultant. "I think there's going to be a renewed focus on providing basic services, on improving the economic climate and making targeted investments."

Other candidates may still come forward to run for mayor. Donaldson said he hasn't ruled it out.

But Nickels appears well-positioned to get the environmental vote, having made reducing waste and greenhouse gases central priorities in his administration.

On the same ballot voters decide whether to send Nickels back for another term, they will consider a proposal he supports to charge 20 cents for plastic bags at the grocery store.

"You can't win a race against this mayor based on delivery," Drago said. "It's hard for me to conceive of running a campaign based on process and personality if you have a good record. I think that's the dilemma."

Indeed, that's why Burgess decided last week to stay out.

"At the end of the day ... we align on a lot of issues, so the campaign would be one of personality and style. That's kind of an exercise in vanity, I guess. I'm not interested in doing that."

Nickels acknowledged he has not always been popular but said he thinks his accomplishments have kept challengers out of the race. "I have always thought doing a good job is more important than being popular," he said.

Nickels said he will focus on issues that affect people's lives. "I'm going to speak to issues that I think are important, and people can judge my personality how they want," he said.

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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