Three contenders three

Nobody will admit to being impressed with the three top candidates for Seattle City Council position 1, but nobody's shown enough guts to challenge them, either.

Lesser political gladiators fled the battle to succeed retiring council member Sue Donaldson when a second seat opened up, but the big three still remain. The starting lineup:

* Cheryl Chow, a two-term council member who quit to run for mayor in 1997 and is now plotting a comeback.

* Dawn Mason, a two-term state representative who fell short in her 1998 bid to move up to the state senate.

* Daniel Norton, former chairman of the King County Democrats and a first-time office-seeker.

Given the value of name recognition in local politics, it's hard to bet against Chow surviving the primary. She entered the race with a splash, raising more than $20,000 in her first month. But Chow's campaign banked just $1,422 in May. Supporters argue she's been busy with her day job as a Seattle School District administrator, but candidates who expect to coast through the primary don't always get rewarded.

Mason is well known and popular in her former legislative district, the 37th, and her campaign has allowed her to reconnect with supporters whose party loyalty caused them to sit out her challenge to incumbent Democratic State Sen. Adam Kline. She's the best stump speaker of the trio and has raised almost $25,000 so far. Mason has precedent on her side—longtime state rep Dick Nelson survived a council primary in 1991 due to massive support from voters in his own legislative district. But, Nelson also crashed and burned in the final election due to his so-so citywide name recognition.

Norton is counting on Seattle's love of everything Democratic to get through the primary. As county chair, he showed up at every political event under the sun, so he's well known among the politicos. Which, come election day, is kind of like being a legend in the Swedish community—good props; few votes. He's also trailing in the fund-raising department with about $10,000 collected.

The wild cards in the race are the editorial-page endorsements of the two daily newspapers. Both the Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer have blasted Chow and Mason as mediocre retreads, but neither paper is wild about Norton's record of questioning establishment edicts like opening Pine Street and building sports stadiums. Another candidate could slip over to this crowded race in hopes of wooing the dailies, but don't bet on it—it's a cold world when you get bounced in the primary.

Board games

Now that a trio of city department heads has frustrated city council efforts to review the Marriott waterfront hotel project, only an activist's appeal could stop the view-blocking structure.

Irene Wall, who has long claimed that the high-profile project's high profile will obstruct views from Victor Steinbrueck Park, will argue her case before the State Shorelines Hearings Board in August. Can a non-lawyer compete with the roomful of pin-striped, $300-an-hour mouthpieces the hearing is sure to draw?

Surprisingly, the answer is yes (or, more accurately, "maybe"). Ordinary citizens have won cases before the board in past years. But the presence of a flock of opposition counsel (including city attorneys, as Wall is technically appealing not the project but the city's decision to grant a permit) can complicate the proceedings, says one local lawyer. Obviously, the presence of multiple attorneys can also be nerve-wracking for a citizen appellant.

Council member Nick Licata says he is investigating whether the council has other legal options. While he's at it, he might investigate who drafted the 1994 agreement between the city and Port of Seattle governing development of the hotel and other waterfront projects. It's ridiculous that this document grants three department heads—hired hands, not elected officials—the authority to prevent the council from reviewing a project of such significance.

Siegel goes Hollywood?

Seattle radio-listeners already knew former KVI talk show host Mike Siegel has a flair for the dramatic. But they might be surprised to learn that Siegel has been cast in the leading role in an upcoming Hollywood movie.

Siegel, whose show is syndicated through TalkAmerica Radio (and broadcast locally on Tacoma's KLAY-AM), is slated to star in a biopic about groundbreaking New York talk-radio host Barry Gray. He admits that producer Gene Corman (F.I.S.T., Tobruk) hasn't arranged all the financing for the movie, but says he's thrilled at the prospect of portraying Gray, a New York City icon at radio stations WMCA and WOR. Siegel, who also worked at Seattle's KING-AM, worked as a substitute for Gray on WMCA and was later given his own show. He also had the honor of working Gray's air shift the night of the radio pioneer's death. Siegel recalls he spoke for just 15 minutes. "The rest of the show was listeners talking about his effect on their lives," he says. Like his mentor, Siegel was no stranger to controversy—he got sacked by KVI after airing unsubstantiated rumors about former mayor Norm Rice.

Friends in high places

All politicians love a parade, but city council candidate Curt Firestone had a tough time trying to engage the spectators at Fremont's Solstice Parade. That is, until Firestone ran to the aid of a stilt-walker who tumbled from his perch to the pavement. A few people snickered when the political hopeful rushed over, but Firestone and other parade-goers managed to get the sky-walker righted and re-strapped to his stilts. Looks like Firestone's rival, incumbent Margaret Pageler, may have to cede him the stilt vote.

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