Laugh with Paul

Until a couple weeks ago, "humor" and "city politics" seemed like contradictory concepts.

That was before Mayor Paul Schell unveiled his secret campaign weapon: funny newspaper ads. Schell's first salvo in the humor wars featured Hizzoner hugging a tree, a zany reference to his impulse purchase of a $35,000 tree for the new City Hall. With Schell's luck, you'd figure this madcap display would trigger a laugh riot, resulting in scores of injuries and arrests.

Humor hasn't been a mainstay of Seattle mayoral campaigns; the last funny bit was four years ago when the Seafair Pirate candidate hauled a porta-potty along downtown streets to show . . . well, nobody remembers what. Probably just another case of too much grog.

But, unless Schell's political advisers have likewise taken to excessive drink, the surprise joke parade is probably aimed at boosting the mayor's likability quotient while heading off criticism of his blunders by bringing them up in a humorous light. Can't wait to see that wacky Mardi Gras gang-attack parody.

On the pro side, Schell's campaign did inspire articles in both daily newspapers. But, as said stories featured major Seattle political figures speculating that the incumbent has lost his marbles, it was at best a break-even proposition.

At least his second ad is better—sort of. This time, the sheepish-looking mayor is wearing an ink-spattered suit in rueful reference to his savaging by local editorialists. Although the subtext is probably the painful breakup of Schell's mutual admiration pact with The Seattle Times (and a reminder to unions that he stood up to the press lords during the Newspaper Guild strike), it would have worked better if the ink barrel in the ad had been labeled "Seattle Times," rather than simply "Ink."

Schell's future jabs need to be aimed at his opponents, not himself. With results like his recent defeat in the 46th District Democrat endorsement tally (Greg Nickels got 35 out of a possible 38 votes, and Mark Sidran got the other three—the five remaining eligible voters elected to move to Portland), the mayor needs to get serious about the primary or risk being a spectator come November.

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