Where's the fire in his belly? U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Spokane, appeared at the CityClub of Seattle last week, but just barely. For a guy who is running for U.S. Senate, trying to defeat popular incumbent Democrat Patty Murray, Nethercutt did not evidence much passion. He remained the picture of a genial, low-key congressman from Eastern Washington. He said he didn't much like to go out at night to political or fund-raising events, preferring to spend time with his family. He stayed close to the standard Republican line on most issues: The deficit is nothing to worry about because the economy is turning around; we are striking a great blow for world freedom by liberating the Iraqi people; and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge can be done in an environmentally sensitive way. But there was a notable exception: Nethercutt seems to be a centrist on gay rights. While he thinks legal marriage should only be between a man and a woman, he stresses, "I have no objection to the lifestyle of anyone in our state," and he actually opposes a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Nethercutt seemed, however, weary of debating the issues of the day. In fact, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Tacoma, also spoke at CityClub and turned in a lively performance as a fiery, pro-war, deficit hawk, upstaging Nethercutt. The only thing that really seemed to excite Nethercutt was defending President Bush. And a request from that president might be all it took to convince him to desert his safe House of Representatives seat and take on Murray next fall.

Now here's an odd couple: law-and-order attorney general candidate Mark Sidran and medical marijuana campaign hot shot Tim Killian. Sidran, the former Seattle city attorney and chief architect of the city's controversial civility laws, has hired Killian to be his campaign manager. Killian and his brother, Dr. Rob Killian, were last in the public eye as the manager and chief spokesperson, respectively, of two statewide ballot measures to reform drug policy: 1997's sweeping and unsuccessful liberalization and 1998's narrow and successful medical marijuana initiative. Killian says Sidran supports medical marijuana for patients who need it, so the issue does not divide them. Moreover, Killian thinks Sidran's blend of core Democratic values and tough-guy credentials make him a perfect candidate for the Dems in their quest to hold the AG's office. (Current Attorney General Christine Gregoire is running for governor.) "Mark jokes that certain people thought he was a Republican," says Killian. Sidran's endorsers reflect his diversity, Killian argues. Besides 15 county prosecutors, there are liberal stalwarts like environmentalists Mitch Friedman and Peter Goldman, and Roberto Maestas, executive director of El Centro de la Raza. The campaign's spin on the issue highlights a real challenge for Sidran winning the Democratic primary against hard-charging former insurance commissioner Deborah Senn. She is the obvious favorite among Democratic primary voters, who skew much more liberal than general-election voters, because of her reputation as a consumer advocate. GEORGE HOWLAND JR.

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