Stuck in the Middle With Jan

When lame-duck city councilwoman Jan Drago entered the mayoral race against Mayor Nickels, she was instantly perceived as the top threat to the incumbent mayor. But her emphasis on style over substance failed to register with voters, resulting in one of the most perplexing campaigns in city history. That Drago could have been elected Seattle's first female mayor since 1926 (and only the second ever—astonishing for a city as progressive as ours) was never played up, while her campaign instead relied on her opposition to the grocery-bag tax and, as mentioned, the style thing. The party thrown for Drago, a distinguished city politician for the better part of two decades, at McCoy's Firehouse last Tuesday night was a somber affair. To his credit, consultant Joe Quintana, who ditched James Donaldson's campaign to join Drago's, stuck around until 9 p.m. to deliver something of an off-the-cuff post-mortem, but fellow defector Blair Butterworth had gone home by then. Despite the fact that his former client, Donaldson, beat Drago by a point, Butterworth says he has no regrets about pulling the political equivalent of jumping off the Titanic and onto a leaky wooden raft of Cuban refugees with a go-fast boat hot on its tail, full of immigration agents. "We sort of got squeezed," says Butterworth. "We weren't as much change as McGinn and Mallahan, and not as much status quo as Nickels." "The more interesting thing about this is McGinn and [Position 8 City Council leader Mike] O'Brien were as close as you can be to single-issue candidates [block the tunnel replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct]," Butterworth adds. "Both of them touched on a constituency that's very worried about taxes and the economy." As for the notion that Drago's camp cockily reserved funds for a general-election assault on Nickels, Butterworth says, "We didn't save anything for the general. We had more growth potential than either Mallahan or McGinn. We were confident we would raise money for the general. We just got stuck in the middle." While Donaldson's campaign manager, Cindi Laws, was hardly stoked at her candidate's fourth-place positioning, the fact that said positioning ranked ahead of Drago's was not lost on her. Laws filled the void left by Butterworth, who thought he had a more promising prospect on his hands with Drago, when in fact neither candidate had anywhere near the juice to close. "I think that there was a lot of satisfaction [in coming in ahead of Drago]," says Laws. "Not against Jan personally, [but] there was a lot of glee among our supporters [about beating Butterworth]." As for her candidate's shortcomings, Laws puts a fair amount of blame on retired NBA players and others who failed to make good on $100,000 in promised contributions to the former Sonic's campaign, which operated on a veritable shoestring. "I can't even begin to tell you how disappointed we were with a lot of people," says Laws. Donaldson says he's yet to give much thought to his future in electoral politics, saying only that he'll remain engaged and "chime in from time to time" on certain issues. For her part, Drago is now 0 for 2 in her attempt to find a post-council job (she also failed to land a gig as head of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce). As luck would have it, the city is in the market for new Landmark Preservation Board members, a post the Pioneer Square resident should be more than qualified for.

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