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Tuesday, September 6, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Election 2005

Six little-known opponents facing Nickels in primary

Seattle Times staff reporters

Jeanne Dixon


Could not be reached.

Chris Hoeppner, 52


Occupation: Meatpacker

Personal: Single

Background: Longtime member of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, union activist

Campaign Web site: Does not have his own site; refers those interested in his campaign to www.themilitant.com

Richard Lee, 42


Occupation: Producer of cable-access television show

Personal: Single

Background: Hosted cable-access show for 12 years, wrote for publications including the Chicago Reader and UW Daily. Ran for mayor in 2001.

Campaign Web site: www.angelfire.com/wa3/richardlee

Greg Nickels, 50


Occupation: Seattle mayor

Personal: Married, two grown children

Background: Mayor, 2002-present; King County Council member, 1988-2001

Campaign Web site: www.gregnickels.com

Al Runte, 58


Occupation: Environmental historian and writer

Personal: Married

Background: University of Washington professor 1980-85, independent scholar since then

Campaign Web site: www.alrunte4mayor.com (not available in recent days)

Luke Williams, 37


Occupation: Lifeguard and swim instructor

Personal: Single

Background: Served in the Army

Campaign Web site: www.peopleforluke.org (has been up; yesterday was under construction)

Did not submit photo.

Christal Wood, 36


Occupation: administrative assistant, Lutheran Community Services

Personal: Single, one daughter

Background: Ran for mayor as write-in candidate, 2001; ran for Seattle City Council, 2003. Founded Gotham City Communications, a nonprofit public-interest media organization.

Campaign Web site: cw4mayor.notanumberinc.com

They lack the usual trappings of successful political candidates: sophisticated campaign organizations, money, major endorsements.

Their total years of experience in elected public office? Zero.

Meet the primary-election challengers to Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels.

Despite efforts by some neighborhood activists to find a big-name challenger to go up against Nickels, he faces just six little-known opponents as he seeks a second term.

They include a former University of Washington professor, a socialist who works as a meatpacker, and a cable-access-show host known mostly for his pursuit of a theory that rock star Kurt Cobain was murdered.

Rounding out the field are a swim instructor, an administrative assistant at a human-services agency, and a woman who paid the $1,416 filing fee but has done no visible campaigning.

After Sept. 20, the one who receives the second-highest number of votes (assuming Nickels is the top vote-getter) will move on to the general election, getting a six-week platform to criticize the mayor and argue why voters should dump him for a relative unknown.

Each of Nickels' rivals differs somewhat as to how they'd use that opportunity, though most share a sentiment that Nickels has grown too cozy with downtown developers and has neglected neighborhood concerns.

Al Runte

Al Runte, 58, a former UW history professor, has had a long-running battle with the university since he was denied tenure in 1985, effectively ending his teaching career.

Runte sued the UW twice, claiming he'd been treated unfairly, but both lawsuits were dismissed.

He has spent the past two decades as an independent scholar, specializing in national parks, and works out of the basement of his Wedgwood home. Regarded as an expert in the field, Runte recently flew to New Hampshire to be interviewed by filmmaker Ken Burns for a documentary on national parks.

This spring, Runte said, he "took a look around and decided I was tired of writing City Hall" about problems in the city and his neighborhood. So, at the urging of several neighbors, he jumped into the contest.

He contends Nickels' popular support is a "mile wide and an inch deep."

Though he has not been particularly active in local politics, Runte says, "I've paid my dues as a civic activist simply by being a good public servant and trying to preserve the idea of citizen activism. Every caring citizen is qualified for office."

Runte disagrees with the mayor's positions on the Alaskan Way Viaduct and South Lake Union streetcar — he opposes the streetcar and thinks the viaduct should be replaced with another elevated structure.

Runte said he thinks Nickels supports a tunnel to replace the viaduct because of "downtown developers who want it to sell condos with unobstructed views." He said a tunnel would create a "waterfront boutique enjoyed by one class, while the working and middle class go unheard."

Runte also says the mayor is neglecting basic street and bridge maintenance.

Runte, who has raised $5,300 so far, aims to collect $25,000 in contributions for the primary and $100,000 for the general election.

Runte was rated "very good," by the Municipal League, a nonpartisan civic-watchdog group that rates candidates based on their civic involvement, character and knowledge of local issues. That was the highest rating of any Nickels challenger.

Two other candidates, Christal Wood and Chris Hoeppner, were rated "adequate" by the league, while the other challengers received no ratings or were deemed "not qualified." Nickels was rated "outstanding," the league's highest ranking.

Christal Wood

Wood, 36, has become a perennial candidate since she first ran as a write-in for "mayoress" in 2001. Two years go, she ran for the City Council and received an endorsement from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer but failed to advance past the primary.

Wood, who lives on Capitol Hill and works as an administrative assistant for Lutheran Community Services, a nonprofit human-services agency, says her previous runs for office demonstrate her seriousness.

"I think when you run for office more than once, you're at least telling your community, 'I'm not going anywhere and I care enough to do this crazy thing,' " she said.

Wood views herself as superior to Nickels' other challengers, whom she described as uninformed publicity-seekers or overly focused on narrow subjects.

Though she lacks the usual political résumé, Wood said she has had life experiences — as a single mother who has scraped by on minimum-wage jobs — that other candidates, including Nickels, lack.

Wood proposes to cut parts of the city budget — she singled out the parks department — to spend more on human services.

Wood also suggests imposing tolls on Interstate 5, Interstate 90, and highways 520 and 99 to raise money for transportation projects. She favors legalization of marijuana and reform of other drug laws. Her campaign has raised $4,500.

Chris Hoeppner

Hoeppner, 52, is a meatpacker and member of the Socialist Workers Party. His platform is loaded with references to global issues.

For example, Hoeppner wants "immediate, unconditional withdrawal of U.S., U.N., and other imperialist armed forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Korea, Haiti, Colombia and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba," according to a voters-guide statement submitted to the city.

Hoeppner also favors a "massive, federally funded public-works program" to employ thousands of workers at union-wage jobs.

"You can't separate Seattle's economy from national and international economies," he said in an interview.

As a socialist, Hoeppner received an exemption from rules requiring disclosure of the names of his donors. Courts have ruled that socialists may hide their donors' names to shield them from harassment. For Hoeppner, so far, the secrecy rule has proved moot — his campaign has raised no money.

Luke Williams

Luke Williams, a swim instructor and lifeguard at city pools, said he is running because he's grown angry with Nickels and previous mayoral administrations' lack of attention to neighborhoods.

Williams, 37, said he feels overtaxed by multiple agencies and wants the city to publish a clear budget that outlines where all the tax money is being spent. His campaign has raised no money.

Richard Lee

Richard Lee, 42, has spent the past 12 years hosting a late-night public-access cable-television show devoted largely to his theory that Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was murdered, rather than committed suicide, in 1994.

In a written response to a Seattle Times candidate questionnaire, he said he opposes the Nickels administration's "top-down" management style and derided city aid to South Lake Union developers, including billionaire Paul Allen, as "a form of corporate welfare."

Lee previously ran for mayor in 2001. His campaign has raised no money.

Jeanne Dixon

Candidate Jeanne Dixon has no visible campaign and no campaign Web site or phone number, has raised no money, did not participate in the city's voters pamphlet, and could not be reached for comment.

Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or jbrunner@seattletimes.com.

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or byoung@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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