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Wednesday, August 22, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Incumbents way ahead; Position 3 the hot race

Seattle Times staff reporter

Incumbents sailed through the primary in the Seattle City Council races Tuesday, while newcomers Venus Velázquez and Bruce Harrell were headed to the general election to vie for the one open seat.

Councilmembers Jean Godden and Sally Clark easily advanced to the Nov. 6 election.

The top two finishers in each race move on to the general election.

The most competitive contest was for Position 3, the seat now held by Peter Steinbrueck, who is not seeking re-election.

"It feels really good to come out of the gate this well," said Velázquez, a public-affairs consultant.

She said her message resonated with voters.

"I'm bringing the most experience out of any candidate to the council having worked on the issues our city is facing," she said.

Attorney Harrell, who had the second-most votes, said he was "very pleased" even though he trailed Velázquez. The two have raised more than $100,000 each.

"We know that in a field with an early primary where there is one woman against four men, two of whom have some name familiarity, we knew that that would take a block of votes," Harrell said.

Writer Al Runte, who previously ran for mayor, was trailing the two leaders.

First-time candidate Scott Feldman, a technology manager, and former City Councilmember John Manning also appeared to be out of the running.

In the Position 1 race, high-school teacher Joe Szwaja held a small edge over other challengers to face Godden in the general election. Lauren Briel, a transit-pass vendor, and Robert Sondheim, a restaurant owner, did not appear likely to advance.

"Of course I'm in favor" of Tuesday's results, Godden said. She was far ahead of any competitors.

Looking at the other races, she said, "I'm a little surprised that Venus is that far ahead of Bruce. I would have thought that would have been more even."

Szwaja, who previously served on the City Council in Madison, Wis., was confident he would make it out of the primary to run against Godden.

"My experience in Seattle is progressive votes go up during the night," he said.

Szwaja has raised about $43,500, according to campaign-finance reports, while Godden has raised about $179,100.

In the race to face Clark for the Position 9 seat, festival-concession operator Judy Fenton led slightly against other challengers attorney Stan Lippmann and retired Seattle firefighter Bob Brown.

Five council seats are up for election this year.

Incumbent Tom Rasmussen has no competition for another four-year term in Position 5, while incumbent David Della will face marketing consultant Tim Burgess in November.

Della and Burgess were the only two candidates who filed for Position 7.

Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or schan@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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