Retiring from his post next January, Seattle City Council member Peter Steinbrueck has virtually closed the door on running for Mayor in 2009. Instead, he's going to be taking a job in the private sector, one that meets his four objectives for a new job, which he describes this way: "integrated design disciplines, mission-driven around urban sustainability, global, and leaving freedom to advocate near and far." Steinbrueck said to me over lunch a few weeks ago that he has "clear misgiving about another run for elective office. I'm moving on folks, at least for a while. One can pursue civic endeavors and fight the good fight (and I intend to continue to do so!) in different ways and try to still have a life." Not quite a Shermanesque won't-serve-if-elected, and Steinbrueck is famous for his changes of mind, but the clear excitment I detected as he talked about his new job prospect (employer unnamed at this point) suggests that the field is now wide open for others who may want to challenge Mayor Greg Nickels in 2009, when he is expected to seek a third term. The Great Mentioner has not had many names to float, with Steinbrueck looming as the likely leading candidate. On the City Council, Nick Licata and Jan Drago both seem very disinclined, leaving only Richard Conlin as a (fairly unlikely) possibility. Outside the council, some a year ago were touting Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske (whose popularity has dipped). More recent names are: lawyer Jenny Durkan, King County Councilmember Bob Ferguson and, assuming he wins, Prosecutor-candidate Bill Sherman. State Sen. Ed Murray, no fan of Nickels, showed a flicker of interest in the race in 2005, but is probably content with his influential post in Olympia. Jim Diers, pushed out of his job as head of the Department of Neighborhoods, remains a popular figure but has a low profile since leaving his job. Not that Nickels and his powerful labor-developer-greens coalition would be easy to beat. It would probably take two strong candidates, one to the left (where Steinbrueck would have been) and one to the right, squeezing Nickels out in the primary or badly weakening him. That's what happened in 2001, when Nickels ran to the left of Mayor Paul Schell, picking up union and environmental support, and Mark Sidran ran to the right, garnering downtown and business backing. Nickels narrowly defeated Sidran in the final.