"I never, ever said I was retiring," says Seattle City Councilmember Jan Drago, who is retiring from her City Council seat this year, but apparently still longs for staying in the thick of the action. Among the options she says she's exploring, though "I've just begun to think about it," is challenging Mayor Greg Nickels this fall.
Drago, who is 68, put her hat in the ring for the president of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, which is expected to announce its choice as early as today. (Drago didn't make the final round of interviews.) She says the possibility of heading the Chamber made clear to her that "I could get energized, excited about a new challenge." Soon, she says, "rumors were flying about my future," including running for a Port of Seattle commissioner, working for the Gates Foundation, or Vulcan (Paul Allen's real estate development company), or running for Mayor. She declined to eliminate any of those four possibilities.
On the Mayor's race, Drago gave some intriguing hints. Noting Mayor Nickels' continued low popularity ratings in polls as recent as April, she predicted that "he will not avoid a serious challenge" at least one more serious than current candidates Mike McGinn, running from the green left of Nickels, and James Donaldson, running as a pro-business candidate, are likely to generate.
Drago also talked about how her relations with former City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck, once testy, have become far more cordial. That suggests the possibility of a kind of fusion candidacy. Drago's base would be downtown business (she was key in orchestrating the deep-bore tunnel option for the Viaduct, for instance), women, and assorted pro-business voters. Steinbrueck, who last week bowed out of a Mayor's race in favor of a year at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, appeals to neighborhood activists (likely to be very wary of Drago), advocates for the poor and the homeless, historic preservationists, and the green/sustainability coalition.
Just speculating here, but it would be interesting to see if a kind of left-right coalition could be assembled, thus pushing Nickels from both flanks. Since a Mayor doesn't have a running mate, it's not easy to see how such a coalition would have institutional foundations, aside from endorsements beyond Drago's normal base. At any rate, Drago would clearly need to send convincing signals of a wider appeal. She would also be making a very late start, short on money and organization, and is not the most articulate candidate in town. Her strengths: experience, scrappiness, years of showing up at political events almost every evening, a prominent position in the "Old Girls Network" of powerful women in business and government, and skill at pulling together votes and coalitions.