City council members don't often make endorsements or contributions to mayoral challengers, thinking, understandably, that it's best to stay out of a fight that will have real consequences for their relationships with whoever eventually gets elected.

(In 2009, for example, just three council members contributed to mayoral candidates: Jean Godden gave to both Nickels and Drago, and Bruce Harrell gave to Drago). 

But city council member Nick Licata made himself an exception this week, coming out as an early endorser for his former council colleague Peter Steinbrueck, who just joined the already-crowded field of contenders hoping to oust Mayor Mike McGinn.

In his announcement yesterday, Steinbrueck staked out his turf as an advocate of "people" rather than "density," which he has opposed in South Lake Union, where he advocated against a Vulcan-authored proposal to allow buildings as tall as 400 feet in exchange for amenities like low-income housing.

"A lot of people have this clear line between pro-and anti-development, but Peter makes a distinction between them."—Nick LicataLicata and Steinbrueck were frequent allies on the council—joining, for example, to oppose the South Lake Union streetcar, to question a city tax-exemption program that funds relatively high-rent housing, and opposing a plan to run a new monorail through the heart of Seattle Center.

However, he has also clashed with Steinbrueck on issues of process (he was more eager than Steinbrueck to move the monorail forward), development of the city's industrial lands, and the downtown tunnel.

Our One Question for Licata: Why are you supporting Peter Steinbrueck for mayor?

Licata's response: "I’ve known Peter for a long time, so there’s a personal history there. We’ve both been on the council for a long time fighting developers [with] bad ideas. He’s been pretty consistent in his values. We’ve had our disagreements on a number of issues, but we’ve always come back to being able to talk about things.

"Peter started off as critical of [developers]. Peter became involved in trying to keep Pine Street closed as an open park space, and that was butting heads against the Nordstrom folks and the downtown developers (true), but he’s been willing to compromise. People like [Seattle Displacement Coalition founder] John Fox [who has endorsed Steinbrueck] and those folks would be pushing for things, and he would give them verbal support but make compromises.

"He’s always been critical of bad designs and pretty supportive of development in general (true), but only good development. A lot of people have this clear line between pro-and anti-development, but Peter makes a distinction between them."