Several Seattle Democratic Districts banded together and held a mega-candidate forum last night at the Labor Temple on First Ave. in Belltown. The moderators asked a lot of good questions ("Name two things you'll do to get more cars off the road" "How will you serve both urban and suburban constituents?"), but I left the sweltering, crowded hall two hours later with a lot of questions about the candidates' answers.

1. Why are the candidates for King County Executive so much better qualified than the candidates for mayor.

Seriously: Mayoral candidate James Donaldson was openly reading from a typed script all night. Meanwhile, all the County Executive candidates—Dow Constantine, Fred Jarrett, Ross Hunter and Larry Phillips—were  talking in nuanced specifics about budgets, Metro, emergency preparedness, and health care.  

P.S. I must give smartest answer of the night to Phillips who completely reframed the hot button topic of King County employee health care coverage. Liberal Constantine talked about making management richies pay their fair share while standing by County workers' right to bargain. Conservative Jarrett backs a Republican council plan to, apparently, toss workers rights and make everybody pay more.

Phillips on the other hand got to the real issue of lowering healthcare costs and touted the County's "Healthy Incentives" plan—getting workers to live healthier lives—which has already lowered costs (in concert with lower usage) by $10 million.

2. Why is Mayor Nickels so subdued? Quote: "You make mistakes. You have to learn and don't repeat them." 

3. Why are we spending $4.2 billion on a waterfront highway tunnel that will increase global warming and siphon money away from  implementing things like the Master Bike Plan and the Master Pedestrian Plan?

This question is brought to you (repeatedly) by Mayoral candidate Mike McGinn who is capable of boiling every issue down to Mayor Nickels decision to build the deep bore tunnel. "Why aren't we putting our money where our beliefs are?" McGinn asks. 

4. What the hell creepy program was Mayor Nickels talking about when he said the City had identified "800 kids who will be victims or perpetrators of violence?"

5. Why was Eastsider Fred Jarrett the most articulate K.C. Exectuive  canditate (as opposed to Seattleites Constantine and Phillips) about the 20/40/40 Metro service split that screws Seattle. Jarrett called the whole equation (which allocates 80 percent of all new bus hours to the two suburban regions of King County and only 20 to Seattle) a "false concept" and a "political compromise."

6. Did you know there's "a war on cars" in Seattle? So said Mayoral candidate Elizabeth Campbell, who added that we must keep our "freedom of economic choice and maintian [car] capacity."

7. Why did the City "dismantle or 'reorganize' the gang unit?"

This question was asked with biting sarcasm by Jan Drago, who lambasted Nickels for cutting the unit, something she fought against in 2002. Drago's emotional speech about the gang unit was her only effective moment in her otherwise lackluster debut as a Mayoral candidate in which her answers got about as specific as this one: "We need more transit. We need more money for transit. Because we need more transit."

8. Why was the gang unit "disabanded?" This question was (also) asked by newly-stand-up-and-be-energized Mayoral candidate Joe Mallahan who was on the attack all night, calling Seattle "fundamentally broken" and saying "Nickels has proven he isn't a good manager."

(Mallahan, however, still isn't providing a compelling reason that voters should vote for him instead. He had some belabored private-sector-experience-equals-I'm-qualified story about making sure pre-paid T-Mobile customers got service during a hurricane. But at least as opposed to Drago, he was hitting Nickels.) 

9. Why didn't Mayor Nickels address the gang unit issue?

10. Why does City Attorney candidate Pete Holmes keep hammering away at the issue of "alternatives to incarceration" when City Attorney Tom Carr's record on it—creating a community court, diverting first time offenders, electronic monitoring—is pretty impressive. Indeed, Carr's programs have reduced the average daily jail population by 37 percent. I'm not saying Carr's record is perfect, but Holmes' attack isn't working: He talks in sweeping generalities while Carr hits back with lots of details. 

11. Why does City Attorney candidate Pete Holmes keep proclaiming that he's against building a new jail? Carr is too. (And  Carr's take is much less sound bitten and more honest. After the debate, I asked Carr why, unlike Holmes, he didn't flat out say he was against a new City jail. Carr said: "It's a false question. If the County won't house our prisoners, I can't just tell people I'm not going to.") 

12. Why didn't a single Mayoral candidate bring up improving Seattle schools when they were asked about the problem of youth violence. Taking over the Seattle schools was even one of McGinn's campaign platforms. Instead, McGinn brought up his work on the parks levy. Didn't a teenager just get shot in a park last week?

13. How come Ross Hunter is willing to complain about Speaker of the House Frank Chopp now—"Frank really really wanted us to vote with the Republicans so we'd look like we were being really tough on Sex offenders"—but not during the legislative session?

Hunter didn't vote for the bill—which Chopp feared would get Hunter—the first Democrat elected from his Eastside district ever—booted. Hunter voted against the bill. He didn't get booted.