PRESS HIM HARD ENOUGH and Christian Sinderman—advisor to five city council candidates—will compare himself to an embattled salmon swimming back to spawning grounds, going “against the current and rough around the edges.”

The 43-year-old political consultant isn’t just recounting a fish tale. Celebrated for rebooting U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell’s political career in 2000 and directing Governor Christine Gregoire’s 2008 reelection campaign, Sinderman even has the grudging respect of his nemesis, right-wing initiative advocate Tim Eyman. “He’s very cutthroat, goes for the jugular,” says Eyman. “The dude is the king of the hill.”

King of the hill, some say, because he courts candidates with deep pockets. Since founding his consulting firm, Northwest Passage, a decade ago, Sinderman has swept up the lion’s share of revenue for consultants in the state—$12 million.

And his price tag lets him outsource to vendors who specialize in every visual trick in the book, from heavily produced television spots to jamming neighborhoods with yard signs and glossy direct-mail literature. (An eye-searing pink and red mailer for Gregoire pictured opponent Dino Rossi head-melding with George W. Bush, as if the two men were conjoined twins in a carnival sideshow.)

Competitors pray his approach will soon be obsolete. In the age of low-cost video production and social media outreach, says rival consultant John Wyble, “campaigns have changed. The barrier to entry is low for those with the required skill sets.”

Maybe. But that won’t likely matter this time. Four incumbents in this year’s city council election (Tim Burgess, Bruce Harrell, Tom Rasmussen, and Sally Clark) and one challenger (Maurice Classen) have jumped on the Sinderman consulting train.

The only hope for future foes of Sinderman’s candidates may come from Sinderman himself: “I’m not gonna do this forever.”

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