On September 18, 2001, Seattle City Attorney Mark Sidran (b. 1951) and Metropolitan King County Council member Greg Nickels (b. 1955) garner more votes in the primary election than Mayor Paul Schell (1937-2014). Schell receives only 22 percent of the vote, and becomes the first incumbent Seattle mayor to be defeated in a primary since 1938, when Mayor John F. Dore lost to Arthur B. Langlie and Vic Meyers (1898-1991).
Mark Sidran raised the most contributions and earned the most newspaper endorsements in the primary. He eked out a plurality based on absentee votes, but would lose narrowly to Nickels in the November 6, 2001, general election.
Former city planner and developer Paul Schell was elected in 1997. His popularity was undermined by the 1999 World Trade Organization protests, by Fat Tuesday riots in February 2001, and by the relocation of Boeing's headquarters to Chicago that same year. Public anxiety following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and the slump in the local economy may have reinforced doubts over his leadership abilities.