Opinion

City council incumbents await more challengers | Roegner

This year, there are four Federal Way City Council positions up for election.

Two of the seats are held by longtime veterans Mike Park and Jack Dovey. Both are expected to run. Jim Ferrell will seek his third term on the council and Dini Duclos will seek her second.

City council seats are non-partisan. However, political relationships have always been a part of endorsements, donations and campaign volunteers.

Dovey and Ferrell are active Republicans. Park is an independent who was endorsed by the Democrats when he ran for mayor last year. But there were three Republicans in that race and the endorsements are up for grabs this year. Duclos is also an independent, but some Republicans were not happy with her support of Democrat Tracey Eide’s District 30 Senate campaign last year.

As a result, Duclos isn’t taking any chances. She has already held her campaign kick-off and had three Republicans — Ferrell, King County Council member Pete von Reichbauer and Mayor Skip Priest — as speakers. While she didn’t raise a significant amount of money ($1,500) toward her goal of $15,000, she does have a head start on any possible challenger.

Of the three council members who are not up for election this year, one is a Republican, one is a Democrat and one is independent.

While this gives the Republicans a majority on the council, it rarely comes into play because most decisions are issue based, not partisan. Frankly, some of the Republicans don’t always get along all that well. But it does create the need for caution and some cooperation within the ranks. It also provides a stronger “bench” for the Republicans when opportunities for higher office arise.

Democrats in Federal Way have focused on legislative races and issues the past few years, leaving the city council and Federal Way School Board races open to Republican advances.

However, local District 30 Democrats chairman Tim Burns has been much more visible at council meetings and appears to be actively recruiting Democratic candidates for the city council.

Among political insiders, Mike Park is considered the most vulnerable. Park is widely respected for his knowledge and history of government along with his business, social and political contacts. But some feel his length of time on the council, combined with his fourth-place finish in the 2010 mayoral race, could leave an opening for an aggressive candidate.

Local businessman and Democrat Roger Flygare announced his intentions to run against Park a couple of weeks ago. Flygare doesn’t have Park’s name familiarity or his ability to raise money, and will have a lot of ground to make up if he is going to give Park a race.

Another potential candidate included in the speculation is Diana Noble-Gulliford. Some think if she runs, it might be against Dovey to avoid the potentially crowded field of challengers that Park might attract. Noble-Gulliford ran for the council two years ago and lost to Roger Freeman. She has experience on the city’s planning commission and is well versed in city issues. However, she is a Republican, and challenging fellow Republican Dovey could cause a split in their base that could be shared if she ran against someone who wasn’t a Republican. After she thinks it through, Noble-Gulliford may decide not to run this time around.

If Park does attract more than one challenger, it works to his advantage by splitting the field.

The other potential candidate that people are watching is Bob Celski. He has good name familiarity, but no one knows his political leanings and he hasn’t been visible on city issues. At one point, he seemed certain to run. However, he hasn’t taken the steps a serious candidate would be taking. So he is a “maybe” at this time.

Insider comments regarding Park’s vulnerability notwithstanding, it is always hard to beat incumbents because they have built-in advantages. They know the issues better, have name familiarity and connections to groups for endorsements, volunteers and donations.

Also, having run before, they are not likely to make as many mistakes as a first-time office seeker. Park, Dovey, Duclos and Ferrell could all be vulnerable to the right candidate with the right message. But it won’t be easy.

Some of the candidates I mentioned in earlier columns are starting to make contacts. Others seem to be having second thoughts. It will be interesting to see if the Democrats actually are able to be successful in their recruitment efforts.

Other political dynamics are starting to unfold on the school board, so we will look at them in a future column.

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