Opinion

2012 election will reshape Federal Way politics | Roegner

While public attention is focused on the 2012 election, some political movers and shakers are already speculating about the 2013 elections.

This year’s election may prove to be the most important in decades because the stakes are so high in this state and nationally. The 2013 election cycle could have a more significant local impact on the direction of our community.

Next year’s highlights include a seat on the King County Council, three seats on the Federal Way City Council, along with the mayor’s office and the school board. Potential candidacies may depend on the winners and losers this year — and what decisions incumbent politicians make as they consider their options for 2013. Those outcomes will determine who will have the majority of power going into 2014.

King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer’s district covers both Federal Way and Auburn. He has held public office in Federal Way since the 1970s and is one of the most influential public officials in the region.

Even with the advent of the strong mayor system, von Reichbauer remains atop Federal Way’s political structure. If he were to retire, it would set off a chain reaction, as many are known to covet his council position. However, most believe he will run again and face only token opposition.

Mayor Skip Priest is up for election and seems certain to run.  Between his years on the city council and in the state House of Representatives, Priest has held public office in Federal Way for two decades and will be a formidable incumbent for anyone to take on. That hasn’t stopped speculation that someone will run against him. The only question seems to be, who? City Councilman Jim Ferrell’s name comes up the most often, but that seems unlikely.

Most speculation has centered less on the mayor’s office and more on possible changes in the city council.

Two city council members are running for the state Legislature. Linda Kochmar is running for House position one and Roger Freeman is running for House position 2. If one or both win, that would allow the remaining city council members to fill the vacancies through appointment. Both positions are up for election in 2013, and any appointees would have to stand for election.

Most speculation centers on former council members Mike Park and Jack Dovey. They are both close allies of Mayor Priest and are still respected by council members who worked with them. Mark Koppang made a positive showing in his losing race for the city council last year, and has remained visible around town. He was also recently appointed by the council to a city commission. He could be a candidate for appointment should a vacancy occur. Other possible candidates could include those who are running for the state Legislature this year, should they lose.

If neither of the council members are elected to the Legislature, they will be up for re-election to the city council next year along with City Councilwoman Jeanne Burbidge. No one knows what the three will do next year, but it seems certain that there will be at least one open council seat. The most likely candidate to run would be Koppang, although other names have been mentioned.

Control of the city’s philosophical rudder is at stake. Park and Dovey may or may not be interested in returning to the council. But being allies of Priest may not be an advantage. Remember, Priest supported Dovey against current City Councilman Bob Celski. And Priest is close to Republican State Rep. Katrina Asay and spoke at her re-election kickoff. This may not sit well with Freeman, who is running against Asay.

Celski is supporting Tony Moore in position one against fellow council member Linda Kochmar. Ferrell is neutral in that race, but is backing Freeman against Asay in position two. Council members Dini Duclos and Susan Honda, along with Celski and Kochmar, are supporting Asay over Freeman. In politics, candidates have long memories, and these alliances could play a role in future appointments and policy relationships.

The divisions on the city council are not always clear. With two Democrats, two Republicans and three in the middle, sometimes the alignments look partisan. Will the political parties play a role in fielding candidates as they did last year? With four females and three males, at times the alignments appear to be gender-based. Federal Way has several women in positions of community leadership. If one or both of the female incumbents, Kochmar and Burbidge, were to step down, would other female leaders step up?

Lastly, what if school board president Tony Moore is elected to the Legislature? School board members come from districts, even though they are elected at large. The most prominent name mentioned from Moore’s district is financial adviser Matthew Jarvis, but there could be more.

If Moore, a Republican, is elected to the Legislature, but the Democrats retain control of both Houses, city legislative success will be in the hands of incumbent Democratic Sen. Tracey Eide. In 2010, Moore ran against Eide. And as noted above, Priest is supporting Asay. Add in the fact that the city didn’t win a lot of friends in Olympia last year with some of its legislation on Sound Transit, and you may have some awkward moments.

The biggest question will be how the 2012 elections, and the below-the-radar political relationships, affect who has the power to set the direction of the community in 2014.

While you concentrate on who to vote for this year, keep in mind that others are already maneuvering for position on who you vote for next year.

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