Opinion

Frustration, change and Democrats | Roegner

According to voters, the local election theme for 2013 turned out to be “frustration, change and Democrats.”

Even though none of the positions up for election were partisan, political affiliation did play an important role as the public expressed its frustration with the status quo.

The result was change, and the beneficiaries were mostly Democrats.

Countywide, voter turnout was about 40 percent. In Federal Way, it was about 33 percent. Pre-election projections suggested that a turnout above 27 percent would benefit the Democrats, but a turnout below 27 percent would benefit Republicans.

The big change was in the mayor’s office as Democratic Deputy Mayor Jim Ferrell captured 55 percent of the vote compared to incumbent Republican Mayor Skip Priest’s 45 percent. It was neither an easy win nor an overnight win for Ferrell. It came about through a combination of hard work and Priest’s missteps — which included two investigations, use of dated police statistics, and an unexpected impact from the Pinewood murders and pygmy goats.

Ferrell was a credible opponent, but as one well connected source said, “this was Priest’s race to lose.” Priest never was able to define the difference between himself and Ferrell.

Conversely, Ferrell was able to co-op public safety from the incumbent as an issue by getting the support of the Federal Way Police Officers Guild, and then play “fiscal conservative” to Priest’s “big spender” position on the proposed Performing Arts and Conference Center (PACC). That’s a noticeable role reversal for partisans.

In the council races, appointed incumbent Kelly Maloney won comfortably at nearly 61 percent over Mark Koppang’s 39 percent. Both are conservatives, but Koppang served as chair of local Republicans, which given the turnout, probably moved the Democrats toward Maloney, who appeared unaffiliated. Maloney likely picked up early and significant support after her complaint against Mayor Priest’s behavior gave her credibility with many Democrats, women and independent voters. Koppang worked hard, but was never able to move voters his way.

Democrat Martin Moore upset appointed incumbent Republican Diana Noble-Gulliford with 55 percent to 44 percent of the vote — about the same margin as the mayoral race. Moore was shy on grand ideas, but strong on passion and hard work. The wins by Ferrell and Moore also may have generational overtones, and suggest a changing of the guard.

Longtime Federal Way City Councilmember Jeanne Burbidge was re-elected with 67 percent over first-time candidate and local businessman John Fairbanks at 32 percent. Burbidge remains one of the city’s more formidable incumbents.

Burbidge has never claimed a party affiliation, but most observers would put her close to the political center and to the left of Fairbanks. At 67 percent, she got independents, Democrats and much of the Republican vote as well.

In the school board races, the evening’s theme was even more apparent as frustration with the status quo resulted in Democrat Geoffery McAnalloy defeating longtime incumbent Republican Ed Barney, 53 percent to 47 percent.

At the same time, Democrat Carol Gregory defeated Medgar Wells by almost the same percentage. Wells was an articulate first-timer who didn’t disclose a party affiliation.

However, he was introduced around the community by Republican school board member Tony Moore. It’s hard to say if Moore’s legal troubles contributed to Wells defeat or not.

But the board and superintendent’s travel and salary increase, along with the grading system, certainly played a role in both races. The election and change in board members may also shift the board-superintendent relationship, along with district policy direction and parent-teacher participation.

In the South King Fire and Rescue district, incumbent Bill Gates won with a comfortable margin over Jerry Galland. Galland, while sincere and earnest in his attempts to win public office, may have reached the point where the public reacts more to the messenger rather than the message.

Even though the district denied most of Galland’s charges, there is a public perception, even among many people who voted for Gates, that the district may need to review some of its positions. A different candidate may have yielded a closer race.

We will take a closer look at some of these races over the next few weeks.

If you see any of the candidates, thank them for running.

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Federal Way resident Bob Roegner, a former mayor of Auburn: bjroegner@comcast.net.

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