Federal Way performing arts center key to council appointment | Inside Politics

Bob Roegner - Contributed
Bob Roegner
— image credit: Contributed

In what some observers may view as an upset, Lydia Assefa-Dawson was elected in a 4-2 vote to fill Mayor Jim Ferrell’s seat on the Federal Way City Council.

Deputy Mayor Jeanne Burbidge and Council members Bob Celski, Dini Duclos and Martin Moore supported Assefa-Dawson, while Council members Kelly Maloney and Susan Honda voted no.

However, a closer look at Council members’ interests suggest what many insiders have suspected all along. Assefa-Dawson was likely the only candidate who could get four votes because she had something in her resume that held appeal to the majority.

She supports the Performing Arts and Conference Center (PACC), she is a minority female in a diverse community, where more than 100 different languages are spoken, and she supports social services. She is also a Democrat, but with ties to some groups and individuals other Council members are comfortable with.

Celski, Burbidge and Duclos have always appeared to want to appoint a PACC supporter. Celski went so far as to ask most of the candidates the question point blank. If you had questions about the PACC, you were unlikely to get Celski’s vote. Based on his votes, Moore appeared to prefer a minority Democrat and voted for Anthony Murrietta and Greg Baruso in the preliminary rounds. When they were eliminated, it was easy for him to support Assefa-Dawson.

Celski, Burbidge and Duclos supported conservative businessmen Mark Koppang and Tom Medhurst last time and were thought to be favorable toward them this time, thus making them the early front runners. But during the last few weeks, it became evident that Koppang wouldn’t get the critical fourth vote and he wasn’t nominated.

Medhurst was a strong candidate but he fell out of the running when he expressed concerns about the funding for the PACC. He wasn’t nominated either. Businessman and Republican precinct committeeman Don Smith was nominated and received support from Celski, Burbidge and Duclos, but ran into the same problem, no fourth vote.

The trio also opposed the nominations of Murrietta and Baruso in the preliminary rounds.

As a sub-story to the days after he applied for the council seat, Baruso’s name has been coming up in political circles as a possible Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican house member Rep. Linda Kochmar. So his nomination as one of the finalists to the Council was somewhat of a surprise.

If he is a serious possibility to run for the house, appointing him to the Council would be inconsistent with that strategy, which raised questions about Moore’s nomination. However, the nomination failed on a 3-3 tie. Kochmar probably would have liked to see him appointed and taken out of the running.

With Council members primary choices eliminated, the tie opened the door for Assefa-Dawson’s nomination and appointment. Winners for the day were PACC supporters who acquired a fifth vote. The PACC now has solid support and may not receive the same level of scrutiny it has before. On issues other than the PACC, how Assefa-Dawson aligns herself could become an important factor.

But she has the potential to have a big impact on other issues beyond the PACC.

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


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