The happy trails of Federal Way Councilman Martin Moore | Inside Politics

Bob Roegner - Contributed
Bob Roegner
— image credit: Contributed

The first half of 2014 has been politically spectacular. A controversial superintendent, Rob Neu, leaving town for another job. One school board member with legal difficulties and another with judgment problems.

The fire chief in a tiff with one of his board members. Long-time State Sen. Tracey Eide deciding not to run again. The passage of the Performing Arts and Conference Center by the City Council. A new activist Mayor Jim Ferrell, who is spending all the money his predecessor said we didn’t have.

All of these stories could be candidates for story of the year when December rolls around.

But beneath these well known headlines, the professional politicos are watching another story that has been brewing for over a year and may have even bigger implications in the long run.

The happy, and sometimes unpredictable, trails of Martin Moore have caused many to cast a curious eye in the young councilman’s direction as his movements and possible election results could place him in a very powerful position by year’s end. Moore, a Democrat, defeated an appointed incumbent, Republican Diana Noble-Gulliford, last fall to win a seat on the Council. Noble-Gulliford knows Federal Way and its issues better than most and outshined Moore in debates. But Moore had a compelling personal story and worked hard to capture the victory.

Moore caused some anxiety among Democrats a few years ago when he ran Republican Bob Celski’s successful campaign for the Council. However, he also helped with Democrat Roger Freeman’s successful campaign for the state Legislature and he worked in Olympia as Freeman’s assistant. Despite some misgivings, Democrats turned out to support Moore’s Council election.

Moore has not made a secret of his interest in higher office and that has caused many from both parties to watch his movements more closely.

And Moore has made an impact. He was kingmaker and held the deciding vote in selecting Lydia Assefa-Dawson to the Council. While a Democrat, she has supporters in both parties, so Moore scored points with both sides. He strongly supported the passage of the Performing Arts and Conference Center, and held the key fourth vote until Assefa-Dawson’s appointment made passage a sure thing.

But there have also been questions about his commitment to public policy. As the most visible Council Democrat, some expected he might be the voice to lead a charge to have the  Performing Arts and Conference Center placed on the ballot for a public vote after Ferrell dropped the issue.

Most of Federal Way’s population is lower income and may not be able to afford the cost to attend the new facility. And they are most likely Democrats. Giving a voice to those who felt a lack of representation would have been consistent with his story, but Moore seems to have missed an opportunity.

And with so much democratic discussion about a $15 an hour minimum wage, Moore seemed the likely person to champion the cause. But so far nothing has surfaced.

In fact, Moore is again under the microscope for having one foot in each political camp.

He is, of course, supporting the reelection of his boss Freeman to the state Legislature. But, he is also actively involved in Mark Miloscia’s campaign for the state Senate. Miloscia has switched parties and is running as a Republican. Moore has always viewed Miloscia as a mentor and there has been some begrudging latitude by local Democrats. But, that acceptance of Moore’s view that his “friendship” with Miloscia is more important, is wearing thin.

Moore’s recent attendance at a 30th District Republican fundraiser did not go unnoticed, even though Moore says he was there to support only Miloscia. Since the event was to support all Republican candidates, including Jack Dovey, who is running against Freeman, and Rep. Linda Kochmar who Moore has also been a campaign manager for, others thought it crossed the line.

Moore has previously expressed irritation at the questions regarding his support for Republican candidates and speculation he may switch parties. He says, no, he is a Democrat.

In fact, Moore seems somewhat confused as to why his behavior is of concern. But local observers say “he can’t have it both ways,” public service is a serious business and his actions have invited criticism. The view is that he can’t say he’s a Democrat, ask for democratic support and then support Republicans.

The story of Moore is likely to have many more chapters. What happens if both Miloscia and Freeman win? Who will Moore go to work for? And what office is he aiming at next? What issues will he push as a Council member? What is his true philosophy? Deep inside, what does he really care about? And, where do his real loyalties reside? Democrat, Republican or Independent?

Time may be running out as more people are wondering which direction Moore’s “happy trail” leads. If Miloscia, Freeman and Kochmar all win, Moore could be very well positioned to look at higher office or he may have raised enough concern that the Democrats will want to find another candidate to support. Or both could happen. Moore has taken a big gamble. Will it pay off?

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


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