Opinion

King County Executive: Who will replace Ron Sims? | Bob Roegner

Most of you haven’t read much about this year’s race to replace King County Executive Ron Sims.

That’s because Sims hasn’t left yet and may not leave for another month. Former executive and governor Gary Locke was easily confirmed as the next Secretary of Commerce recently. But Sims’ nomination has run into timing and workload problems as Congress left for its Easter recess. Sims is expected to be confirmed without much difficulty, but it may take another month.

The King County Council has set up an elaborate process comprised of a committee of leading citizens and organizations, chaired by former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice and current Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke, to review candidates for the interim executive position.

But with Sims still in the position, there’s not much movement. The names I’m hearing are former Seattle Mayor Charlie Royer, former county council members Steve Hammond and Louise Miller, and Sims' current chief of staff, Kurt Triplett. Five votes are needed to get the interim job. Democratic council members Larry Phillips and Dow Constantine, the announced candidates, are going about the task of lining up supporters and raising money aimed at getting elected in November.

But other names are now starting to surface. Former television personality Susan Hutchison’s name has circulated off and on for several weeks. She went from the rumor mill to reality last week. She is the only woman, has good name familiarity, and would be the “Republican” candidate for the non-partisan position. However, her conservative ties are already being challenged.

Democratic State Sen. Fred Jarrett from Mercer Island has announced his interest. Jarrett switched from Republican to Democrat last year. He’s a former House member and Mercer Island mayor and is considered one of the brighter members of the Legislature. Jarrett would be a good candidate. He knows government and could run as a “change county government” outsider. But Jarrett can’t start raising any money until after the Legislature adjourns at the end of the month. Also, some Republicans haven’t forgotten the party switch and he’s too new to the Democrats to have established a broad base of support.

Democratic Rep. Ross Hunter has been viewed as the next candidate to take on Dave Reichert (R-Auburn) for his Congressional seat. However, King County officials have noticed that Democrat Susan DelBene is already out campaigning for Reichert’s job, which likely wouldn’t have happened if Hunter were interested, so the assumption is that Hunter is seriously contemplating a run for King County Executive.

Like Jarrett, Hunter is from the Eastside and could run as an outsider. With Phillips and Constantine based in Seattle, a “suburban” candidate could potentially do well in South King County and on the Eastside.

If Hunter is thinking about it, he will face the same problems as Jarrett, although his ties to the Democratic Party and Eastside money may be stronger. Both can’t run without tilting the race to Phillips and Constantine.

So watch for the signals. When will Sims be confirmed and leave? Who will replace him? And do Jarrett and Hunter schedule a meeting for the first week in May to discuss their mutual goals, and which one starts raising money?

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