Election picks and coin flips | Bob Roegner

Who’s going to win all these elections we’ve been following for the past several months?

I’ve consulted with my usual cast of “experts,” interviewed most of the candidates, talked to likely voters — and in a couple of races, flipped a coin.

The race to replace Ron Sims as King County Executive has been one of the most intriguing because of the political dynamics. King County Council chairman Dow Constantine is the Democrat in the non-partisan race and is a well-known “insider” in Seattle politics. But with the county budget in deep trouble, that “insider” status has also opened the door for “outsider” Susan Hutchison, who has no political experience or public record. She is the “Republican” in a race that demographically favors Democrats. All the polls put this race within the statistical margin for error, meaning it’s a tossup. My guess is Constantine wins the race because there will be 10-12 percent higher turnout in Seattle due to the mayor’s race.

The other countywide position up this year is for King County Assessor to complete the balance of Scott Noble’s term due to his resignation. There are five candidates in the winner-take-all race with current port commissioner and former Seattle treasurer Lloyd Hara as the likely winner. None of the other candidates have the management background or the name familiarity.

In the Seattle mayor’s race, neither Joe Mallahan nor Mike McGinn are household names, but Mallahan seems to have gained the momentum.

The other mayor races to watch are Kent’s and Auburn’s. Suzette Cooke is running for a second term in Kent’s “strong mayor” system, but has a well-known and formidable opponent in businessman Jim Berrios. Cooke received an “outstanding” rating from the Municipal League, while Berrios received a “good.” With the possibility of flooding in the valley, Cooke has been provided the forum to use the built-in incumbent advantage. It looks like Cooke, but it could be close.

In Auburn, Mayor Pete Lewis has come under significant criticism for his downtown emphasis. But his opponent, council member Virginia Haugen, is not well positioned enough to galvanize the neighborhoods. Lewis should win very comfortably. Also, incumbent council member Gene Cerino could be in trouble against John Partridge.

In Federal Way, Proposition 1 to change the form of government from council-manager with a professional city manager as the chief administrative officer to a mayor-council, where a politically elected mayor is the chief administrator, has once again divided the community. The same issue was on the ballot last year. Last year’s debates were a more thoughtful discussion on the pros and cons of each system. The public voted by a strong majority to keep the current format.

But this year, the campaign by the proponents of change has been far more political. They have raised a lot of money, primarily from people who are unhappy with the city, and have hired a campaign manager. They were also able to obtain the endorsement of the police union, but that came with a political problem. Many believe the union’s support is a strategic move to gain political power and bargaining table leverage should the measure pass.

At the same time, council member Jim Ferrell’s stated interest in running for mayor has raised a “true motivation” concern regarding his leadership with the campaign to implement a strong mayor system. While this issue has not received significant public attention due to other higher profile races, it has significant consequences. The “Yes on Prop. 1” campaign has stretched its argument in its attempt to win. Unfortunately, the “No” campaign has responded in kind. The election as a result may be closer, but still appears likely to fail, and it should. Changing your form of government should be a thoughtful process, not one of misleading ads and special interests, endorsements and dollars.

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