Election 2009 and the status quo | Bob Roegner

There are big changes ahead in the King County Courthouse and possibly Federal Way City Hall.

But the status quo remained in Kent and Auburn as Mayors Suzette Cooke and Pete Lewis were easily re-elected.

King County Council chairman Dow Constantine captured the county executive’s office with a surprisingly large margin of 57 percent to Susan Hutchison’s 43 percent. Constantine’s win, along with the re-election of incumbent council members, suggests that while there may be some angst with the county, voters favored experience over change. With the county budget facing significant cuts and other issues in the near future, the new executive would appear to have his work cut out for him. One county insider said, “Dow appears committed to reforming how the county does business.” But another, noting it’s all the same faces said, “If all that changes is office space, then maybe all we’ve done is rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.” Only time will tell for sure, but who Constantine selects for his key positions will give clues about whether his thinking will take the county in a new direction.

The working environment between the executive and council has been historically awkward. On the surface, both sides will make all of the politically correct statements. But county government operates more beneath the radar than above, so interpreting the true messages will keep a lot of staff and political writers very busy.

The new county assessor will be Lloyd Hara, who defeated four other candidates, including Bob Rosenberger, who spent $100,000 of his own money.

In Federal Way, the public sent a mixed message. On one hand, they overwhelmingly returned incumbents Jeanne Burbidge and Linda Kochmar to office, while at the same time, appeared to be changing the form of government from council-manager to strong mayor. Also, it appears that Roger Freeman has defeated Diana Noble-Gulliford and will join the city council in January. He is perceived as likely to align with councilman Jim Ferrell, but could accomplish more if he stays independent.

The campaign for and against the change divided the community in a way that resulted in a lot of bruised feelings on both sides. If the numbers hold up, a mayoral election will be scheduled for the spring, but the speculation and maneuvering for position began about 15 minutes after the polls closed. Ferrell made his candidacy known many months ago, and it became a sub-issue to the entire campaign. Many other names are making the rounds including council members and state legislators. Others are being watched and courted.

In the interim, the relationships on the council will be publicly cordial, but privately strained. Many saw Ferrell’s role as the leader of change. Others saw it as opportunistic ambition. Whatever your view, if the vote holds, the next few months promise to be filled with intrigue, raw politics and maybe a little fun.

As expected, Judge David Larson was re-elected and will be joined at the court by Rebecca Robertson, who defeated Judge Michael Morgan.

Over at the school district, the public sent a major message of support by returning longtime board member Ed Barney and newcomer Angela Griffin to office.

Next week, a closer look at the mayor-manager campaign and what it may mean.

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