Opinion

Who should run for Federal Way mayor? | Bob Roegner

It wasn’t an overwhelming victory or an easy victory, but a victory it was.

With most of the votes counted, Accountability Comes to Town (ACT) has successfully passed an initiative to change Federal Way’s form of government from council-manager to strong mayor. And with it, they have transformed how you run for local office into a whole new arena.

Politics around here will never be the same again. ACT, with city council member and announced mayoral candidate Jim Ferrell as its spokesperson, ran a high profile and aggressive “political” campaign. ACT’s goal was simple: Win.

Federal Way Works’ campaign was about articulating the differences in the two structures and assuming reasonable minds would support the status quo.

ACT had almost three times as much money and a paid campaign manager who knew how to use it. They put out 28,000 mailings, hitting some key voters twice, and their signs dotted the landscape. They doorbelled 37 precincts, and made 16,000 phone calls to voters. Their direct mailing campaign hit hard at public safety, suggesting that the incidents at the transit center would have been dealt with more swiftly by a strong mayor. The fact that the Federal Way police, city manager, Sound Transit and King County Council member Pete von Reichbauer were already finalizing an agreement for additional security at the transit center wasn’t known to the public until late in the election cycle.

The structure of government may not have made a difference on this issue, but ACT’s campaign literature said it would — and the public listened. The other area ACT focused on was “wasteful spending,” which always catches the public’s attention. However, the “wasteful spending” they were talking about included some projects, like Celebration Park, that have significant public support. But the term “wasteful” caught people’s attention and appealed to whatever they might not like about government.

Federal Way Works never had the money to match ACT’s campaign strategy, and was frequently on the defensive. Their campaign was more about civil discourse and why a professional city manager was preferable to a politician. ACT recognized this was a “political” campaign whose goal was to gain voters' attention in almost a demagoguery fashion, and it worked.

ACT’s campaign manager was thinking ahead about how to get Ferrell elected mayor, even before the polls closed. ACT tried to inoculate the public thinking through letters to the editor with the theory that anyone who didn’t support the change to strong mayor was abdicating their right to consider running for the position.

It was a seasoned campaign tactic aimed at “taking out” some of Ferrell’s competition — and you’ll hear it again. But the public likes options, and now that the strong mayor position is in play, there are many people thinking about it, and voters are speculating.

Names in the mix are city council members Jeanne Burbidge, Linda Kochmar, Mike Park and Jack Dovey. County council member Pete von Reichbauer, and state legislators Skip Priest and Mark Miloscia are being mentioned, and yes, my name is apparently out there. But so far, none of these people are making any announcements. Most of them are thinking it through.

So here’s your chance to influence who you have to choose from. We know Ferrell is in the race, but who else do you want to see run? Who is the people’s choice? Send your letters and e-mails to the editor.

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