Four City Council seats are up for election this year, with three incumbents likely running for re-election. Given the political dynamics and many issues facing Federal Way, the races may get pretty lively.
And there is even a couple of surprises.
Incumbent Dini Duclos holds position No. 7, though she is not expected to seek re-election and that has attracted three candidates with the possibility of more, who have already filed paperwork with the Public Disclosure Commission.
For well over a decade, Linda Kochmar has served in public office. First as a council member, then as mayor in the council-manager form of government, and then as a Republican state representative. She is the most well-known of the three candidates in position No. 7. She will kick off her campaign May 16 with a fundraiser. PDC records list a third-party donation in March of this year from Evergreen Progress for $4,380. However, it is an error related to her race last year and will be deleted. Kochmar starts as the front runner.
Also in the race is newcomer Tony Pagliocco. Unlike long-time resident Kochmar, Pagliocco has only lived here a few years. But he clearly had a plan mapped out when he arrived. He joined a service club, got active in the Republican party, where he encountered council member Martin Moore, who has already made an in-kind donation to his campaign. Moore also has helped him get appointed to two city citizen committees.
Pagliocco also sought appointment to a school board vacancy, though he was not selected. He made known his intentions of running for the council almost year ago. His PDC forms show $10,000 available for the race, including his own donation of $1,000 along with a $3,000 personal loan. With Kochmar’s community and Republican Party contacts, some locals were surprised by Pagliocco’s continued interest in running for the same seat, although he has tried lately to play down the party affiliation. He may need to try and attract Democratic support, although that could be problematic because of the third candidate in the race.
That is Katherine Festa, who is not only a Democrat, but had King County Executive Dow Constantine speak at her campaign kick-off. Festa works for county government and has raised $3,660. This will be her first run for public office.
In position No. 5 incumbent Mark Koppang will be challenged by Jamila Taylor. Koppang is finishing his first term on the council, and chairs a council committee. He tends to support Mayor Jim Ferrell. He is a former 30th District Republican party chair, and remains conservative although he has been emphasizing he is non-partisan. He works in the private sector, and belongs to a local civic club.
Taylor is an attorney and works for a public interest firm as an advocacy co-coordinator. She serves on the city Human Services Commission and has been an active volunteer with other organizations. She has raised $2,927, including a $1,000 loan she made to the campaign.
Lydia Assefa-Dawson is the incumbent in position No. 1. She was originally appointed to the council, and then won election four years ago. Like other incumbents, she is likely to attract opposition.
In position No. 3, Susan Honda is the incumbent and has $1,753 left over in her campaign account. Two years ago she ran against incumbent Jim Ferrell for mayor.
Ferrell has not gotten over Honda running against him in 2017 and recently lost his temper at her over a land-use issue on the old Weyerhaeuser site.
Ferrell is unlikely to let an opportunity go by to try and defeat her and thus remove her from the council. The council during Ferrell’s first term was more conservative and usually served as a rubber stamp for whatever he wanted. The current council has shown more interest in establishing their own agenda and providing a check and balance on him, particularly on social issues. Ferrell likely preferred the more compliant council and may want to influence the relationship through the election of candidates he likes. He is up for election in 2021.
Which brings up one of the big surprises of the pre-election season, as Sharry Edwards is running for the council again. She recently filed paperwork with the PDC, but did not say in which position she would run. Edwards has previously been a supporter of Honda on homeless issues and co-chaired the Women’s and Children’s Homeless Committee with her. But Ferrell appointed Edwards as chair of his 2018 Homeless Committee and supported her run for the council two years ago. She seems to be more of a Ferrell supporter now.
If she does run, watch to see who she runs against. Honda would seem most likely, and then watch to see what role Ferrell plays.
At the national level we have seen women of color becoming more active in running for, and winning election to public office. Some of the political leadership in Federal Way seems unaware of our changing dynamics and diversity or it would have inspired a more thoughtful response to some of our residents’ concerns who have different ethnic backgrounds. While not a big surprise, it is noteworthy that we have three women of color — Festa, Taylor and Assefa–Dawson — running for the council.
This election could force our leaders to look at overdue changes, and could be a defining moment in our city’s brief history.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.