Democratic state Rep. Mike Pellicciotti’s announcement that he will run for state treasurer against Republican incumbent Duane Davidson next year rather than run for his legislative position has brought a whole new level of speculation to the political debates for this year.
With Pellicciotti’s and Democratic seat mate Kristine Reeves’s huge wins last year, Republicans would have been unlikely to field high profile candidates against either of them, and the state party would have most likely saved its money for other races.
But Pellicciotti’s decision opens the door for Republicans to view the field and see what their options might be. It also provides an opportunity to test the depth of the Democratic bench and see who is ready to move up. No one is making any announcements yet, and won’t for a while, but the speculation is significant.
The early line on Democrats starts with a notable surprise, along with current elected officials such as council member Jesse Johnson. Johnson along with others, has helped steer the council toward confronting some of the social challenges in the community. Johnson may be the party’s future, but this is only his second year on the council. Does he need more seasoning before considering Olympia, which can be a pretty partisan place?
Council member Lydia Assefa-Dawson has completed one term and is running unopposed for a second four-year term. She is a little more experienced, and has endorsed some Republicans, which could be an issue among some Democrats. And she needs to refine her philosophy and put her stamp on an issue to show she knows how to work it from beginning to passage. Council candidate Sharry Edwards announced for the Legislature in the past, but withdrew and filed for the council in 2017, running fourth in a four-person primary that was won by Hoang Tran. But she still has her eyes on state government and might view the council this year as a stepping stone to the Legislature next year.
The surprise? The new name that has surfaced is Federal Way Chamber of Commerce CEO Becca Martin. In addition to her chamber history, she has been an elected official serving as president of the city of Erie School Board. She is well known, brings a unique understanding of economic development, and knows how to work across competing interests.
On the Republican side, will former legislator Mark Miloscia want to try and return? Insiders say unlikely, as his current position gives him more latitude on ideology issues such as abortion and gay marriage, and the ability to influence the debate in the political arena without the need to run for election. But we will see what happens after the local elections this fall.
Or how about council member Martin Moore? Prior to his switch to the Republican Party, Moore worked as an assistant to late Democratic state Rep. Roger Freeman. He has never seemed to loose interest in returning to Olympia. He is halfway through his second term on the council. Another name mentioned is council member Mark Koppang. However, Koppang seems more likely to want to run for mayor if Ferrell either runs for another office or looks vulnerable in 2021. Would current council candidate Linda Kochmar be interested? She is a former mayor in the council-manager form of government, and former two-term state legislator. She seems more likely to stay with the council seat if she wins this fall. But again, it’s early.
With her announced retirement from her Olympia-based position, former council member Kelly Maloney’s name surfaced. She has stated that she may be moving. Would this change her mind? Another former council member who was thought to have ambitions for the Legislature is Bob Celski, though he has been out of the public eye for awhile.
With three new appointees to the school board, and elections this year it seems unlikely that any of them would be candidates next year for the Legislature. But watch this group in the future.
With Pellicciotti running for higher office, the open seat will attract several candidates and ensure that Reeves has a much easier time of re-election. Republicans will put their best candidate in the open seat. Reeves has demonstrated both leadership and legislative skill. And with a new Senator in Claire Wilson, and a freshman House member Reeves will need to carry more of the load.
The main show this year will be local elections, but watch the 2020 musical chairs in the background as different people consider their options for Pellicciotti’s seat.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact email@example.com.