We are in the middle of the 2016 elections for the major offices in our state and nation, but the truly active are already planning for the city elections in 2017.
Last week we looked at Mayor Jim Ferrell and his unannounced, but certain, run for re-election. No one is admitting that they are interested in running against him, but some are just being coy. Ferrell won’t be easy to beat, and if someone wants to run against him they will have to start early in gathering endorsements, raising money and minimizing mistakes.
Ferrell is most likely to run unopposed unless he continues to leave the door open with questionable moves. He has accomplished several of his goals but has also unnecessarily alienated several groups and individuals that could add up to an unpleasant surprise in the future.
The ideal candidate against Ferrell would be a female Republican who holds or has held prior political office or is a well-known business person. And we have at least three that people are speculating about.
Linda Kochmar is one of the most well-known figures in town. She is a Republican state representative in her second term as a member of the legislature. She served on the City Council for several years and as the last mayor in the Council-Manager form of government. Prior to retirement she was a manager with Lakehaven Utility District. She is up for re-election to her legislative seat this year and won’t discuss whether she is interested in running for mayor. Re-election is her priority at the moment, as she does have an opponent. But she maintains a close watch on city issues and has been helpful in bringing home money to help with city projects including the Performing Arts and Events Center. But she has questioned several decisions in city hall, and if she wins re-election in 2016 her seat wouldn’t be up again until 2018. She could run for mayor in 2017 without having to give up her seat.
Kelly Maloney is in her third year on the city council. Her background is marketing. She had a small business and then worked for Orion Industries. She recently took a job as executive director of Aerospace Future Alliance and does some lobbying in Olympia. The mayor’s salary would be a step down from her current job. Olympia is a very difficult place to work and learning how to get things done is not easy. If the Democrats retain the Governor’s office, the House and recapture the Senate she could find it even more of a challenge. City hall may look like fun after a couple years in Olympia.
Maloney would have to give up her seat on the council to run for mayor, as both are on the same election cycle in 2017. She saw Ferrell’s temper firsthand in a well-publicized exchange last year. She might find running against him interesting. But staying on the council has merit, as she could still protect her options should she get the Olympia bug and want to run for the legislature in 2018.
Susan Honda was just re-elected to the city council for a second term and ran unopposed. Her council position won’t be up again until 2020. She could run for mayor from a safe seat. Honda leaned toward being a Democrat when she ran for the city council four years ago, but she has now become a Republican. Ferrell was a Republican who became a Democrat to run for mayor. Could Honda be considering the same thing? That would be a fun debate. Honda is a nurse and has been among the most outspoken in support of Health Center funding and the day shelter for the homeless. She was also a critic of the PAEC funding scheme – to some degree that puts her on different pages than Ferrell and would establish different debate positions.
Behind the scenes Ferrell’s people are watching all three, but they appear more focused on Honda at the moment. Honda lost her leadership position in the new council-committee structure, even though she is third in seniority. Some city hall watchers wonder if Ferrell was quietly involved in that decision. By treating her as an opponent, could they inadvertently make her one? Honda has also been thought of as a possible legislative candidate. Something she might consider, depending how the elections this year turn out.
Any one of these women could run for mayor in 2017, the state legislature in 2018, or re-election to their current office. Or they could all be out of office within the next four years. It all depends on what happens to relationships at city hall, whether Kochmar is re-elected this fall, and if state Sen. Mark Miloscia vacates his seat by winning the state auditor’s job.
There is still a year until decisions have to be made and emerging political issues always play a big part. The hot issue right now is the proposed methanol plant in Tacoma. And the most visible public officials opposing the plant? Mayor Ferrell, council members Maloney and Honda, and state Rep. Kochmar.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn: firstname.lastname@example.org