For the majority of Federal Way voters who were unable to attend the debate between candidates for the school board and city council, you missed a great opportunity to see the candidates in action.
Or at least most of the candidates.
The July 13 debate was co-sponsored by The Mirror and Federal Way Chamber of Commerce, and featured the races that have a primary. This was the major media opportunity of the primary season and unfortunately, two candidates were unable to attend.
Danny Peterson and Liz Drake are running for the school board seat being vacated by Amye Bronson-Doherty. Too bad these positions are elected by district. Both of these candidates are outstanding. They are more prepared than your average candidate. Peterson is a youth pastor and has been a teacher in the Federal Way district. Drake has been an educator for her entire career and just retired as principal at Todd Beamer High School.
Both are bright, articulate and knowledgeable about the issues. Both support the academic acceleration policy and believe that parents are an important part of a student’s success. Both are concerned about teenage pregnancy.
Drake believes our high dropout rate is because the district is not meeting the needs of students. Peterson believes students need more positive adult influences. Both gave answers to the questions, but more importantly, they gave thoughtful and informed answers — not political ones.
Carrie BeSerra was unable to attend, although a supporter read a statement from her. She will have support from her church, PTA and the Republican party where she has been active. Try and hear all three candidates in person — it will be worth it. Peterson and Drake look like they will advance to November.
Candidates seeking to replace retiring Councilman Mike Park who attended the debate are Susan Honda, Roger Flygare and Mark Koppang. All three are earnest and care about improving Federal Way. Each could contribute in their own way.
No one stood out as the clear front-runner, and no one made a significant error.
Honda has more insider knowledge about City Hall, having served on the arts and diversity commissions. Honda has received the endorsements of council members Linda Kochmar, Jim Ferrell and Roger Freeman — two Republicans and a Democrat. She has also been active on other boards, and has several endorsements that reflect her community contacts. She has some experience with legislation through the PTA and the city.
Flygare has been active in Democratic politics for many years and due to that, and his business, he has significant knowledge of how to work issues in Olympia. His endorsements include District 30 State Sen. Tracey Eide, two elected officials from Auburn and Democratic and labor groups.
Mark Koppang is the newcomer to the political world, although he has been active in his church and in the Marine Hills swim club board. The fourth candidate, Scott Sparling, was unable to attend the July 13 debate.
Koppang and Honda support red light cameras while Flygare isn’t so sure. All three like the idea of a performing arts and conference center, but are concerned about the city budget.
Honda supports term limits for council members and the mayor, while Flygare and Koppang oppose term limits. All three support economic development and want to see improvement in the downtown core.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that Honda and Flygare have more name familiarity and a broader range of contacts and would be the front-runners at this point. For Koppang and Sparling to make it to the general election, they will need to work extra hard.
But there is room, and with a low turnout likely, anything can happen.
None of the three candidates demonstrated the in-depth level of knowledge of city affairs they will need to separate themselves from one another. None have the background that the school board candidates offer. Whichever two candidates advance to the general election have homework to do. They will have to sharpen their knowledge base and clarify their vision of what they want for Federal Way’s future.
Be sure and read their policy positions in The Mirror and check the websites.