Candidates come out of the woodwork | Bob Roegner

Where did all these people come from?

A few months ago, it appeared we were in for a very quiet election cycle here in Federal Way. Incumbent city council members Jeanne Burbidge, Linda Kochmar and Eric Faison were keeping a low profile as incumbents tend to do, and it appeared they would all run unopposed. The school board was running along smoothly with no controversy, so incumbents Ed Barney, Angela Griffin and Tony Moore looked to be in good position. And municipal court judges Mike Morgan and David Larson didn’t seem to be attracting any local opposition.

There were simply no names circulating as possible candidates for anything.

Incumbents have most of the advantages in terms of name familiarity, campaign experience and fund-raising ability, so waiting too long to announce your intentions benefits the incumbent. Serious candidates start making political moves by January.

Then three political explosions rocked City Hall. The Federal Way City Council effectively fired the city manager, a claim for damages in the municipal court surfaced, and the biggest one of all, council member Eric Faison announced he wasn’t running for re-election. Then came filing week, and there were candidates all over the place. There were so many, two actually filed, then switched positions.

Why so many all of a sudden? It appears that city council members and others were busy recruiting. Several of the candidates for city council and municipal court judge have connections to City Hall insiders.

The city council has been divided on a whole host of policy issues affecting the future direction of Federal Way. This was a chance for one side or the other to garner a “new vote” for their position. Secondly, the council had an informal understanding about who would likely be elected by the council to be mayor come January. Faison’s retirement reopened that issue. The new council member could be the key vote to who gets the title. And that title becomes important not only symbolically, but if the holder decides to run for higher office, it is a huge asset in credibility.

Another subplot to all this is that the folks who want to change Federal Way’s form of government from council-manager to mayor-council have seized on the city manager vacancy to start circulating petitions to force another vote.

With the council unable to agree on a new city manager, that leaves the police chief as the interim manager — and allows the initiative to gather interest.

The council’s own credibility has been momentarily undermined by the city manager selection process that has unnecessarily excluded public input and left everyone in the dark about the status. Let me see if I get this: Excluding the public in an election year? That may not have been a well-considered plan.

Add in the budget situation, along with possible layoffs, a debate about the future of the municipal court and a performing arts center, and Federal Way’s regional image is one of chaos. While that is not a completely accurate or fair picture, it’s our current image nonetheless.

The school board races probably weren’t part of all of this political intrigue, but they picked up candidates as well.

Maybe the surprise isn’t that we had so many last-minute candidates — maybe the surprise is that we didn’t have more!