Over the next four weeks, we will take a closer look at the candidates for Federal Way mayor. Each candidate has something to offer and they all care about making government work.
But they are very different people with different backgrounds who are going to have to reach beyond what would be their traditional base if they are going to fashion together the votes to win.
Today, we will look at the current mayor, Linda Kochmar.
Kochmar has served on the Federal Way City Council since 1997, and is a risk manager at Lakehaven Utility District. She has a college degree and represents the city on numerous council and suburban city committees. She has been active in the community and attends about every social and civic event in town.
She is universally regarded as friendly with an easy smile and a comfortable style when meeting people. Kochmar believes that these traits will pay benefits when voters go to the polls. She may be right. Even people supporting other candidates will acknowledge they like her.
Kochmar also feels her length of service and her involvement in government provides her with the political contacts to advance Federal Way’s needs at the regional, state and federal level.
In the Federal Way Mirror’s annual poll, she was selected “best city leader” in 2008 and 2010 by those sending in ballots.
Kochmar is a Republican who describes herself as a fiscal conservative. She wants to have less government and low taxes. On the other issues, she tends to be a moderate.
With campaign signs out, she is doorbelling and plans to do some mailing. However, she only expects to have a budget of between $10,000 and $15,000. While she is concerned about how much money some of the other candidates have raised, she doesn’t believe “the people’s seat can be bought.”
Although Kochmar is well liked, her critics wonder whether she has the managerial experience to head a major public corporation like a city government, with hundreds of employees and a budget of several million dollars.
She counters that she has broad government experience and would involve the community in helping to determine what City Hall’s priorities should be in facing what might be a $5 million budget shortfall.
Kochmar also says she would hire a city administrator to help with the day-to-day operations of city government. She states that she wants to improve economic development efforts through assisting small business, and says we “need a smooth permitting process.”
Public safety would be her first priority, and she would like to add neighborhood parks when the economy improves.
While she is concerned about South King Fire and Rescue’s potential fiscal impact if its benefit charge passes in August, Kochmar is not sure what the actual impact will be, but believes the city council should discuss it.
Other candidates question whether Kochmar has the leadership and political skills to be successful in the sometimes harsh give-and-take of local and regional politics.
Kochmar believes she does. But can she win? Many I talked to believe she has a very good chance of advancing through the primary to the general election if she can appeal to a unique cross-section of voters. As the only woman in the race, she will have appeal to many women voters.
As the current holder of the title of mayor, some voters might think she is continuing as the strong mayor incumbent, rather than trying to become the first one. Kochmar has utilized this opportunity herself by using the phrase “retain” in advertising. In a close race, which this figures to be, it could gain her a few extra votes.
She will split voters with fellow Republican candidates Jim Ferrell and Skip Priest. But since Democrats don’t have a candidate in the race, she will target them for support. She has received the endorsement of Democratic County Assessor Lloyd Hara, which will help.
She has also targeted some ethnic groups and is having some of her literature translated into Spanish and Russian. Political independents will be a target for all of the candidates.
Can Kochmar pull this off? If her targeting works, then she may be able to. But she, like the other candidates, will have to sharpen her message with more specific ideas and proposals to demonstrate that she is the right candidate to lead Federal Way in this unparalleled economic climate.