King County Executive isn’t up for election until November of 2009, but with this year’s budget debate serving as a backdrop, the race is already well underway.
The Executive’s position is the second most visible and powerful administrative position in state politics coming behind the Governor and ahead of the Mayor of Seattle.
Four years ago, Democratic incumbent, Ron Sims, easily defeated former Republican County Councilmember David Irons for re-election. However, Irons kept Sims on the defensive and there was a point a few weeks before the election where the race was pretty close. But there are a couple of changes in the process that could make next year more interesting.
First, we now have the “top two” who will advance from the primary to the general election. And it won’t be the leading Democratic vote getter versus the leading Republican vote getter. It will be the two highest vote getters regardless of party affiliation.
Second, the voters are likely to change county government to non-partisan this fall which would take away party labels altogether and provide a wide-open race.
There had been some speculation that Sims might bow out in an effort to seek a federal appointment should a Democrat win the White House.
However, Sims backed Hillary Clinton initially so that possibility seems to be diminished. His recent fundraiser drew a huge crowd. Sims is considered very bright, hardworking, and passionate about his beliefs and viewpoints. But some of his potential opponents believe after this many years it’s time for a change and they could do better.
Long time Democratic Councilmember Larry Phillips has formed an exploratory committee and is asking those who have contributed to his council races to authorize moving the money into an executive campaign account. Phillips previously served as an assistant to Randy Revelle when Revelle was Executive, than served in the state legislature. Phillips is also considered bright, hardworking and focused on issues he cares about. And Phillips knows county government as well as Sims. Any debate between the two would be well worth the price of admission.
The conversion to the “top two” gives Phillips his opening to take on a fellow Democrat without party repercussions but the likely elimination of partisan labels really opens the door. Phillips would like to keep a Republican out of the race and pick up crossover votes, as many Democrats will be reluctant to leave Sims.
Democratic County Councilman Bob Ferguson from Seattle is another possibility as he and Sims had some disagreements when Ferguson defeated Sims’ ally Cynthia Sullivan in a council primary race a few years ago. Then under redistricting, Ferguson was placed in the same district as fellow Democratic Councilmember Carolyn Edwards, who Sims also supported. Ferguson defeated her as well.
Ferguson and Sims, however, have gotten along better as of late and insiders believe Ferguson is more likely to support Sims over Phillips, so that Ferguson can run for executive in 2013.
Republicans are trying to recruit a business person who could run as a non-partisan candidate.
Former County Sheriff, Dave Reichert, is another possibility if he loses his Congressional seat to Darcy Burner this fall.
Another person people are watching is Reagan Dunn. He is not as seasoned as the others but has the pedigree and a great political name.
He could be a candidate for Executive next year or in 2013 or if Burner wins, he could consider running against her. But Republicans only want one candidate in hopes that Sims and Phillips split the primary vote.
So keep your eyes on the county and watch the movements.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner, a former mayor of Auburn, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org