An old saying is that “politics makes strange bedfellows.” With allegations of bribery made by one candidate, complaints from union supporters about another candidate, changing alliances, and some really hard feelings, the race for Federal Way Council Position 3 is shaping up as an old-fashioned brawl. It will be full of political spin as each of the sides try to sway public opinion.
A few years ago, incumbent Susan Honda and Sharry Edwards were allies in opposition to Mayor Jim Ferrell’s no tolerance for the homeless. Now Edwards is running against Honda. They will be joined by local barber Lamont Styles.
But a little background. As council members, Honda and Ferrell used to join in opposition to the cost of the Performing Arts and Event Center. After Ferrell was elected mayor he became a PAEC supporter. Honda does not oppose the PAEC, but she still keeps watch on the money and is concerned about the loans and the debt of the PAEC.
Honda and Edwards are both nurses and co-chaired Ferrell’s Women and Children Committee. At the time both were highly critical of Ferrell’s lack of compassion and attempts to run the homeless out of town. But when Honda ran against Ferrell for mayor, Edwards supported Ferrell. Ferrell is now supporting Edwards in her race against Honda.
Honda says trying to balance needed social improvements with careful spending has made her a political independent.
Ferrell appointed Edwards as chair of last year’s Homeless Committee. Ferrell wanted the public excluded from the meetings. Edwards says she is a Democrat, but some Democrats are unsure. They see her as supporting some of Ferrell’s more conservative-leaning viewpoints, including the secret meetings, lack of support for the homeless in Federal Way, and his opposition to the sale of legal marijuana in the city. His lack of support for flying the pride flag was also a concern. Edwards says she isn’t opposed to flying the flag but wants to know “why” the city should fly it.
Lest we forget Styles. He is a Democrat and initially was the only candidate endorsed by the 30th District Democrats. His campaign manager is district chair Allison Taylor. Recently, Ferrell helped Edwards get a late co-endorsement by the Democrats in a split 12-7 vote that left some harsh feelings on both sides. Some insiders believe it was Edwards’ connection to Ferrell that resulted in Styles getting the initial sole endorsement, not because of Taylor.
Then, if there wasn’t enough controversy already, Edwards put out literature accusing the pot shop industry of “bribing politicians with money.” While Honda isn’t mentioned by name, Edwards admits it is Honda to whom she is referring. Honda acknowledges she received campaign donations from people involved in the marijuana industry, and who support allowing shops in Federal Way. But she says that is “just like any candidate who receives donations from people who support their views.” The donations have been reported to the Public Disclosure Commission as part of her campaign account.
Edwards interpretation of “bribe” would call into question donations from either side to incumbent council members. The political optics can be difficult no matter which side of this controversial question you’re on. Honda further notes the council did not give the marijuana industry anything. They simply referred the matter to the public for a vote.
Edwards later rescinded her accusations against Honda just prior to the Mirror’s print deadline on Wednesday afternoon, however, she still claims that Honda should return the donations.
Then another twist. Edwards has made much of her union affiliation and endorsements including SEIU, the Federal Way Police Guild and South King Fire and Rescue firefighters. But several residents are upset that much of her campaign literature was not done by union shops and union employees. Edwards agrees that is accurate, but says her union is OK with it since she used a local shop. Other union activists don’t agree with that interpretation.
Honda has been on the council for eight years. During that time she earned a reputation as a compassionate voice for homeless families, a supporter of police services and a watchdog of city finances. She is active in the community and has been elected “Best City Leader” the last five years in the Mirror’s annual “Best Of” poll.
Honda believes in providing a check and balance on the mayor and city administration. Due to the controversy around the pride flag, she requested the council discuss a policy in January.
Edwards has been appointed by Ferrell to chair two committees on homelessness and believes it is the “weak council’s” fault that nothing has been done with the recent report on homelessness. She is also active in local clubs. Edwards says public safety and economic development are priorities and that the city’s permit system needs improvement. Edwards says her views on homelessness have changed dramatically over the last two years, and agrees she and Ferrell now have more views in common. She disputes thoughts that she would be a rubberstamp for Ferrell. She opposes safe injection sites, and says she “would consider running for something higher” in the future. Previously she mentioned the state Legislature.
Styles is a barber, and has coached at the Boys and Girls Club. He is a first-time candidate and suggested several new ideas, such as city-provided child care at council meetings to increase attendance. He acknowledged early in the race that he had a felony related to marijuana from years ago. He believes more services are needed for the homeless who want help. He was disappointed that only a few recommendations were implemented after the Violence Prevention Committee, and wants to see discussion on the rest. He is concerned about police use of force after two highly visible local cases in recent years, and would like to see an independent review board on police use of force. Styles wants more investment in the community’s young people, and wants the council to establish a policy so that the pride flag can be flown to demonstrate Federal Way’s commitment to inclusion.
Regarding the city’s choice in priorities, Styles said, “It’s not the money, it’s the stewardship of the money,” suggesting the council should consider new priorities.
How do these candidates reflect your priorities? Each one will have to provide more details on their plans, particularly funding. Which two will advance?
As the incumbent Honda has higher name identification and more campaign experience. Edwards and Styles could split the Democratic vote. But Edwards has taken a page from Ferrell and holds several positions that have more appeal to conservatives than progressives.
Turnout will be the key to who advances in the general election: Big turnout favors Honda and Styles; small turnout favors Honda and Edwards.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.