Democratic state Auditor Troy Kelley sits first in the domino line. Between now and July, he and the federal government will decide whether or not he is still in public office or if Republican state Sen. Mark Miloscia, Republican state Rep. Linda Kochmar and City Councilman Martin Moore, also a Republican, will get an opportunity for promotion.
In politics, as in real life, words have meaning.
Kelley never “thought” he broke the law. He would have paid more in taxes if his attorney “had told him to.” Kelley is innocent until “proven guilty in a court of law.”
Moore “suspended” his campaign for the Legislature. Kelley is a lawyer. He chose his words very carefully. Moore is a politician who sees his future in a different public office. He also was careful with his words.
If found guilty, Kelley would be forced to vacate his office. But his trial doesn’t start until June 8. There is already a recall petition in circulation and some members of the Legislature have discussed impeachment. However, there may not be enough time prior to the court date for either to achieve completion.
But in the court of public opinion, Kelley has already been found guilty and his political career will not survive no matter what the court decision turns out to be. In the political world, the planning by both parties for his replacement started when the search of his home by federal agents became public.
But he is being pressured to resign from office prior to the start of his trial and prior to the May 15 close of filing so that his replacement can be decided in this fall’s election.
Democrats want Kelley out because he is a political liability and they want to retain the position. Republicans want him out because it is their best chance to claim another statewide office. Democrats hold all the statewide offices, except Secretary of State. If Republicans can win the office, Democrats fear it could be used to harass or embarrass them. Republicans believe it could be used to uncover waste in government.
If Kelley resigns his office, the governor could appoint a caretaker or more likely a Democrat who would run in the fall as an incumbent. If the opening occurs, Miloscia is almost certain to run. If he were to win, his Senate seat would be open for appointment. Kochmar would likely want to move up, leaving her house seat also open for appointment.
Which brings us to Moore’s likely reason for “suspending,” rather than stopping his campaign for the Legislature against appointed Democratic incumbent Carol Gregory. Although Moore and the media portrayed his move as a withdrawal, a suspension actually keeps Moore’s options open. He was off to a good start having raised $12,000, but he is at the end of the dominoes.
If he withdrew and stopped his campaign, he would have to give back the donations he received, or at least offer to give them back. However, a suspension allows him to wait and see what happens with Kelley and Miloscia and if Kochmar’s position becomes vacant and open for appointment. If he is unable to secure the appointment, he could run for the position next year.
Moore stepped aside from this year’s race because he didn’t think he could beat the other Republican in the field, Teri Hickel. But if Gregory defeats Hickel, then Moore could run against Gregory next year with a $12,000 head start. Moore says, “My donors donated with the expectation of me running for the House of Representatives. So we’ll keep the money with that expectation.”
That decision was a smart political move and protects his options to run for a Legislative seat anytime in the future.
However, it didn’t close using the money for other options, such as running for mayor or re-election to the council. There are some steps to follow, but he potentially could redirect the money to either local race.
Kelley could win the court case, but at least in political terms, his future has already been decided. But those of Gregory, Hickel, Miloscia, Kochmar, Moore and many others who might also decide to run are yet to be played out.
Watch to see if Kelley resigns before May 15 or lets the trial run its course. Then watch where the rest of the dominoes fall.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn: firstname.lastname@example.org.