The most unusual race of the entire slate of candidates running for any office in Federal Way this year: Lydia Assefa-Dawson versus Mark Green for the City Council.
Assefa-Dawson is an appointed incumbent who has a compelling personal story, is a genuinely nice person, has a politically memorable first name, serves on an impressive number of committees that seek to help people and is the logical standard bearer for those in need. She should be unbeatable, and her potential should be unlimited. She likely will win and she should.
But over the last 18 months, she has made herself potentially vulnerable with a series of questionable moves. She said she was a Democrat and yet attended Republican fundraisers, and joined with council colleague Martin Moore to be “Democrats for Miloscia.” Mark Miloscia was a former Democrat who was elected to the state Senate as a Republican.
Assefa-Dawson’s movements created controversy and raised credibility questions about her level of commitment to Democrats and helping the poor. Enough so, that fellow Democrat Anthony Murrietta ran against her in the primary. Murrietta finished third or this might be a different race.
Assefa-Dawson should be the leader on the council representing those in our community who are less fortunate. She serves on two committees addressing homelessness.
But even when the administration appeared to be stalled on supporting a hygiene center for the poor, she seemed content to wait and didn’t take up the mantle of leadership that was necessary. She acknowledged she was concerned about the health affects of marijuana, but even after the public voted to legalize it, she continued to support a moratorium on retail outlets in Federal Way, raising questions about her willingness to listen to the public.
Her support for the Performing Arts and Events Center has lacked an understanding of how poor people view city priorities. Her comments that she takes out of town visitors elsewhere for entertainment might accurately reflect her frustration with local options, but is a less than compelling reason to the average citizen to support the events center. And as a city leader, it undermines local business efforts to get residents to shop locally and contribute to the tax base.
Assefa-Dawson is a new council member and is still learning. But some of her council colleagues have wondered if she really likes being on the council. Most of her errors have been self-inflicted, and suggest she is either getting poor political advice or is still determining her core values and what she wants to accomplish with her opportunity as a council member.
Her opponent Greene is a most unusual candidate and Assefa-Dawson will likely benefit from his lack of long-term roots in the community. Greene is not active in any recognizable local organizations and does not serve on any city government committees. Greene is quick to point out that he donates blood and his given name “Mark” is from the Bible. He has also been active in helping people register to vote. He lived in Federal Way from 2002-2006 and moved back in 2013.
Greene has run for office as both a Republican and a Democrat but wants choices outside the two parties and formed his own party, the Revived Citizens Party, of which he is the chairman. He has been a frequent candidate and may have run for more offices in more places than the current field of council candidates combined.
He had filed paper work to run for the state Legislature and then changed his mind and decided to file for the City Council. But he has also run for office in Minnesota, for Congress twice in Alaska, Congress in Washington, King County Council in District 9, King County director of elections, secretary of state and lieutenant governor in Washington, along with the City Council in Newcastle.
He was actually running for the Newcastle City Council in the 2013 general election when he decided to move back to Federal Way. He said he had dual residency for a time and apparently thought he could move back to Newcastle if he won. That’s not how it works if you are running for office.
Many were surprised when he advanced to the run-off with Assefa-Dawson. But his views do differ from hers and provide a political contrast. Greene brings a passion to the debate and is particularly interested in labeling genetically modified foods.
He wants more private sector money put into the events center and would like to see it scaled down. He favors marijuana outlets in Federal Way, and wants good infrastructure and a different approach to budgeting. He would not disclose whether he had attended any City Council meetings, as he felt that was irrelevant.
Greene created the biggest controversy in the council races this year at the Mirror primary debate when he claimed Mayor Jim Ferrell’s former campaign manager recruited him to run against Assefa-Dawson. Ferrell and his former manager denied the comment but it sparked a temper outburst by Ferrell that is still talked about.
Assefa-Dawson was rated “very good” by the Municipal League, and Greene was rated “not qualified.”
Assefa-Dawson should win this race but the events center and marijuana controversies will help Greene. Voters should do their homework!
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn: firstname.lastname@example.org.