In the midst of a predictable primary election, there were two major surprises.
The biggest was a huge upset in the race for the South King Fire and Rescue board of commissioners as Bill Fuller will not only advance to the general election but will do so as the leading candidate with 42 percent of the vote.
The thorn in the side of the fire district, Jerry Galland received 23 percent and Roger Flygare, the chosen candidate of the fire district insiders, had 35 percent as of the Mirror’s publishing deadline.
This is Fuller’s first run for public office and he is not well known, which may have actually worked to his advantage. He isn’t anti-South King Fire and Rescue, nor is he too cozy with the district. However, he did make clear that he thought some policy changes were in order.
With Fuller and Galland’s combined votes of 65 percent, there appears to be a message to the current board and administration that the public is growing restless with the controversies and appearance of inside favoritism.
Going into the primary, Flygare had all the advantages and was expected to be the leader heading into the general election. Flygare has run for the state Legislature and the City Council and is well known. He had the endorsements of the incumbent commissioners, the fire chief and was pictured with union firemen in mailers.
And in the debate sponsored by the Mirror, Flygare said he thought everything in the fire district was just fine. The message was clear to voters, the South King Fire and Rescue establishment wants to continue business as usual and anointed Flygare as their choice to join the insiders club.
The voters thoughts, however, were not reactionary, but more thoughtful. Electing Galland would have been a major message of anger by the voters as he has been raising issues about the fire district for years. But Galland’s strident approach might have marginalized him and hindered his effectiveness if he were elected.
The vote also says the voters do want some changes. With their fire levy on the same ballot as the race between Fuller and Flygare in November, it might be a good time for the fire district to show their listening skills and make some policy changes now to demonstrate they got the message. That would support the chief and his staff who have been reaching out to get public comment on the levy. You can’t get any better feedback than election results. Waiting until election day might be too late.
The other big surprise was that Mark Greene beat Anthony Murrietta for the second position and will face incumbent Lydia Assefa-Dawson for a seat on the City Council. Assefa-Dawson was expected to be the leading vote-getter even though her campaign was not an aggressive one. But it did look like Murrietta would take the second position.
Greene is not well known and has not been involved in city or community affairs. His primary contact with residents appears to be through his blog. As recently as 2013, he ran for the City Council in Newcastle, which is near Bellevue. He didn’t campaign much and had minimal mailings. His second place finish is such a surprise it may carry mixed messages from voters. Greene’s only publicity was the flare-up he caused with Mayor Jim Ferrell at the candidate debate.
Greene alleged that Ferrell’s former campaign manager approached him about running for the council against Assefa-Dawson rather than run for the state Legislature as he had planned. The mayor and his former advisor denied the allegation, but Ferrell’s outburst was so strong it overwhelmed the candidate debate as the lead story.
Some political activists have suggested that Greene may have benefited from the exchange and has been seen as a sympathetic victim. Greene was also critical of city spending and would not have supported the Performing Arts and Events Center as Assefa-Dawson did. He may have tapped into the current vein of discourse regarding the city expenditures on the events center and the downtown park.
In other races, appointed Democratic incumbent state legislator Carol Gregory and Republican challenger Teri Hickel are locked in a close race, with Hickel leading out of the primary. That race will remain close and could be decided by how much the marijuana advisory vote impacts turnout.
In the race for elections director, Julie Wise demonstrated surprising strength capturing 63 percent of the vote and will face Democratic state legislator Zach Hudgins in the general election. Wise holds the deputy director job but has never run for office before. The real fun is starting now.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn: firstname.lastname@example.org.