Democratic council member Jesse Johnson is running for the state Legislature in 2020 and has been endorsed by Mayor Jim Ferrell who says he is a Democrat. Nothing odd about that is there?
Actually there is. Two years ago, Democrat Johnson was running against incumbent council member Bob Celski who is a Republican. Ferrell endorsed Celski. It wasn’t the first time Ferrell let down the Democratic party he says he is a member of, and it wouldn’t be the last.
Ferrell said at the time he was hesitant to oppose an incumbent that he had worked with. That likely had a kernel of truth to it. But politics always provide the real reason. Ferrell was afraid if Johnson got elected to the council, he might get ambitious and run against Ferrell for mayor.
Working with Celski was more comfortable for Ferrell, and he even promoted an idea that Celski would be a good person to follow him as mayor.
Ferrell was right about Johnson being ambitious, but he is not running against Ferrell. Johnson, along with Chamber of Commerce CEO Becca Martin, is running for the legislative seat that incumbent Mike Pellicciotti will vacate to run for state treasurer.
But the intrigue isn’t over.
Ferrell isn’t endorsing Johnson, a fellow Democrat, because their policy interests are the same. They aren’t. In fact, Johnson has openly disagreed with Ferrell on social issues such as the homeless, affordable housing and youth programs. Ferrell is endorsing Johnson because it will look good to Democrats. Just like last week when he suddenly took an interest in supporting the LGBTQ community and flying the pride flag after saying no to their request six months ago.
But Ferrell does want Johnson to win and vacate his council seat so Ferrell and his council allies can fill the seat with another Ferrell supporter. It would also get Johnson out of the way for Ferrell’s reelection run in 2021.
Another reason for Ferrell to endorse Johnson is that if Johnson looses the legislative race, he is more likely to run for reelection to his council seat than run against Ferrell for mayor.
The speculation and intrigue has been making the rounds long enough that names to replace Johnson have actually been discussed. The name heard most often is Ferrell ally Sharry Edwards, but that seems unlikely as she has run twice for the council and lost, most recently against Susan Honda who would have a vote in the process to replace Johnson should that become necessary. But there are other names who are thinking ahead and want the job.
If Johnson leaves the council, the remaining six would choose his replacement. Ferrell’s allies tend to be Mark Koppang and Martin Moore. Less likely to go along with Ferrell’s choice are Susan Honda and Linda Kochmar. That leaves Lydia Asseffa-Dawson and Hoang Tran and four votes would be needed.
And since no plan is perfect, many things could still go wrong. Becca Martin and Johnson are both working hard and Martin could win and Ferrell would have to work with her in 2021 after having endorsed her opponent. And what if the other four appoint someone who isn’t a Ferrell supporter. Or King County Council member Pete von Reichbauer could retire, creating a whole new set of movements.
And to readers, always remember in politics, there is more going on beneath the surface than above, so don’t believe a simple story line just because it sounds reasonable. And always listen to the words very carefully as some politicians tend to want to rewrite history.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact email@example.com.