The primary election held little public surprise as the 26% turnout, compared to King County at 34%, dictated the finalists.
Incumbent Susan Honda at 56% held an overwhelming lead over Sharry Edwards at 22% in Position 3. Third-place finisher Lamont Styles closed from an election night 18% to 21% by week’s end, but may be unable to catch Edwards for the second position in the general election.
In Position 7, former state Rep. Linda Kochmar polled 40% and will face newcomer Tony Pagliocco who came in at 33%. First-time candidate Katherine Festa was at almost 27%.
However, both the races were overshadowed by Edwards’s allegations of bribery against Honda receiving campaign donations from supporters of marijuana stores in the city limits. She later withdrew the allegation, but then demanded that Honda return the money. The donations were accounted for in public disclosure records as required. Honda declined to return the legal campaign donations. Edwards followed with other indirect attacks.
Honda never attacked Edwards, but the backlash toward Edwards’s actions is still reverberating throughout the community, and may be partly responsible for the size of Honda’s lead. Mayor Jim Ferrell, a strong and visible supporter of Edwards, also faced critical comment as both he and Edwards supported several conservative policy positions, while seeking political endorsement for Edwards from progressive Democrats.
City positions are non-partisan, but party relationships are important as they build a base of voter support around shared values. It also gives the voters a flavor of the candidates philosophy. Both of these races serve as examples.
Though the 30th District Democrats’ recent internal censure of Edwards for unbecoming conduct toward another member was considered a singular event, it may not be that simple. The censure was based on a complaint by a member who felt Edwards had threatened her job. Even though Edwards said, “I made a mistake,” it is likely that the 30th District Democrats’ message was aimed at both Edwards and Ferrell for their conservative policy positions, and Ferrell’s alleged bullying at a previous meeting to get Edwards the 30th District endorsement.
Despite Honda’s significant margin, Edwards’s attacks seem likely to continue. After the primary, Honda thanked Styles for attending the candidate forums and sharing his thoughts. She hoped that Edwards would start attending.
By comparison, the race for council Position 7 was rather docile. But it still held some interesting maneuvering.
Kochmar is a longtime fixture in the community, serving as a council member, mayor and state representative. She rarely misses any public event. She is a Republican.
Pagliocco appears to have had a plan to run for public office since he moved here a few years ago. He became active in the Republican Party, along with some other community groups, where he became friends with council member Martin Moore. Moore helped him get appointed to a couple of city commissions. Mayor Ferrell also appointed him to a city board. Pagliocco applied for a vacant position on the school board but was not selected.
Appearing to recognize that he was not going to be able to cut into Kochmar’s base in the Republican Party, Pagliocco stopped referring to himself as a Republican and started attending fundraisers for other candidates, including Democrats. It was a new technique to increase his name recognition and some other candidates even donated to him in return. Others, who weren’t necessarily aligned with Pagliocco, didn’t appreciate him using their fundraiser for his own political gain, and raised questions about what his real values and goals were.
However, his year-long effort and large signs had an impact and he was able to edge Democrat Festa out for the second position in the general election. The community knows Kochmar’s views, but the questions for Pagliocco might get a little harder in the next few weeks as voters try to understand what he stands for beyond slogans.
Honda and Kochmar are the front runners. Can Edwards or Pagliocco change that?
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact email@example.com.