Turnout, turnout, turnout!
If you favor a particular candidate or issue be sure and return your ballot. This is an off-year election, which usually translates to low voter participation. Typically, Republicans and conservatives are more disciplined about voting, while Democrats and progressives are more casual about off-year elections, but show up in presidential years. If the true goal is gaining an accurate picture of what voters want, then controversial initiatives should be run in state and national years, such as 2020. Issues or candidates supported by progressives are less likely to succeed in an off-year like 2019. A low election is anything under 40%.
As always, I consulted several local politicos, some elected, some not, about their best guess of the winners.
Based on that, here are the likely winners this year:
City Council and school board positions are non-partisan, but most candidates support one party over another for philosophical reasons, or to establish a friendly voter base. Sometimes that means switching parties to avoid competing for those voters.
Council Position 3 between Susan Honda and Sharry Edwards was a clash between two people who used to be allies in wanting the city to do more for the homeless. But Edwards’s views have become more conservative and may have been influenced by her mentor, Mayor Jim Ferrell. After more controversy than was necessary by Edwards, Honda easily won the primary and should win the general comfortably.
In Position 5, Mark Koppang is the incumbent and is conservative in the mold of Ferrell, whom he frequently is allied with. Koppang is being challenged by Jamila Taylor, an attorney and progressive. Koppang is the front runner and a low turnout favors him. But if you’re looking for an upset special, watch this race — Taylor is an impressive candidate.
In Position 7, Linda Kochmar is one of the most well known people in town. She was on the council previously and also served in the state Legislature. She is a Republican and started out as the front runner over newcomer Tony Pagliocco. Pagliocco was a Republican, who was also trying to recruit Democratic support. Unable to undercut Kochmar’s support among Republicans, Pagliocco switched to independent and continued to recruit Democrats.
Kochmar’s primary numbers were not as strong as expected, and Pagliocco had moved closer to the likelihood of an upset. But new information has raised credibility questions about Pagliocco and has moved the race closer to “toss-up.” Pagliocco has made much of his endorsement by the Police Guild, but admitted at the Mirror debate that he had not read the Violence Prevention Committee’s report. Also, the firefighters did not endorse him due to concerns about follow through on a project with them. A letter to the editor raised further questions as it correctly stated that he had missed over half of the meetings of the city’s Human Services Committee he serves on. That committee determines which social programs to fund and is an important helping hand to people in need. At the same time that questions about Pagliocco were being raised, some Democrats felt more comfortable with Kochmar’s experience, and started moving toward supporting her. It is still Pagliocco’s “race to lose,” but he might.
Council member Lydia Assefa-Dawson is unopposed.
On the school board, appointed incumbent Jennifer Jones is being challenged by Elizabeth Carlson. Carlson has not participated in the interviews or debates. Jones is impressive and will win. Incumbents Trudy Davis and Hiroshi Eto are unopposed.
In Position 3, appointed incumbent Luckisha Phillips is being challenged by first-time candidate Tenya Magruder. Phillips has been on the board for approximately a year, is a college professor of education and is knowledgeable about early childhood education and has children in district schools.
Magruder lists machinists aerospace certifications for education and bus driver as occupation. Magruder is concerned about graduation rates and attendance. But her proposals are vague and lack details needed for discussion. Federal Way is one of the most diverse districts in the country and Magruder became subject to questions when it was learned she had donated money to a white supremacist.
Phillips recognizes preparing the whole student to graduate is equally about academics, vocational options, parental involvement, teacher support, adequate meals and counselor assistance. Phillips is prepared to contribute after her year of learning. Magruder needs to learn more about the details of how the district operates. She never seemed to grasp how her donations might be viewed, and then blamed the media. Much of serving in public office is about taking responsibility for your actions.
The most controversial issue has been over whether or not pot shops should be allowed in the city limits. I am still trying to figure out why the pro-group didn’t wait until next year? Then after a local business person who is opposed to the measure used an illegal sign, the pro-group did the same thing under their theory of “fight fire with fire,” rather than point out the political weakness of breaking the law. Questionable strategy on both counts. The big turnout that is needed to win seems unlikely.
Another local issue is 19-001 regarding affordable housing in Federal Way. Good idea, but an aggressive opposition has raised questions that may need more refinement.
State-wide, I-976 — the latest $30 registration battle — will likely fail to another aggressive campaign. Ref. 88 (I-1000) upholds or rejects affirmative action by the state. The votes on this issue will be used to calculate our inclusion split. It should pass, but again turnout may doom it. There are about a dozen other advisory votes on the ballot intended to undermine the Legislature’s intent to spread taxation in an equitable manner. Read them all carefully. Some may fail, but taxes are needed to pay for the services the public wants.
The Medic One proposition will pass.
Julie Wise will defeat perennial candidate Mark Greene and be retained as director of Elections. Both Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Claudia Balducci will be reelected to the County Council, but long-time council member Larry Gossett may have reached the end of a really good career. Watch Balducci in the future.
Voting is a privilege we have too often taken for granted. Exercise it!
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.