If you want to get into politics, this is the year for you!
It is a year for local elections, and a record 646 candidates in King County cities have filed to be mayors, councilmembers, school board members and special purpose district commissioners such as fire, water and sewer. Next year, we switch back to state and national elections for those who want to run for the state Legislature or Congress.
Although incumbents have an advantage, the 646 broke the old filing record by 12, demonstrating community service is still a priority to many people. Anyone running for office needs money and name familiarity to have a chance at winning.
However, the more money the candidates have, the easier it is to get your name known. Unfortunately, many people who run for office have not prepared themselves for the race. Candidates who are serious need to have started several months ago with a game plan, endorsements, preparing a budget and trying to determine how all the contacts they have made over the years can be turned into a winning campaign. Relevant experience, such as running a business or nonprofit or some part of a government, always helps.
Seattle will dominate the regional papers and news media as the city has almost enough people running to replace Mayor Jenny Durkan to field a football team. Durkan decided one term was enough, and only two candidates will advance from the Aug. 3 primary to the general election in November.
Here are the front-runners to replace Durkan as mayor of Seattle, along with their early fundraising totals from when this column was submitted. Seattle has four democracy vouchers for each resident, worth $25 each, that they can donate to candidates. Former council president Bruce Harrell has raised $264,749. Nonprofit director Colleen Echohawk has raised $399,986, while architect Andrew Houston has raised $320,781. The next tier includes current Seattle City Council President Lorena Gonzalez, who has raised $174,631, former State Rep. Jessyn Farrell at $103,810, and Casey Sixkiller at $23,640, who has just started to raise money, but already has name familiarity and experience in Seattle city government.
In the suburbs, there are only a few cities with strong mayors like Seattle’s, such as Kent, Auburn, Renton and Federal Way, along with some of the smaller jurisdictions.
Renton’s mayor is not up for election this year, and Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus is unopposed. A council race to watch in Auburn is position 4, where incumbent Yolanda Trout is being challenged by Hanan Amer and Andrea Niemeyer. Auburn Deputy Mayor Claude DaCorsi chose not to seek a third term, and his successor will will be decided in November.
Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell has been considered vulnerable on the left for his reluctance to support police accountability measures, but has apparently repaired the damage, and only perennial candidate Mark Greene is running against him. Ferrell has raised $78,866, but since he is continuing to seek donations, it is likely for another election job in the future. He is politically ambitious.
The battle for mayor of Kent is the one to watch this year. Incumbent Dana Ralph has raised $44,984 and has the support of many city councilmembers. Her opponent, Dawn Bennett, has raised $30,373 and has a background in nonprofits, most recently the Multicultural Education Rights Alliance. She is supported by several state legislators.
Another Kent race to watch is city council position 4, where council president Toni Troutner has raised $7,037 and is being challenged by Clifford Cawthon, a professor at Bellevue College, who has raised $10,660. He is supported by some council members from Auburn and two legislators as of this writing.
In Federal Way there are two city council races to watch. In position 6 is incumbent Martin Moore, who ran for the Legislature last year as an “independent Republican.” This would be Moore’s third term. He has raised $9,780 and is being challenged by fellow Republican Jack Dovey, who served as mayor when the city had a council-manager form of government. Dovey started late, but is well known. There are also two Democrats in the race: Adrienne Obregon and Renae Seam. Obregon is a retired child development teacher and has raised $1,483. Seam works for Boeing Employee Credit Union and previously worked for Microsoft. She mentors students at Illahee Middle School and had an impressive interview when she applied for a vacant council seat. She has raised $5,526. Seam does not support defunding the police department, but does support police accountability. As the incumbent, Moore would likely be the front-runner, but the two Republicans will split votes, as will the two progressives. Moore and Seam would be the best matchup for November.
In Federal Way City Council position 4, incumbent Hoang Tran is being challenged Katherine Festa, who has run for the council before and has learned a lot. She has been endorsed by King County Executive Dow Constantine and three legislators. The third candidate in the race, Daniel Miller, is a newcomer. Look for Tran and Festa to advance to November.
Also watch position 5 in Federal Way. Both Leandra Craft and Jack Walsh will advance to November, but the two provide a contrast that is worth voters’ attention as they cast their ballots, as it may affect the political tone of the next city council. Walsh is more conservative and ran for the Legislature last year as a Republican. Though not a surprise that he would run, as he has led two campaigns to oppose pot shops in Federal Way, Walsh did file late in the process, which may hamper fundraising. Craft, the appointed incumbent, is a King County prosecutor and serves on the board of Filipino lawyers. She wants to find more services for people with behavioral health issues and mental health substance use disorders, rather than use the criminal justice system. She has already raised $19,135. She wants to improve the walkability of downtown Federal Way, and has endorsements from several legislators and Congressman Adam Smith.
In Renton, watch city council position 2 with five candidates. Incumbent Angelina Benedetti has raised $8,529. Carmen Rivera has raised $2,591 . The others are just starting to raise money. In position 1, incumbent Randy Corman is not seeking re-election. Running in this position will be Joseph Todd, who has raised $21,649 as of this writing, and James Alberson Jr., who has raised $5,670 as of this writing.
School board races in Kent and Federal Way are worth watching. Federal Way is transitioning from Superintendent Tammy Campbell, who will be mentoring future superintendents in a change of profession. The incoming Superintendent Dani Pfeiffer will continue Campbell’s focus of “students first,” as will appointed school board incumbent Trudy Davis. Davis wants to get students back in school, and is pleased that graduation rates have improved by working to keep students in class.
Davis has attracted three opponents who may have other agendas. Her opponents include Janis Clark, who has run for the state Legislature in Federal Way and in Tacoma, and Jim Storvick, who recently sent a letter to the editor that was critical of the school board for its transition plan for Campbell and Pfeiffer. Teamwork might be an issue. Davis is the front-runner and fits well with the current board philosophy. Jenny Gallagher is the other person in the race.
Over in Kent, one of the candidates, Bryon Madsen, filed recall charges against the school board for not agreeing with him on a matter. However, since two of the board members are not running again this year, the law precludes recall charges against them. Madsen has since withdrawn his recall petitions against Leslie Hamada and Michele Bettinger, whose terms end in 2023.
In Bellevue, longtime council member Conrad Lee has raised $84,671 and still attracted three opponents. In Burien, Deputy Mayor Krystal Marx has attracted five opponents. But that might be more related to her plan to run for Congress against Adam Smith. All of the races in Burien will be worth watching this year.
I would also encourage readers to follow city races in Mercer Island as the homeless issue has surfaced there.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.