County council positions attract many candidates

The race is on to replace Snohomish County councilmen John Koster and Dave Gossett.

The stalwart county legislators have reached a maximum three full terms in office, and cannot run for re-election this year.

When candidate filing week 2013 closed at 5 p.m. Friday, the faces of those competing for the open seats came into clearer focus.

Incumbent County Councilman Dave Somers, the Democrat who represents east Snohomish County, also is running for re-election. He’s drawn a challenge from Republican Chris Vallo of Lake Stevens.

The primary is Aug. 6. Once the primary results are finalized, the top two vote-getters in each race advance to the Nov. 5 general election. The job pays about $105,000 per year.

The newcomers in office will walk into a vastly changed political landscape, with County Executive Aaron Reardon expected to resign at the end of May.

District 1

Koster’s seat has attracted the most attention, with five candidates in the mix. The hopefuls include two Republicans, two Democrats and a Libertarian.

The territory, District 1, covers most of northern Snohomish County, minus Tulalip. It’s the only County Council seat currently held by a Republican.

Republican Ken Klein, an Arlington city councilman, is the only candidate currently holding elected public office. The 33-year-old also is District 1’s fundraising leader with $17,000 in campaign cash as of last week, the state Public Disclosure Commission reported.

Klein said he wants to promote jobs, government transparency and property rights at the county. He’s familiarized himself with county issues by serving on the Snohomish County Planning Commission, where he’s the vice chairman. By day, he works as a financial manager.

“I like taking part in policy discussions,” he said, “coming up with a decision that’s going to work for most of the people in the room.”

Fellow Republican Gary Wright, 68, of Marysville, has owned Coldwell Banker Gary Wright Realty in Marysville for more than 40 years. Though he hasn’t served as an elected public official, his real estate experience has put him in close contact with local, state and federal government. On Friday, he was returning from a trip to Washington, DC, where he talked tax issues with U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash. and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

“The county needs to make sure the zoning regulations are not over-reaching to the point of being onerous and counter-productive to bringing new businesses in,” Wright said. “The county needs to work with the cities. There are some transportation issues that can be addressed joining with the county, the cities and the state.”

Wright has raised about $10,000 for his campaign, the second-most in the field.

Democrat Bill Blake, 54, for the past 13 years has worked for the city of Arlington. He is a stormwater and utilities supervisor there now. He’s also managed natural resources and permitting operations for the city.

Blake listed his two decades of service at the Stillaguamish Watershed Council, where he’s the chairman, as relevant experience.

The county job, to him, seems like a natural progression.

“I’m not just deciding to do this now,” he said. “It’s where my life experiences have taken me.”

The other Democrat, Carsten Mullin of Arlington, works in the records management Division of the county’s tech department. The 37-year-old said he’d vote against any new taxes and support law enforcement.

“I’ve worked for the county for six years,” Mullin said. “I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to use my leadership skills and my government experience to help improve the quality of life for the people of Snohomish County.”

Mullin ran for Arlington mayor in 2011, but did not make it past the primary. He serves on the city’s Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission.

Sean Olson of Marysville, who filed to run as a Libertarian, could not be reached for this story.

Former Arlington City Councilman Ryan Larsen announced his candidacy early in the year, but later withdrew.

District 4

Former Mill Creek City Councilman Terry Ryan, a Democrat, for months has been campaigning for Gossett’s District 4 seat.

More recently, Republican Bob Reedy of Mountlake Terrace stepped up to challenge him.

The district covers the areas of Mill Creek, Mountlake Terrace, Brier and north Bothell.

Ryan, 55, served more than 17 years on the Mill Creek City Council before stepping down last fall. His departure owed in part to commitments with his job at Bellevue commercial real estate firm Kidder Mathews, where he’s an associate vice president. He also keeps busy coaching youth sports and volunteering in the community.

“Because I’ve been in public service for more than 17 years, I know what the job’s all about,” Ryan said. “Everybody should be working for the betterment of Snohomish County.”

Promoting jobs, livable neighborhoods, public safety, transportation and parks are the top priorities Ryan said he’d advocate if elected.

Reedy, 58, could not be reached for this story, but did return a call to say he was busy at work. He has been a frequent, but unsuccessful, candidate in south Snohomish County political races.

Ryan had raised $36,000 for his campaign and Reedy nothing as of Friday.

District 5

Dave Somers, 60, of Monroe has represented District 5 for two consecutive terms. The district includes Snohomish, Monroe and other cities along the U.S. 2 corridor, as well as Lake Stevens and Maltby.

Somers, a Democrat, worked as a fisheries biologist before going into public life. At the council, he has taken a lead on planning and land-use issues.

His priorities, if elected to another term, include bringing work for the Boeing Co.’s future 777X jet to the area, improving transportation infrastructure and developing well-though-out plans to accommodate population and business growth.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the new county executive and restoring a strong role of the county in regional and state issues,” Somers said. “We have some work to do to repair the organization, but I think that will happen quickly.”

Chris Vallo, a 55-year-old real estate broker from Lake Stevens, said he offers voters a better choice than Somers for stewarding the county’s economy, roads and public safety.

“It’s time to restore hope and serve the community with fresh leadership and new ideas, and I feel I can bring that to the people,” Vallo said.

Vallo said he’d like to focus on resolving transportation gridlock, and improving safety, on U.S. 2 and Highway 9. Property rights, the right to farm, public parks and the county-run Evergreen State Fairgrounds are other areas of interest.

The Republican has not held publicly elected office. Vallo lost a bid to become county assessor in 2011 against incumbent Assessor Cindy Portmann, who took nearly 68 percent of the vote.

Somers had reported raising more than $40,000 for his campaign as of Friday, the PDC reported. Vallo had about $1,800.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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