Despite denials, political hijinks are no surprise

Who’d have thunk this year’s primary ballot would include contests for Snohomish County executive and an open legislative seat in the 44th District?

Only three years ago, Aaron Reardon, a Democrat, the reigning county executive, was seeking a third term with designs on a run for governor. Hope, a Republican, safely entrenched in his state House seat in the 44th District, decided to make a run at Reardon.

No matter how things turned out, both men seemed assured of a continued presence on every pundit’s short list of up-and-coming, can’t miss stars of the political stage

Today, both are out of office, out of sight and, increasingly out of the community’s mind.

Karma, you say?

Reardon’s tumble from the top shelf of county power in 2013 is well-chronicled. What remains unknown is if the Public Disclosure Commission will find cause to penalize him for the wheeling, dealing and monkey business that transpired on his watch. PDC investigators have spent 29 months looking, so far.

Hope fell from grace only a few days ago when it became known he’d registered to vote in Ohio in 2013 while still a legal voter in Washington. It went undetected so long largely because he hasn’t voted in an election in either state in the past year.

Though he’s gone, officials administering his former place of employment — the state House of Representatives — want to know if Hope might have been unqualified to serve last session and should be forced to repay his taxpayer-funded salary.

In the meantime, Hope’s departure created an unexpected vacancy. An appointee will serve until results in the November election to replace him are final.

Republicans are hurrying to get someone in that seat for the next couple months but whether it will be the person they most want is up to Democrats.

On Aug. 14, GOP precinct committee officers will nominate three people for the appointment and in the process make clear who they prefer. That information will be sent to the Snohomish County Council which will interview each of the trio before appointing one who could be sworn in immediately.

Not a lot of deduction is required to figure out Mark Harmsworth of Mill Creek should be the preferred pick of the PCOs. Harmsworth is already campaigning for the seat and wants to be able to tell voters he is their new state representative.

The County Council’s four Democrats might be reluctant to appoint him just for that very reason. Democratic Party leaders want to win the seat and won’t want the job title bestowed upon Harmsworth if they perceive it could provide a measureable advantage.

Tuesday’s initial results show it could, as Harmsworth finished the night with a 69-vote edge on Democrat Mike Wilson. That portends a very close race in November.

Council Chairman Dave Somers, a Democrat, has brushed off insinuations that the council might stoop to such hijinks and ignore the GOP’s preferred appointee.

However, on occasion, each political party has messed with the other in such a manner.

In 2004, a Republican-controlled council appointed Democrat David Simpson to a vacancy in the 38th District rather than Mike Sells who received the most votes from PCOs. Sells went on to unseat Simpson in that year’s elections.

Ten years earlier, when Republican Bill Brubaker resigned from the County Council, then state Sen. Gary Nelson emerged as his party’s top pick to replace him. But the council’s Democratic majority chose the third Republican on the list, Al Schweppe.

Nelson, who ran for the position that November and won, would in 2004 cast a decisive vote for Simpson.

Who’d have thunk?

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com and on Twitter at @dospueblos

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