Gregoire: Election in works to replace Inslee

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire said today a special election will be held to pick someone to serve the final weeks of former Congressman Jay Inslee’s term.

But she hasn’t decided who will get to vote — those living in the old boundaries of the 1st Congressional District he represented or the new ones drawn up through redistricting.

Inslee, a Democrat, resigned earlier this month to campaign full-time for governor against Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna. His term runs through early January 2013 when the new Congress is seated.

“There is a misimpression … that somehow I have discretion as to whether I call an election or not. I don’t. I have to call an election,” Gregoire said.

Typically, when there is an unfinished term, the winner of the November election would complete the unfinished term and continue on to serve the new one.

That may not work for a House seat this year because, with redistricting, the boundaries for the congressional district will change in January. Gregoire is trying to get clarity on which boundaries to apply for a special election.

“I want to make sure the U.S. House of Representatives, when we elect someone, will seat that person,” she said.

If she orders a special election be held in the old boundaries, it would occur in conjunction with this year’s regularly scheduled primary and general elections. The top two vote getters in August would advance and the winner in November would be a member for a month, or less.

Gregoire said she does not want to leave Washington with one less vote in Congress because “very critical issues” may be considered in December including proposed changes to the deductibility of sales tax for Washington residents.

“It would be a terrible mistake not to have a vote and to have those people represented,” she said. “We have to have representation because I think the potential for them to deal with really big issues that impact our state is very obvious.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8693; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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