Major donor lists possibles for 2015 county exec race

EVERETT — Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovick chuckled on Tuesday after reading his name on a list of candidates the building industry is talking up for the county executive race in 2015.

Lovick’s reaction was similar to that of some other elected leaders who read their names in an article in this week’s newsletter from the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties.

“This is news to me,” he said.

It’s true: A local race that’s nearly three years away has already become a staple of political chatter. The newsletter column written by from the Master Builders’ Scott Hildebrand, director of public policy, handicaps a half-dozen potential candidates. In addition to Lovick, they include state Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens; Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson; U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash.; plus county councilmen John Koster and Dave Somers.

Most of those leaders have more pressing concerns, like getting re-elected to their current jobs.

However, the fact that the Master Builders are openly speculating about the race is telling; the organization and its members are among the largest sources of campaign cash in Snohomish County politics.

The building community has been among current County Executive Aaron Reardon’s biggest financial backers during his three successful runs for the job, including the rough-and-tumble race he won in 2011. He’s term-limited, so he can’t run for the job a fourth time.

The builders candidate list begins with Hobbs, the 44th District Democrat who’s a close friend and political ally of Reardon. Hobbs would find some familiar faces on Reardon’s staff, including the senator’s brother-in-law and one of his former aides.

“That’s the buzz running through Lake Stevens, that Hobbs is interested in the job,” said state Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens, Reardon’s opponent in 2011.

Hobbs will be up for re-election in 2014. He failed to make it out of the primary last year when he ran for Washington’s 1st Congressional District seat. Democrat Suzan DelBene went on to beat Koster in the general election contest.

Hobbs on Tuesday did not return a call for comment about whether he’s interested in Reardon’s job.

Stephanson, for his part, said he has no plans to pursue the county’s top elected post.

“I have no interest in the county executive’s race,” he said. “My focus right now, obviously, is running the city and being successful here. I’m also gearing up for my re-election this year for mayor.”

The most surprising name to come up may be Larsen’s.

“(T)here has been nothing from Larsen himself on this rumor,” the column notes.

The congressman on Tuesday was traveling in China and unavailable for comment, said his political director, Brooke Davis.

Somers, of Monroe, said he’s told people he’s interested in the job. First, though, he’ll have to campaign in the coming months to keep his seat on the County Council.

“I have to worry about 2013 first,” said Somers, who represents eastern Snohomish County.

The only Republican mentioned in the list is Koster, who is prevented by term limits from running for re-election to the council.

Koster, with a light laugh, said he’d keep his options open in the 2015 executive’s race.

“I’ll be darned,” he said. “That’s news to me.”

For the record, Hope, Reardon’s Republican challenger in 2011, said he’s not eyeing another run at the executive’s job.

The builders peg Lovick as the “odds-on favorite, depending on what the rest of the field looks like.” That’s partly because he’s already won election countywide and is popular.

“The answer is I’m sheriff and I’m planning to run for sheriff again,” Lovick said Tuesday.

The sheriff also dispelled persistent rumors that he’s trying to become the next Washington State Patrol chief; Gov. Jay Inslee re-appointed State Patrol Chief John Batiste to that post earlier this month.

Not mentioned by the builders is Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine, who confirmed he plans to run for the county executive job. The Republican faces re-election this year in his city.

“I’ve certainly proven my leadership here in Mukilteo,” Marine said. “I believe we need leadership in the county, especially in aerospace.”

The column from the builders gives a recipe for what kind of support a candidate needs to win monetary support here: “The key elements in Snohomish County continue to be the business-labor coalition in the center of the political spectrum that has elected most of the county, state and federal leadership.”

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

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