Party politics factor into replacement for Mike Hope

Republicans in Snohomish County are moving to replace ex-representative Mike Hope as soon as possible but worry the Democratic-controlled Snohomish County Council may thwart their plans.

GOP leaders this week began in earnest to fill the vacancy created when Hope abruptly quit July 24 after it was revealed he’s been registered to vote in Washington and Ohio.

Under the state constitution, Republican precinct committee officers in the 44th Legislative District will submit the names of three people to the County Council for consideration.

The council, which is made up of four Democrats and one Republican, will appoint one of the three, who will serve as a state lawmaker until results of the November election are certified.

Hope’s departure came sooner than expected. He wasn’t seeking re-election as representative of the district which includes Mill Creek, Lake Stevens and Snohomish.

Mark Harmsworth, a Mill Creek City Councilman and the only Republican in the election for the 44th Legislative District seat, said he will try to get the job, at least temporarily, by seeking the appointment.

“Nothing changes in the way I’m running my campaign. I’m still out there pounding the pavement and meeting people,” he said.

But, he noted, an appointment would “give me the ability to get a little head start. I’d be able to hit the ground running in January.”

It also might help his campaign because he’d be asking voters to retain him as their state representative.

That potential advantage is why Susan Hutchison, chairwoman of the state Republican Party, expressed concern that the county council Democrats might bypass Harmsworth, even if he is the top choice of the GOP.

“There’s a political reality here,” Hutchison said.

Snohomish County Council Chairman Dave Somers said Tuesday he’s unaware of any plotting along those lines.

“We’ve had no discussions at all. I don’t know Harmsworth from Adam,” he said, adding that when the names arrive “we’ll deal with it in the appropriate process.”

Mike Wilson, a longtime teacher at Cascade High School and the race’s Democrat candidate, said he isn’t paying attention to what his opponent and his party is doing.

“That’s beyond my control,” he said Tuesday. “Representative Harmsworth under those circumstances is not any different than Mark Harmsworth today. He doesn’t have any more experience, or less, than he has right now.”

It is not known when the precinct committee officers will act. The next scheduled meeting of the party’s 44th Legislative District Committee is Aug. 14 at Harvey Airfield in Snohomish.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; and on Twitter at @dospueblos

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