ARLINGTON — John Koster’s time as an institution on the Snohomish County Council is drawing to a close.
The Arlington Republican can not seek re-election when his third term ends this year. That leaves his District 1 seat wide open.
Five candidates have jumped into the Aug. 6 primary, looking to seize the opportunity. Ballots are scheduled to be mailed today.
The two who get the most votes move on to the November election, regardless of party affiliation.
The contenders are an eclectic bunch: Democrat, Republican, Libertarian. They include a Realtor, an Arlington city councilman, a city stormwater supervisor, a county tech department worker and a city utilities employee. There’s a 40-year age difference between the youngest and oldest hopeful.
All have a common thread in their biography: having lived in north Snohomish County for decades, some for their entire lives. The campaigns focus on some of the district’s biggest priorities: job creation, transportation improvements and planning for future population growth.
Gary Wright, 69, has compiled decades of business and public policy experience, though he’s never held public office.
He and his wife, Donna, a Marysville city councilwoman, have owned a downtown Marysville real estate business for more than 40 years. He served under two governors as a real estate commissioner. He’s well-known in his hometown, where Mayor Jon Nehring is running his campaign, and in wider political circles, largely for his work on real estate issues.
Wright believes he’s well positioned to help the county plan for future growth — in housing and industry, as well as deciding which areas to conserve. He said he’s worked on every county comprehensive plan going back into the 1970s.
“I truly believe that I am uniquely qualified among the candidates and even among the current council members to address that issue,” he said.
Wright, one of two Republicans in the race, wasn’t always a member of the Grand Old Party. In 1974, he ran as a Democrat for a state house seat and lost. He switched parties in the 1980s, when his moderate-to-conservative political outlook no longer meshed with local Democrats.
As of early this week, Wright reported raising nearly $38,000, more than $15,000 of it from a personal loan and a cash contribution to his own campaign.
By day, Klein works as an operations manager with a food services company on Microsoft’s Redmond campus. He’s also an appointed vice chairman of the Snohomish County Planning Commission.
The Republican has kept up an ambitious doorbelling schedule, when not busy with family, work, public service, church or sports. He said the one-on-one contact helped him gauge what voters want.
“The biggest thing is the accountability, transparency piece,” Klein said, a reference to the scandals that surrounded former County Executive Aaron Reardon, who resigned May 31.
Property rights are another big issue for the district’s constituents, he said.
Klein, like some of his other opponents, talks about the great potential in building up an economic development zone between Arlington and Marysville. If done right, he said, it could attract 20,000 jobs.
“We don’t want to be a bedroom community in Arlington,” he said.
On another front, Klein said north Snohomish County can expect to see more coal train traffic and should plan accordingly.
“What we need to do is realize this is coming and mitigate the impact,” he said.
Klein reported raising about $22,000 as of this week, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission.
The Snohomish County Republican Party endorsed both Wright and Klein.
Bill Blake, 54, can boast of a varied career path, from bank employee to mill worker and, most recently, Arlington city employee.
In Arlington, where he’s worked for 13 years, Blake is a stormwater and natural resources supervisor. He’s also overseen the city permit center, helping walk big developers and individual property owners alike through the process.
That experience “would help me ask a lot of the right questions” on the County Council, said Blake, who has the Snohomish County Democrats’ sole endorsement in the race.
Blake’s not only steeped in the ways of government, but also in local history. He’s related to E.C. Ferguson, who founded the city of Snohomish, where Blake was born.
Looking toward the future, Blake is intent on finding solutions to accommodate the area’s growing population and new industries, without destroying the quality of life. Long-term planning decisions are likely to reverberate for 100 years or longer, he said.
“We’re really still pioneers here,” Blake said.
He’d also like to attract a trade or technical school to address north Snohomish County’s lack of higher education opportunities.
Blake reported raising about $5,800 for his campaign as of this week.
Carsten Mullin, 38, got interested in politics when he ran for mayor in his hometown of Arlington two years ago. He didn’t make it past the primary in that contest.
Mullin, a Democrat, has worked as a document manager in Snohomish County’s information services department for six years. He believes that experience would help him as a county lawmaker.
“You can really see what works and what doesn’t work,” Mullin said. “It’s really communication that I think is the most important.”
If elected, Mullin said he would try to avoid new taxes and making cuts to law enforcement.
Mullin had not raised a cent for his campaign as of this week.
“It seems like such a waste to see all of this money going to signs and stuff when it could be going to help the community,” he said. “I’d love to see the money go back to the community and help kids.”
Sean Olson, a Libertarian, said he’s concerned about government overreach and lack of transparency. The first-time candidate is a utilities worker for the city of Marysville.
“Every time you turn around, our governments are really trying to impinge upon our freedoms,” said Olson, 29. “I don’t have any specific examples from the county at the moment.”
Olson’s top priorities include property rights and eliminating unnecessary government spending. He wants to offer voters a political choice that’s neither Democrat nor Republican.
“I think a lot of people are getting fed up with the two-party system,” he said.
Olson had reported raising about $450 for his campaign as of this week.
There are only two candidates in each of the other two County Council primary races. All will advance to the general election.
District 4 cover parts of south Snohomish County, mostly east of I-5. Dave Gossett, a Democrat from Mountlake Terrace, has held the seat for 12 years and is term-limited. Former Mill Creek City Councilman Terry Ryan, a Democrat, is competing with Republican Bob Reedy of Mountlake Terrace for that post.
In District 5 representing east Snohomish County, incumbent Democrat Dave Somers of Monroe is trying to win a third term. His challenger is Republican Chris Vallo, a real estate broker who lives in Lake Stevens.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday: Snohomish County Council; Index, Snohomish fire district levies
Friday: Monroe Proposition No. 1
Saturday: Arlington City Council Position No. 7
Monday: Mukilteo mayor
Tuesday: Lakewood School District; Arlington Transportation Benefit District Proposition No. 1
Wednesday: Lynnwood mayor
July 25: Camano Island Library Proposition No. 1; Lynnwood City Council Position No. 1
July 26: Lynnwood City Council Position No. 2
July 27: Lynnwood City Council Position No. 3
July 29: Mill Creek City Council Position No. 1
July 30: Mill Creek City Council Position No. 2
Snohomish County Council, District 1
The district covers most of north Snohomish County, minus Tulalip. It includes Marysville, Arlington, Granite Falls, Stanwood and Darrington.
At stake is a four-year term serving in the county’s legislative body. The annual salary is about $106,000.
Meet the candidates
Party affiliation: Republican
Experience: Realtor; owner of Coldwell Banker Gary Wright Realty in Marysville; past appointee to Washington’s Real Estate Commission; U.S. Army veteran
Party affiliation: Republican
Experience: Arlington City Council; Snohomish County Planning Commission, vice chairman; operations manager at Compass Group at Microsoft’s Redmond campus; bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance from Western Washington University
Residence: Northeast of Arlington
Party affiliation: Democrat
Experience: Stormwater and utilities supervisor with the city of Arlington; Stillaguamish Watershed Council, co-chairman for 13 years; Skagit Valley College, technical degree in natural resource management
Party affiliation: Democrat
Experience: Records manager at Snohomish County’s tech department; chariman of the city of Arlington’s Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission; bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Washington.
Party affiliation: Libertarian
Experience: Underground utilities worker for the city of Marysville