OLYMPIA — There’s little dispute Democratic Party leaders want state Rep. Derek Stanford to fill a vacant Senate seat in the 1st Legislative District.
Stanford, a soft-spoken progressive in his fifth term, emerged earlier this month as the overwhelming choice to replace Guy Palumbo as senator for communities in south Snohomish and north King counties. Palumbo resigned in May to take a job lobbying for Amazon.
There’s a bit of drama building around who should get Stanford’s seat.
Davina Duerr, a Bothell City Councilwoman, Hillary Moralez, the chairwoman of the Snohomish County Democratic Party, and Darshan Rauniyar, a party activist are the nominees put forth by the party’s precinct committee officers (PCOs) following a June 9 meeting.
Duerr secured the top slot though it took three rounds of balloting to get there. She and Moralez tied in the second tally. Then one person changed their allegiance, swinging the outcome Duerr’s way.
On July 1, members of the Snohomish and King county councils will hold a joint meeting at Bothell City Hall to make some decisions. If Stanford gets the nod for the Senate seat as expected, then those political bodies will install someone in the House job.
At this point, a person in Moralez’s position as county party leader would usually ask that the preferred choice of the PCOs be selected.
But Moralez isn’t doing that. She’s wants the legislative gig. She is campaigning hard to get it, declaring on Facebook “The fight isn’t over” and urging supporters to lobby members of the two councils on her behalf.
Her bid is creating a little discomfort with some fellow Democrats. Close vote aside, they feel the party should always be united behind the top choice for an appointed position.
“I know there’s a little consternation. I know some people think I need to wait my turn,” Moralez said. “I am going to run this as a real campaign until the process is finished.”
Duerr is taking a less aggressive approach thus far. She said she’s reached out to county council members, offering to sit down and chat with them about her qualifications. Other than that, she said she’s going to let it play out.
“It’s become competitive. There’s been some controversy,” she said with a tinge of disappointment in her voice. “I’m trying to stay above the fray.”
The outcome is far from clear. A couple recent appointments in Snohomish County ended with council members bypassing the preferred choice of political party activists.
In September 2017, Republican Carolyn Eslick was named to a vacant House seat in the 39th Legislative District even though she ranked lowest among the three Republican Party nominees. Elizabeth Scott, a former state lawmaker, was the GOP’s top choice.
In February 2016, Palumbo received the most support to fill a vacancy on the Snohomish County Council. But the council’s three Democratic members chose Hans Dunshee, the runner-up, instead. Later that year, Palumbo won his Senate seat while Dunshee lost his council job.
Duerr is aware of how the process can turn out.
“It’s not a slam dunk,” she said.