All but official: Harmsworth wins 44th District seat

MILL CREEK — Republican Mark Harmsworth is heading to the state House of Representatives after the most expensive legislative contest in Snohomish County this year.

Harmsworth, a Mill Creek City Council member, is handily beating Democrat Mike Wilson, a Cascade High School government teacher, for an open seat in the 44th District prized by both political parties.

Though Harmsworth has not formally declared victory, he’s increased his lead each day of ballot counting after the Nov. 4 election.

And Gov. Jay Inslee phoned last week to offer congratulations.

“He left a voice mail,” Harmsworth said Monday. “He said he’s looking forward to working with me next year.”

The race attracted nearly $1 million in combined spending by the candidates and independent political committees, funded largely by unions, businesses and the political parties. Almost one-third of the money went to support Wilson as Democrats sought to win back a seat they lost in 2008.

“Obviously, we were outspent,” Harmsworth said. “We worked really hard. We talked to a lot of voters.”

Those extra dollars, Harmsworth reasoned, couldn’t overcome voters’ preference for his approach to funding public schools and creating private-sector jobs.

It also didn’t hurt that as balloting began, the Everett School District investigated Wilson’s use of school computers to send a handful of campaign-related emails. That probe was sparked by the release of public records obtained from the district by Harmsworth’s campaign.

The district also looked into the use of high school cross-country runners to distribute Wilson campaign materials.

While Harmsworth said he didn’t raise those investigations in his campaign literature, a political committee run by Republican operatives did bring it up in its mailers.

Harmsworth will serve a two-year term representing the district that includes Mill Creek, Lake Stevens and Snohomish.

He will be sworn into office as early as Dec. 4 to succeed Mike Hope, the Republican representative who resigned in July when it was disclosed he was registered to vote in both Washington and Ohio. Hope’s departure created an immediate vacancy that Republican Doug Roulstone has filled pending the outcome of the election.

Harmsworth, 45, a native of England, works as a director with Blueprint Consulting Services in Bellevue. He formerly worked for Amazon and Microsoft Corp.

In the House, he said, he would like to serve on the Technology and Economic Development Committee, where he can tap his experience in the tech sector. He’s also interested in the higher education and transportation panels.

Harmsworth said he intends to serve on the Mill Creek City Council through the end of the year. He was elected to the council in 2007 and re-elected in 2011.

“I want to get through the budget,” he said. “I want to be sure there is a smooth transition for whoever is replacing me.”

The council is holding hearings on the budget this month.

Mayor Pam Pruitt is glad to know he’s sticking around for a few weeks longer.

“I think he’s been a valuable member of our City Council,” she said. “I regret losing him. He’s always willing to speak up. He tells you what he’s thinking. There’s no hesitation.”

Once Harmsworth resigns, residents will be invited to apply for the seat. The mayor and council will conduct interviews and make a decision. Pruitt did not predict how long the process will take.

Whoever is appointed will complete Harmsworth’s term, which runs through next year.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623;

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