Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick is congratulated after she is appointed to fill a vacancy in the state’s House of Representatives at the Snohomish County Council Chambers on Wednesday in Everett. Eslick fills the position created by the resignation of Arlington Republican John Koster. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

They chose the longshot candidate to fill a vacant seat

Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick will serve as representative for the 39th legislative district.

EVERETT — Carolyn Eslick must change her political address from Sultan City Hall to the state Capitol.

That’s because Eslick, who is mayor of Sultan, was appointed Wednesday to fill a vacancy in the state House of Representatives created by the August resignation of Arlington Republican John Koster.

The decision surprised Eslick because she ranked lowest among the three Republican Party nominees for the opening in the 39th Legislative District, a sprawling legislative territory encompassing swaths of rural Snohomish Skagit and King counties.

“Really, it is a shock. I knew I was third,” she said. “I am truly excited. I can’t wait to get started.”

Former state lawmaker Elizabeth Scott, of Monroe, was the top choice after receiving the most votes of Republican Party precinct officers at a special meeting earlier this month. Georgene Faries, of Arlington, a veteran party activist, ranked second. Eslick edged out former Monroe Mayor Robert Zimmerman for the final spot in the course of four rounds of balloting.

Because the legislative district contains areas in three counties, the five Snohomish County councilmembers, three Skagit County commissioners and nine King County councilmembers gathered Wednesday to collectively make the appointment. The meeting took place in the Snohomish County Council chambers.

With no debate and almost no comments, 12 of the 17 elected officials supported Eslick. All five members of the Snohomish County Council supported her nomination, including its two Republicans, Sam Low, of Lake Stevens, and Nate Nehring, of Stanwood.

Both councilmen said Democrats comprised a majority of those involved in the decision and came in with an agenda. Neither saw any value in their casting a ballot against the eventual appointee.

“We understood the Democrats controlled the process,” Low said. “I determined ahead of time that whoever they chose I would go along with the vote because I did not want to vote against a person that I would have to work with.

“All three choices were great choices,” he continued. “We win no matter who was chosen.”

Nehring said it was clear whatever name put forward would likely win.

“I was going to vote in favor of the one that I would be working with,” he said. “If it was a Republican-controlled process, perhaps it would have turned out differently.”

Eslick was sworn into office shortly after the meeting and will serve through the 2018 election, essentially the remainder of Koster’s unfinished term.

She can keep serving as mayor if she wants under state law. But she acknowledged Wednesday she expects to resign before the Legislature reconvenes in January, though the timing is not decided.

One of her opponents in the 2018 election will be Scott, who served two terms in the Legislature before giving way to Koster.

“I am sure she’ll serve us well,” Scott said of Eslick following the decision.

But she said Wednesday’s Democrat-driven result does not reflect the view of the majority of residents of the 39th district.

“I’d rather hear the votes of 137,000 constituents so I’ll be running in 2018,” she said.

Eslick, who is in her 10th year as mayor, said she’s not concerned.

“I’ve always had opponents. It means that I work harder,” she said.

Faries, who was pursuing a political office for the first time, had a big smile covering up a slight bit of disappointment.

“I am so privileged and honored to be allowed to be part of this process,” she said.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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