From left, Megan Dunn, Kristina Mitchell and Georgia Fisher.

From left, Megan Dunn, Kristina Mitchell and Georgia Fisher.

Challengers to Dunn seat aim to tip balance on Snohomish County Council

Democrat Megan Dunn holds Position 2. Georgia Fisher and Kristina Mitchell, who have Republican ties, aim to unseat her.

EVERETT — The Snohomish County Council often votes along party lines, and this election could flip which party comes out on top.

Currently, three of the five council members prefer the Democratic party and plenty of votes mirror that 3-2 split, but Position 2, held by Democrat Megan Dunn, is up for grabs this year.

Dunn, the only woman on the council, has two challengers: Georgia Fisher and Kristina A. Mitchell.

Georgia Fisher, 73, is a proud Republican. Fisher is coming out of retirement to challenge Dunn. She said she briefly considered running for Everett City Council, but wants to “have a bigger influence.”

Kristina Mitchell, 38, believes the County Council should be devoid of party politics, although she has a history of working on Republican campaigns.

As far as contributions go, Megan Dunn has raised the most with nearly $37,000, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission. Fisher has about one-third of that with nearly $12,700, and Mitchell trails with $4,300.

Position 3 on the County Council is also up for election this cycle, but Democrat Strom Peterson is unchallenged after being appointed last fall. Peterson’s seat and Position 4, held by Democrat Jared Mead, will stay blue. Nate Nehring and Sam Low are not up for reelection this cycle, so those seats will remain red.

Whoever wins the race for Position 2 — representing Mukilteo, Everett and Tulalip — could shift the party lines in their favor. County councilmembers make over $137,000 per year.

Megan Dunn

Position 2 has never been held by a Republican.

In 2019, Dunn ran on housing affordability and sustainability, beating Republican Anna Rohrbough with 54.79% of the vote for the vacant seat. More than 34,000 ballots were cast.

Dunn, who holds biology and policy studies degrees, is proud of the work she has done on the comprehensive plan, the ongoing creation of a Veterans Treatment Court and the new county health department. In March, Dunn was elected chair of the health department’s board.

Although she aimed to do more environmental work, the pandemic took priority.

Now, the repercussions of what she calls “the Blake 2.0 decision” — an overhaul of the state law guiding penalties and treatment options for people caught possessing illegal drugs or using them in public — may take center stage.

“I’ll keep working on some environmental issues, but I think the big shift coming up is going to be working on treatment and recovery courts, so we have a process for justice-involved people that are in need of treatment,” Dunn said.

Megan Dunn

Megan Dunn

She said public safety and improving the criminal justice system are the most important issues.

Last year, Dunn voted in favor of purchasing two hotels to use them as low-barrier homeless shelters. The vote split the council 3-2.

“These are partisan positions and that was a vote down party lines,” Dunn said. “We are hearing very clearly from the community that we need to work on homelessness and housing, and Democrats are the only ones willing to step up and offer solutions and support and vote for those solutions.”

She continued: “That’s why it’s also just really critical that we have someone with those progressive values — the values of this district — to support housing and transitional housing for our homeless neighbors, and get people into shelter and off of the street.”

Georgia Fisher

On the contrary, Fisher vehemently disagrees with the county’s choice to purchase the two hotels.

“I would have been against it,” Fisher said. “That would have changed the vote from from three to two — a different three to two.”

Fisher said low-barrier entry to housing “is equivalent to no-barrier entry,” and tax dollars should not be used to fund places that “will not help people.”

Fisher objects to the Housing First model — a belief that the top priority is for people to be safely housed, even if they’re still struggling with addiction and other issues. Instead, she would like to see more public-private partnerships, so the private entities can run their own treatment programs as they deem fit.

She grew up in California but moved to Snohomish County in her late 30s to work for Boeing. Fisher, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Phoenix, has been a local Republican Precinct Committee Officer since 2019 and served two terms as the 21st Legislative District Chair.

She said she is running because the community is “going downhill.”

Georgia Fisher

Georgia Fisher

“It used to be this place was the most gorgeous place on earth, and lately, it certainly is not that,” Fisher said. “Now, there’s homelessness, crime, graffiti everywhere. Not too many years ago, you never saw that. It just wasn’t here. It was rare. And now it’s everywhere all the time. And that’s why I say the simple answer is leadership. It’s not getting done.”

Fisher said she’s worried about the growing fentanyl crisis.

“Just two hours ago, I was talking to Sheriff Adam Fortney and the issue of fentanyl coming both from our southern border and our northern border,” Fisher said. “I talk to the people who do the job. I know the problem. The solutions are tough, and we have to engage them, but we’re not. That’s why I object to the Housing First program.”

She continued, saying the Pallet shelters in Everett also won’t work and are “wasted money.”

Ultimately, Fisher is focused on a short list of top issues.

“We could talk about another policy, but that’s the main one that’s affecting everyone — that’s their number one issue: Crime, safety and declining city,” Fisher said.

Kristina Mitchell

Mitchell also thinks public safety is the biggest issue facing the county.

She wants to renegotiate police contracts and get “more units on the road.” Mitchell said she wants more funding for police. More than 75% of the county’s 2023 budget is dedicated to public safety and law enforcement.

Mitchell was born and raised in Snohomish County, and has spent most of her career in education.

She said she wants to run for County Council to keep the seat apolitical.

“I truly believe that I’m nonpartisan,” Mitchell said. “There’s really not a lot of party politics that should be on the council.”

However, Mitchell has a history working with at least nine Republican campaigns, from U.S. Senate to state governor.

Kristina Mitchell

Kristina Mitchell

Mitchell’s website also explains she wanted to run for County Council because she feels it’s her best option.

“First, I have no idea what I would do as a commissioner,” Mitchell’s website reads, laying out reasons why she would not run for school board or city positions. “My only option is a county seat, which is extremely important, because we in UN-Incorporated Snohomish Counties, do not have much of a voice. Neither does most of the silent majority of those who need more of a moderate, neutral open-minded voice at a local and state level.”

Mitchell has not served in elected office before, but she said she teaches civics in the Mukilteo School District.

“I chose no party politics because people need to see what it is to be a representative for everybody,” Mitchell said.

The top two candidates from the Aug. 1 primary will move on to the general election Nov. 7.

Kayla J. Dunn: 425-339-3449; kayla.dunn@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @KaylaJ_Dunn.

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