County councilman to run for 1-month Congress post

Snohomish County Council Chairman Brian Sullivan said Sunday he’s agreed to be the Democratic Party’s candidate in this year’s special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee.

Sullivan said he hadn’t contemplated running until the chairman of the state party, Dwight Pelz, called last week with an invitation.

“He asked if I would be interested. I called back and said I’d be proud to serve,” he said. “It strikes me as a statesman position. This is about stepping up to serve the party and the people of the district.

“It’s always been a lifetime dream to serve in Congress, albeit even for a month,” said Sullivan of Mukilteo.

Voters in the existing 1st Congressional District — which includes south Snohomish County, parts of King County and all of Kitsap County — will pick a person to serve the final month of Inslee’s term.

The special contest will coincide with the regular election of a representative for a full two-year term to be held in the district’s new boundaries stretching from Canada to Redmond and passing through Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties.

Seven candidates — five Democrats, one Republican and one independent — have spent months battling for the two-year job.

When Inslee quit office in March to focus on his race against Republican Rob McKenna, those seven candidates contemplated the risk and benefits of competing in both contests.

Pelz has been working behind the scenes to convince the Democrats to focus their energies on the main race and steer clear of the special election. He’s tried to forge an agreement in which all five would not run for the short term if he found a consensus candidate.

In a statement Sunday, Pelz sounded confident Sullivan is that person.

“His longtime service to the people of Snohomish County makes him a great choice to represent the 1st District, and I encourage Democrats to rally around him this summer and fall,” he said.

However, only one of the five Democrats committed publicly Sunday to sitting it out.

“I was not planning to run in the special election anyway,” said Steve Hobbs, a state senator from Lake Stevens.

Three others — Suzan DelBene of Medina, Darcy Burner of Carnation and Darshan Rauniyar of Bothell — are still considering runs in both contests, according to their campaigns. Laura Ruderman of Kirkland could not be reached.

“I haven’t made a decision on the race,” Rauniyar said. “I don’t think the party should be telling anybody to stay out.”

For him, the choice hinges partly on resources and partly on what the one Republican candidate in the race decides to do.

That Republican is Snohomish County Councilman John Koster who’s not revealed his intentions. Koster could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Larry Ishmael, who is running as an independent, has said he will not run in the special election.

Filing by candidates begins Monday morning and ends at 5 p.m. Friday. The primary election is Aug. 7 with the top two vote getters advancing to November’s general election.

The winner of the temporary job will earn roughly $15,000 and enjoy all the privileges bestowed upon members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Sullivan, 54, is a former state lawmaker and mayor of Mukilteo. He’s in his second term on the Snohomish County Council.

He said it’s his understanding he can keep his county council job while serving in Congress.

The U.S. Constitution bars members of Congress from working a second federal job but is less clear about holding a second political position such as a county council member.

Sullivan has endorsed DelBene for Congress but insisted Sunday his campaign “is not a tool to help her candidacy.”

“This is about serving the people of the 1st District,” he said. “When you’re called and asked to serve, you do. It’s the honorable thing to do.”

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

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