Election strategy pits one councilmember against another

In Mountlake Terrace, Seaun Richards filed to run against fellow member Kyoko Matsumoto Wright.

Mountlake Terrace City Council candidates Kyoko Matsumoto Wright (left) and Seaun Richards.

Mountlake Terrace City Council candidates Kyoko Matsumoto Wright (left) and Seaun Richards.

OLYMPIA — Restaurant owner Seaun Richards is convinced the leadership of Mountlake Terrace, where he lives, needs a transfusion of political blood.

Earlier this year he tried to talk a few friends into running against any of the four City Council members seeking re-election this year.

Unable to find any recruits, he took the plunge himself and filed as a challenger to City Councilwoman Kyoko Matsumoto Wright. He filed just 10 minutes before the deadline in May.

Here’s the twist: Richards is already a member of the City Council and has been for six years.

“It’s nothing personal,” he said. “We need some new blood in here.”

His bid to take out a fellow council member is causing eyebrows to arch in this city of 21,000 people — starting with Wright.

“I was very surprised,” she said. “The rest of the council was just as surprised. We don’t know what he’s thinking.”

Wright, a real estate agent, was appointed to the City Council in 2008 and a year later won election to her first full term. She won a second term in 2013. She received 57.8 percent of the vote in 2009 and 61.4 percent in 2013.

Richards, owner of Red Onion Burgers in the city, was elected in 2011, winning with 54 percent. In 2015 he was unopposed for re-election. His current term runs through 2019.

Wright said she’s never asked Richards why he’s running against her. She couldn’t cite any issues on which they are so divided that getting her off the council might bring about a different result. Wright contended the election contest has not affected their interactions on the council these past months.

But with ballots out, Wright wonders how many of the city’s 12,850 registered voters understand the political play Richards is making. She said voters have told her they’re supporting him but are surprised to hear he’s already on the council.

Richards isn’t advertising the fact he’s been on it since 2011. He makes no mention of it in his candidate statement in the voters pamphlet, a resource many residents refer to before casting a ballot.

He called it an oversight.

“I didn’t even think about that,” he said. “To me it would have been smart to put in there.”

If Richards loses in the Nov. 7 election, the composition of the council doesn’t change. Wright would get a new four-year term and he’d keep on in his current post.

If Richards wins, he would get a new full term in Position 4 and the council would need to appoint someone to fill his Position 7 seat for the next two years.

That someone could be Wright.

“I am not expecting to lose,” she said. “If it happens I will apply for it.”

If Wright was selected in that scenario, Richards predicted there will be “a lot of pissed off people” in Mountlake Terrace and the next election “will be a bloodbath.”

This isn’t the first time a sitting Mountlake Terrace council member has tried to unseat a colleague in this manner.

In 2009, City Councilman John Zambrano targeted Councilman Jerry Smith, who served as mayor at the time.

Smith fended off the challenge and won with 60.5 percent of the vote.

Two years later, Zambrano ran for re-election. He lost and the council got new blood.

It was Seaun Richards.

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

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