Giving Dunshee’s seat to Lovick would benefit Dems in November

Election politics are certain to be on the minds of Snohomish County Councilmembers when they fill the state House seat vacated this week by Democrat Hans Dunshee.

The appointee, by law, must be of the same political party as Dunshee and will be in the office until November when voters will elect someone to serve the full two-year term.

Which raises the question of whether the council will appoint a person to be a caretaker for the position until the election or give it to a candidate already campaigning for the seat?

Dunshee, now a county councilman, resigned Monday from the Position 1 seat in the 44th Legislative District which takes in the cities of Snohomish, Lake Stevens and Mill Creek and part of Marysville.

Democratic precinct committee officers will choose three nominees and send their names to the council for consideration as soon as May 12. That would be four days before candidates can start filing for this year’s elections

Right now John Lovick — the ex-Snohomish County executive, former sheriff and, before that, a longtime state lawmaker — is the only Democratic candidate in the race. He’s planning to seek the appointment.

With Democrats occupying four of the five council seats, it looks like a no-brainer they would appoint Lovick.

This is a critical seat for the Democratic Party which is trying to retain control of the state House of Representatives.

Right now Democrats hold 50 of the 98 seats in the state House. Lose a seat and the two political parties will share power; two seats and the GOP will seize control for the first time since 1998.

Party strategists know Lovick is in for a tough contest with Republican candidate Janice Huxford of Lake Stevens. An appointment could earn him small but useful electoral dividends on the campaign trail.

That’s important because it’s not clear how much political damage Lovick suffered when voters ousted him as county executive in favor of another Democrat, Dave Somers. In the final balloting Lovick lost in his hometown, Mill Creek, and in every precinct in Lake Stevens and Snohomish.

Meanwhile, Republicans like their chances in the 44th District that is pretty evenly divided between Democratic and Republican voters. They already hold one seat with Mill Creek Republican Rep. Mark Harmsworth and Huxford is generating a buzz in the GOP ranks.

But providing Lovick any potential advantage with the appointment is exactly what the council didn’t want to do in 2014 when Harmsworth was the Republicans’ top choice to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Rep. Mike Hope.

Councilmembers, to the chagrin of GOP leaders, refused to give it to Harmsworth. It was presumed part of the reason was because he was a candidate and had won the August primary.

The council, which had four Democrats, got so tied up in knots it didn’t even make a decision. They punted the appointment to Gov. Jay Inslee who chose Doug Roulstone.

Abdicating again doesn’t seem a likely outcome for the council’s Democratic majority.

They know the stakes in this year’s election are too high.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com and on Twitter at @dospueblos

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