Koster ‘thinking seriously’ about another run for state House

One of Snohomish County’s best-known Republicans is eyeing a return to politics in the place where his political career began.

John Koster, the Arlington dairy farmer and ex-maker of laws for the state and county, is “seriously” thinking about a run for the Legislature in 2016.

Koster, 63, would be seeking to replace Republican Rep. Elizabeth Scott in the 39th Legislative District. Scott will not run for re-election so she can run for Congress.

“I’m thinking seriously about it,” Koster said in a recent interview. “I’m very, very interested in it. The people I talked to want me to make a 100 percent commitment today.

“I’ve got to weigh my options.”

Koster’s lawmaking livelihood began as a representative in the 39th Legislative District.

He lost his first run for the state House in 1992. Two years later, with Republicans piling up victories across the country, Koster upset Democratic Rep. Hans Dunshee. (Dunshee returned in 1996 by winning the district’s other House seat.)

Koster served six years in the Legislature, establishing himself as a torch-bearer for social and fiscal conservatives in the Grand Old Party in Snohomish County and around the state.

He also spent 12 years on the Snohomish County Council, after which he joined the administration of Democratic County Executive John Lovick as the county’s first ombudsman.

But the merger of partisans collapsed quickly and publicly after Koster signed an anti-union fundraising letter for the Freedom Foundation, a conservative think tank now led by a former Koster campaign advisor.

Lovick didn’t want Koster reappointed. And Koster lost the job when a divided County Council would not retain him.

But Koster — who also has run three times since 2000 for Congress — did not seek a quiet retirement from politics.

He’ll be on the ballot this fall for a seat on the Charter Review Commission, which will consider rewriting the structure of county government. This will be his 11th election since 1992. A run for the state House would be an even dozen.

Why return to Olympia?

He now has a better perspective of how decisions made by the Legislature affect local governments.

Koster doesn’t intend to revive all his old ideas, like creating Freedom County.

“Nobody is the same as they were 20 years ago,” he said.

Koster shouldn’t have a hard time winning, if he runs. The 39th is one of the most solid Republican districts west of the Cascades. In 2014, Scott won with nearly 63 percent of the vote, and House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, ran unopposed.

The big challenge could come from within the GOP. There are certain to be some in the county party who think Koster should step aside to allow a new face to go for it.

There’s a slight risk in that strategy. Next year is a presidential election year, and the number of Democrats voting will swell. A Democrat of some stature could pose a greater challenge for a newbie than a veteran like Koster.

And with Republicans gaining strength in the Legislature, party leaders might prefer Koster run to lessen worries of keeping the seat in the GOP column.

Koster understands the calculations and the difficulty posed by another campaign as he ponders a journey that will take him back to the future.

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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