Koster declines executive bid

EVERETT – The Snohomish County GOP is still searching for a candidate for county executive after a top contender declined Wednesday to jump in the race.

Republican County Councilman John Koster said he won’t challenge Democratic incumbent County Executive Aaron Reardon.

Sheriff Rick Bart was in the race for two years but dropped out on March 20, leaving Reardon a clear shot in his bid for a second term.

Supporters rallied to Koster as a leading Republican in the county who has considered the race in the past.

But he said he doesn’t have enough time or money for the race this year.

“The late withdrawal by Sheriff Bart just does not provide me with enough time to be effective as a councilman for my district and to organize and launch a campaign proportionate to the challenge,” Koster said. “I owe my supporters a fair shot at running a strong campaign, and the timing was not right.”

Until a candidate is named, Reardon is unopposed in the November election. The job oversees county government and will pay about $134,700 this year.

Bart said he had trouble raising money – donors gave just $21,000 in two years – and his political capital was spent.

Meanwhile, Reardon has raised $222,000 in cash and donations. Although he’s spent some of that already, his campaign war chest still contains $166,000.

Koster said he plans to run for re-election to the County Council in 2009, and later will take a hard look at running for county executive in the 2011 race.

Though Reardon has tied up a lot of money in the race, the right GOP candidate could put up a good challenge this year, Koster said.

“Campaigns aren’t all about money,” Koster said. “Money is a big factor, but you need a lot of grass-roots support, a lot of hard work. It consumes a lot of time and energy for forums, doorbelling, to garner the kind of support it takes to win a race of this magnitude.”

Koster’s decision was a letdown to Republican faithful.

“He’s obviously a highly qualified candidate and he has chosen not to run,” Snohomish County Republican Party chairwoman Geri Modrell said. “That’s a disappointment.”

Republicans have been meeting privately in hopes of finding a candidate as soon as possible, she said.

Modrell said she wouldn’t name potential candidates with whom party leaders are talking.

With Reardon apparently rounding third, the GOP dugout is looking thin. There were no takers among top prospects reached Wednesday.

Said former Edmonds City Councilman Dave Earling, who faced Reardon in 2003: “I have no interest in running.”

Former state Sen. Dave Schmidt of Mill Creek: “Not interested.”

Nor is Doug Roulstone of Snohomish, who ran for Congress last fall.

Jason Bontrager of Bothell, who ran for state Senate in 2004, has been mentioned as a possibility. So has Bothell Mayor Mark Lamb, who served as a legal adviser to former County Councilman Jeff Sax.

“We’re still working on it,” Modrell said. “We’re developing our possibilities. People are investigating. Obviously we don’t want another dropout, do we?”

It’s very important to find a candidate for the race, she said.

“Understand how difficult this is so late in the game,” she said. “We will be patient and careful.”

Reporter Jeff Switzer: 425-339-3452 or jswitzer@heraldnet.com.

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