Low faces 2 Democrats in 2021 Snohomish County Council race

Brandy Donaghy and Jordan Sears aim to unseat the District 5 incumbent. The primary is Aug. 3.

Sam Low

Sam Low

EVERETT — Republican County Councilman Sam Low will seek re-election this year. He will face at least two Democratic challengers: Brandy Donaghy, a U.S. Navy veteran, and Jordan Sears, a 21-year-old on the Gold Bar City Council.

There’s still plenty of time for more candidates to enter the race to represent District 5, a swath of East County that includes Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Monroe, Sultan, Gold Bar and Index.

Contenders, who have until May 21 to file their candidacy, will face off in the Aug. 3 primary election. The top two vote winners, regardless of party, will advance to the Nov. 2 general election.

Low, who won re-election in 2017 after unseating an appointed council member a year earlier, said he has a “proven history” of working with colleagues across the aisle to finance key transportation projects and address other issues.

During his tenure as a council member, he’s helped secure about $28 million for flood damage repairs on Index-Galena Road and some $23 million to begin design plans for a widened stretch of Highway 522 and a new interchange at Paradise Lake Road in Maltby.

“I want to continue to see our transportation needs through,” said Low, 50.

He was one of three council members who voted in 2015 to approve a lease option that opened the door to commercial service at Paine Field, where Propeller Airports opened a passenger terminal in March 2019.

He also pushed for renovations to the county’s existing courthouse over the costly construction of a new one. Crews broke ground on the roughly $76 million renovation in 2018, and the project is expected to be completed in 2021.

The councilman, who spent a decade running his own painting business, lives in Lake Stevens. He served on the City Council there for several years until his 2016 election to the County Council.

Amid a nationwide movement to divert police funding to human services, Low has emerged as a staunch supporter of the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies.

“Public safety is still the number one priority,” he said. “Making sure that the sheriff’s office is fully funded is extremely important to me and my district.”

Brandy Donaghy

Brandy Donaghy

Donaghy, 47, said she wants to help the county prepare for the next crisis — after the coronavirus pandemic.

The South Everett resident volunteers for a national disaster relief organization, doing emergency preparedness training and outreach.

“We were overwhelmed this time. I want to create systems that prevent us from being overwhelmed next time,” said Donaghy, who lives just inside the northwestern border of District 5. “It’s been my experience that the thing that happens is the one that you didn’t plan for.”

Building resiliency requires investing in programs and projects that promote equity and help residents and businesses get back on their feet when things go wrong, she said. She cited homelessness in the county as a problem that warrants more holistic solutions than motel vouchers or additional shelter beds.

“We need to be looking at some of the long-term decisions that we’re making to address these issues instead of just throwing money at them in the short term,” she said. “Because ultimately, that ends up costing more.”

Since she served in the military during the first Gulf War, Donaghy has taken on a variety of roles with local non-profit organizations. She has taught art classes at Penny Creek Elementary School, where her son is a student, and served on the board of directors for the Communities of Color Coalition (C3).

She ran unsuccessfully for the South County Fire Board of Commissioners in 2019 and pursued a similar seat at the helm of Snohomish County Fire District 1 two years earlier. District 1 merged with another fire agency to become South County Fire.

Jordan Sears

Jordan Sears

Sears was appointed to the Gold Bar City Council in March 2019 to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Brian Diaz following his arrest on charges of possession of child pornography and methamphetamine.

As a 19-year-old, newly minted councilman, Sears led the City Council in passing a resolution to recognize June as Pride Month, in support of the LGBTQ community.

The budding politician decided to run for County Council after Low introduced a controversial resolution in January 2020 in support of a plan to axe 160 acres of forest next to Wallace Falls State Park. Talks had stalled on a compromise that would save some of the state-owned forest for the county. Low and others supporting the sale cited the money it would generate for local schools, libraries and other taxing districts.

In late November, the state Department of Natural Resources sold the so-called Middle May harvest to Sierra Pacific Industries for nearly $3.15 million — despite concerns, shared by Sears and other opponents, that the harvest would detract from outdoor recreation opportunities in the area and diminish nearby property values.

“We need a younger voice,” said Sears, a Gold Bar native who works as a service representative for a financial institution in Kirkland. “We need a little bit more diversity on the council.”

If elected, Sears said he would work with state lawmakers to address traffic issues on U.S. 2. He supports the construction of a bypass that would reduce congestion in Gold Bar and other cities along the thoroughfare, he said.

He would also push for criminal justice reform, including a police oversight board with the power to fire law enforcement officers for misconduct.

Sears is a graduate of Sultan High School. He ran unsuccessfully for the School Board as a write-in candidate. He earned an associate of arts degree from Everett Community College through Running Start, a program that allows high school students to take college-level courses.

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; rriley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

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