McCoy appointed to fill Harper’s state Senate seat

EVERETT — Democratic state Rep. John McCoy of Tulalip changed titles on Wednesday after the Snohomish County Council picked him to fill former state Sen. Nick Harper’s seat.

The vote was 5-0.

After becoming Washington’s newest state senator, McCoy pledged to continue the work he’s performed in the House for more than a decade.

“My top three priorities haven’t changed, which are elders, children and working adults,” McCoy said.

McCoy is interested in serving on senate committees dealing with appropriations, the environment, energy or transportation, among others.

The appointment will last until McCoy or another candidate is certified as the winner in the 2014 general election. He intends to run next year.

Councilman Brian Sullivan, a former state lawmaker, said McCoy’s experience would ensure a “seamless transition into the senate.”

An immigrant-rights activist who was on hand for the appointment also looked froward to seeing McCoy in his new role.

“We need more legislators like him who get out of the office and into the field,” said Nina Martinez, vice chair of the Latino Civic Alliance.

The County Council chose McCoy from a list of three nominees submitted by the Democrats of the 38th Legislative District which includes Everett, Tulalip and part of Marysville. Elected precinct committee officers voted on Tuesday night.

Their top pick was McCoy, with 16 votes. Next was state Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett, with six votes, followed by Kelly Wright of Marysville, a former aide in the state House and one-time Marysville mayoral candidate. He received three votes.

During interviews, Sells and Wright urged the County Council to honor the party officers’ vote and to support McCoy.

McCoy, 70, is the retired general manager of Quil Ceda Village. He was first elected to the House in 2002.

McCoy is a member of the Tulalip tribes. His online biography says he served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force before retiring in 1981. He then worked as a White House computer technician from 1982 to 1985 before embarking on a management career in the private sector. He began his job at Quil Ceda Village in 2000.

Harper, 34, announced his surprise resignation on Nov. 9. He was elected to the 38th Legislative District senate seat in 2010 and would have been up for his first re-election next year.

Harper won his seat in a controversial race against incumbent Sen. Jean Berkey, a fellow Democrat. He had been strongly recruited by progressive Democrats who were frustrated with Berkey’s moderate stances. Harper triumphed in an election tainted by the efforts of an independent political committee to help him win.

Berkey died on Aug. 21 after a brief illness. She was 74.

McCoy’s appointment created a new vacancy in his former House seat. The Snohomish County Democrats and the County Council expect to initiate another selection process to fill it during the week of Dec. 9.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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