MILL CREEK — When candidates win re-election by as wide a margin as City Councilman Sean Kelly did Tuesday, it’s usually a guarantee of another four years in office.
The incumbent Mill Creek city councilman still has a hurdle to clear, despite his lopsided victory of 40-plus percentage points.
Snohomish County elections officials Friday are set to consider a voter registration challenge alleging that Kelly moved from his Mill Creek home into another house he bought in Snohomish over the summer. If a majority of the three Canvassing Board members find that to be true, it could cancel any votes he cast at the new address. The hearing is set for 1 p.m. in the county’s Robert J. Drewel building and is open to the public.
A bigger question: What to do about Kelly’s seat if county officials determine he no longer resides in Mill Creek? That would be left to his City Council colleagues.
Mayor Pam Pruitt said she understood Kelly may have left home temporarily because of marital issues and that she wants to respect his privacy.
“He’s been a good member of the team,” Pruitt said. “I’d like him to stay, but if he doesn’t, there’s a legal process to go through.”
The challenge was filed Oct. 27 by Kelly’s election opponent, Carmen Fisher.
Of four Mill Creek council seats up for election, only Kelly’s Position 1 was contested. Jared Mead, a city planning commissioner, ran unopposed for the open Position 2 seat held by Councilwoman Donna Michelson, who decided not to run again.
Kelly won his first council term four years ago. He works as an aerospace systems engineer and has experience as a project manager.
Fisher is a first-time candidate. In the voters pamphlet, she said she has a law degree, but listed no specific professional experience.
Her complaint cites a September article in the weekly Mill Creek Beacon that first raised questions about Kelly’s residency. She also provided supporting real estate documents that appear to show him buying a home in Snohomish. The Beacon reported that Kelly said he believed he could remain on the council if he still owned a house in Mill Creek.
Kelly did not respond to emails and phone messages from The Daily Herald.
Mill Creek spokeswoman Joni Kirk said the city’s administrators wouldn’t speculate on the outcome.
“At the end of the day, we work at the pleasure of the council and we will support whomever is in that role,” Kirk said.
The canvas board comprises Auditor Carolyn Weikel, County Councilwoman Stephanie Wright and chief civil deputy prosecuting attorney Jason Cummings.