Mukilteo Republican Sayes challenges Democrat Sullivan for County Council seat

Glen Sayes knows he has his work cut out for November’s election, when he faces popular Snohomish County Councilman Brian Sullivan.

Sullivan, a Democrat trying for his second term, won more than two-thirds of the vote in August’s primary. Sayes, one of two Republicans in the primary, advanced with about 23 percent of the vote.

Heading toward the Nov. 8 general election, Sayes makes his case to unseat Sullivan by pointing to the rarity of “no” votes when the council makes legislative decisions. Fewer than 1 percent of votes cast in 2010 were no votes and more than half of those were cast by the council’s lone Republican, John Koster.

“It seems like there should be more controversial issues or there should be more meat to the issues,” Sayes said.

Sullivan countered that the critique shows just how unfamiliar Sayes is with the job he’s trying to win. In reality, the votes are often on dull, mundane topics, Sullivan said, and come after extensive discussions.

“Are you really going to vote ‘no’ on a pothole-repair process? Vote ‘no’ on the budget for the courts? The assessor or the auditor? Tell the sheriff you can’t buy bullets?” the incumbent asked. “If you voted ‘no’ on a lot of those things, you’d be thrown out of office for being stupid.”

Sullivan also said he’s voted against the majority when it counts. He noted that he and former County Councilman Mike Cooper were the “no” votes last year when the County Council passed, by 3-2, controversial urban centers rules allowing buildings of up to 180 feet tall at several specially zoned areas. That includes the Point Wells waterfront industrial site next to Woodway.

Sayes and Sullivan are competing for the council’s District 2, which includes the Everett and Mukilteo areas. Boundary changes under discussion could add the Democratic-leaning Tulalip area to the district next year.

The contest pits a seasoned elected figure against a newcomer.

Sullivan, who is 53, began his life in public office in his 20s, when he was elected to the City Council in his hometown of Mukilteo. He later served as Mukilteo’s mayor and has worked in county government under all three county executives. He represented the 21st Legislative District from 2001 to 2007, then beat Republican Bill Cooper, now the GOP’s county chairman, for his spot on the County Council.

Sullivan also has extensive restaurant-industry experience and was longtime owner of Riley’s pizza in Mukilteo.

Sullivan said his top priority is bringing a customs building to county-run Paine Field. That would make the airport more convenient for the Boeing Co. and other aerospace manufacturers, he said. He’s been promoting Paine Field as a site for Boeing to build the next generation of its 737 jet.

“It’s funny because we constantly talk about how we want to diversify our economy, but honestly, I think we should concentrate on aerospace,” he said. “That’s our strength.”

He listed land-use planning and infrastructure improvements as some of the ways lawmakers can help attract more businesses and jobs to the area.

This is the second year in a row that Sayes, 61, has campaigned for public office. Last year, he was knocked out in the primary when he ran against state Sen. Paull Shin, D-Edmonds.

Sayes has never held elective office and instead emphasizes his business experience. He used to own Lumina Photography on Everett’s Casino Road but closed it recently. Earlier, he worked selling complex software systems to manufacturing companies to handle functions including operations, orders and accounting. Prices could run to millions of dollars, he said, and selling the equipment required detailed knowledge of the business client.

“Who on the Snohomish County Council is qualified to handle that level of sale?” he said.

Sayes said he’s been an overachiever all of his life. Living with the effects of polio, which he contracted when he was 15 months old, hasn’t stopped that. The disease left him using braces and crutches for much of his life, and he has been in a wheelchair for the past seven years.

“This is who I am,” he said. “That’s the spirit and attitude I’d like to bring into the County Council.”

Sayes said he agrees with his opponent on many issues but criticized Sullivan and his colleagues for creating an unfunded Transportation Benefit District. The district could be used to levy a $20 car-tab fee for roads or other taxes, though the County Council opted not to take those steps now.

“It’s really vague, we want to set this up just in case we need to have emergency funds for infrastructure?” Sayes said.

Both candidates oppose commercial flights at Paine Field.

Sullivan had raised more than $60,000 for his campaign as of last week and had spent about three-quarters of the total. Sayes had nearly $2,700 and reported spending less than $500. The job pays $102,779.05 per year.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465,

Glen Sayes

Age: 61

Occupation: Photographer, currently working to form a cooperative photography studio; former owner of Lumina Photography on Casino Road; used to sell business software.

Residence: Mukilteo

Party: Republican


Priorities: “Jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Brian Sullivan

Age: 53

Occupation: Snohomish County councilman; former representative for the state’s 21st Legislative District; Mukilteo mayor and city councilman; restaurant owner; coordinator for Snohomish County Tomorrow.

Residence: Mukilteo

Party: Democratic


Priorities: Jobs, infrastructure and land-use planning.

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