Parties closely watch 21st Legislative District race

By Jim Haley

Herald Writer

While Brian Sullivan and D.J. Wilson continue to duke it out for the right to become their party’s standard bearer in November, the eyes of the state are on them and the winner’s almost certain opponent in the general election, state Rep. Joe Marine, R-Mukilteo.

And with the attention comes the money, which some observers say could flow in record amounts.

At stake is a single job in southwest Snohomish County, the 21st Legislative District. Up for grabs is a House seat representing Mukilteo, Lynnwood, Edmonds, Woodway and a small part of Mountlake Terrace.

If either of the two Democrats succeeds in ousting appointed incumbent Marine, the election of a Democrat will probably tip the balance in a stagnant House of Representatives that for the past three years has been locked in a 49-49 tie. The governor’s chair and the Senate are already ruled by Democrats.

Because it’s an off-election year, only one other state House race is on the Nov. 6 ballot — the neighboring 38th Legislative District, where there was another vacancy.

"It’s going to be a huge race, and we’re going to pull out all the stops," state Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt said. "You’ve already seen the level of donations they’ve been given in this race."

Even in the primary race, the two Democrats have raised a combined total of more than $125,000. Republican Party sources have bankrolled Marine handily, and he’s raised more than $100,000 altogether, even though he doesn’t have a primary opponent.

Also in the race are Libertarian Michael Enquist of Edmonds and Green Party candidate Young S. Han of Lynnwood. Both minor party candidates need to get 1 percent of the total 21st District vote in order to stay in the race beyond September.

The Democrats say it’s essential that a member of their party win this race to break the Olympia logjam and get legislation to the floor where votes can be taken.

Republicans, on the other hand, blame the Democrats, including Gov. Gary Locke, for legislative stagnation. That includes the 2001 session’s failure to deliver a major transportation package.

"Joe Marine worked on transportation. He tried to break the transportation gridlock He couldn’t do it, but he tried," state Republican chairman Chris Vance said.

Marine, former GOP chairman for the 21st District, was appointed in December to replace Renee Radcliff, who suddenly quit for personal reasons after winning election. Marine’s appointment required an off-year election to continue filling the remainder of Radcliff’s term.

The Democrats seized the moment, sensing a chance to take the seat, and put up two strong candidates.

Voters will have a clear choice of age and experience between Sullivan and Wilson.

Sullivan, 43, former Mukilteo council member and mayor, has been active in politics for years. He also has the support of many local Democratic leaders, labor and firefighters.

Wilson, 26, of Edmonds, is a fresh face who has firm support from two other parts of the traditional Democratic coalition — vocal environmentalists and a state abortion-rights group.

Nonetheless, Sullivan said his record shows he’s not soft on the environment or abortion.

As of late last week, Wilson was ahead in the campaign-chest war, pulling in more than $70,000 to Sullivan’s $50,000 or so. But Sullivan points out that the bulk of his primary opponent’s funds come from outside Snohomish County.

"I think that says something about who’s running in this race," Sullivan said.

The former Mukilteo mayor said he was only 40 years old when he left his job there.

"I just feel I’m not finished yet," he said. "I want to take this wealth of knowledge and my ability to think outside the box in solving problems to Olympia."

Wilson has worked on several campaigns, but this is his first attempt to obtain public office himself. He said the transportation mess is on everyone’s minds, but he’s personally driven into politics by a need for education reform in public schools.

But no matter what the issue he’s chewing on at the time, he said he will be true to his campaign slogan, which implies that nobody would work harder for his constituents.

"That’s the type of attitude you need in Olympia," Wilson said. "My No. 1 goal is to really be a voice for this district."

At the state level, Berendt said the state party is trying to stay neutral in the primary and is ready to support either of the Democrats. A win, he said would give the party momentum going into a big state election year in 2002.

You can call Herald Writer Jim Haley at 425-339-3447 or send e-mail to

Talk to us

More in Local News

The Safeway store at 4128 Rucker Ave., on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
Police: Everett Safeway ex-worker accused of trying to ram customers

The man, 40, was showing symptoms of psychosis, police wrote. Officers found him circling another parking lot off Mukilteo Boulevard.

Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell speaks during a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the 196th ST SW Improvement Project near the 196th and 44th Ave West intersection in Lynnwood, Washington on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Jarred by anti-Semitic rants, Lynnwood council approves tax increase

Three people spewed hate speech via Zoom at a council meeting this week. Then, the council moved on to regular business.

The county canvassing board certifies election results at the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office in Everett, Washington on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
General election results stamped official by canvassing board

In Snohomish County, one hand recount will take place. Officials said ballot challenges were down this year.

The Days Inn on Everett Mall Way, which Snohomish County is set to purchase and convert into emergency housing, is seen Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Over $130M for affordable housing set to be approved by County Council

The five-year investment plan of the 0.1% sales tax aims to construct 550 new affordable units.

Two snowboarders head up the mountain in a lift chair on the opening day of ski season at Stevens Pass Ski Area on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, near Skykomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Ski season delayed at Stevens Pass due to minimal snow

Resort originally planned to open Dec. 1. But staff are hopeful this week’s snow will allow guests to hit the slopes soon.

Siblings Qingyun, left, and Ruoyun Li, 12 and 13, respectively, are together on campus at Everett Community College on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023, in Everett, Washington. The two are taking a full course load at the community college this semester. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Siblings, age 12 and 13, are youngest students at EvCC campus

Qingyun Li was 11 when he scored a perfect 36 on the ACT test. His sister, Ruoyun, was one point away.

Edmond’s newly elected mayor Mike Rosen on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Mayor-elect Rosen wants to ‘make Edmonds politics boring again’

Mike Rosen handily defeated incumbent Mayor Mike Nelson. He talked with The Herald about how he wants to gather the “full input” of residents.

Jared Mead, left, Nate Nehring
At Everett event, Mead, Nehring look to bridge partisan gap

Two Snohomish County Council members can pinpoint the day they really started talking about putting civility over partisanship. It was Jan. 6.

A speed camera facing west along 220th Street Southwest on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Traffic cameras, and tickets, come to Edmonds; Mukilteo could be next

New school zone cameras in Edmonds will begin operating in January. Mukilteo is considering enforcement cameras as well.

A suspected gas explosion on Wednesday destroyed a house in the 19700 block of 25TH DR SE in Bothell, Washington. (Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue)
After a newly bought Bothell house exploded, experts urge caution

The owners had closed on their purchase of the house just two days earlier. No one was hurt in the explosion.

3 men charged in armed home invasion near Everett

Prosecutors allege the trio targeted other Asian American homes across Snohomish, Whatcom and King counties.

Team members prep for the upcoming ski season at Stevens Pass Resort in Skykomish, Washington on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Any day now: All eyes on snow forecast at Stevens Pass

The ski area was a flurry of activity this week, as staff made sure a new lift and app were running smoothly.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.