Political shakeup underway as another Everett lawmaker makes exit

With Reps. Emily Wicks and Mike Sells leaving at end of the year, GOP looks to make gains in Democrat stronghold

Emily Wicks

Emily Wicks

EVERETT — Democratic state Rep. Emily Wicks of Everett announced Monday she will not seek re-election, saying it’s time to reset how she serves the community following three satisfying yet exhausting years as a lawmaker.

“I felt really good about the work I have done. Sometimes you’ve got to realize it’s a great job and it’s an honor but it doesn’t mean you’ve got to stay,” she said Monday. “I realized I don’t need to stay to continue to actively participate in my community.”

Her surprising decision means both House seats in the 38th District centered in Everett will be up for grabs this cycle. Veteran Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett previously announced his plans to retire.

Meanwhile, Sen. June Robinson, D-Everett, the third member of the district’s delegation, said Monday she will run this fall to keep her seat.

Wicks was appointed in May 2020 and won her first term that fall. As one of the House’s progressive women legislators, she’s helped move an ambitious agenda marked by enactment of landmark climate bills, new spending on education, housing, child care, and health services, and passage this year of a transportation package.

As this year’s session wound down, she said she started thinking about leaving so she could concentrate on finally launching a company she founded.

“In late 2019, I decided to follow my dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. As was the case for many others, the pandemic threw a wrench in my plans,” she said.

The increasing rancor she encountered in politics also took its toll.

“It can be toxic. Not the legislators and staff. They’re amazing. You get 1,000 compliments and then one awful email that tears you apart,” she said. “We need more grace.”

Mike Sells

Mike Sells

The departure of Wicks and Sells sets the stage for potentially competitive primaries in a district that encompasses Everett, Tulalip and a large part of Marysville.

It’s long been a Democrat stronghold. However, it may be less so this year after redistricting added a larger piece of Marysville with its Republican-leaning voters.

“I find the 38th has a history of bleeding blue and I don’t think Republicans have a chance at either of those seats,” said Paula Townsell, chair of the 38th Legislative District Democrats.

Doug Roulstone, chair of the Snohomish County Republican Party, is confident the GOP is well-positioned for success.

“We feel like the Democrats have handed this to us on a silver platter with redistricting, and the mandates and the policies they’ve passed,” he said. “We think there is a better than 50-50 chance that we will win all three seats.”

As of Monday, Democrats Julio Cortes and Mary Fosse and Republican Mark James had launched campaigns to succeed Sells. So too had Christopher Elliott, who declined to state a party preference, and David Wiley, a Libertarian.

Cortes, who entered the race in February, works for the city of Everett as the communications and marketing manager. He’s been endorsed by Wicks, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin and the former Everett mayor, Ray Stephanson.

Mary Fosse

Mary Fosse

Fosse, an Everett City Council member, announced her candidacy Monday. Fosse worked as Wicks’ legislative aide, stepping down after the session ended March 10. She won her council seat in November. She said she would stay on the council if elected to fill Sells’ seat. State law allows the holding of those two offices at the same time.

James serves on the Marysville City Council and was elected to a second term in November. He ran for state representative in 2020, losing to Rep. April Berg, D-Mill Creek, in the 44th District.

The redrawn boundaries, he said, “is going to make this much more competitive.”

As of Monday, no Democrat had jumped into the contest for Wicks’ seat. However, it is possible that either Cortes and Fosse will decide to seek the seat rather than battle each other.

Democrat Charles Adkins, who competed with Wicks for the appointment in 2020, said he’s considering it. Adkins is a city planning commissioner and works as director of health policy for the Children’s Alliance of Washington.

Republican Gary Kemp of Marysville has already been campaigning against Wicks. He called her decision “unexpected” but said it won’t change his strategy.

“I’m just looking forward to running this race,” said Kemp, an electrician and former union business representative.

June Robinson

June Robinson

In the Senate race, Robinson will be seeking her first full term.

She was appointed in May 2020 to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of John McCoy, and that November was elected to complete the remaining two years of his term. Robinson served seven years in the state House before moving to the Senate.

Robinson is vice chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and serves on the Health and Long Term Care, and Labor, Commerce and Tribal Affairs committees. She is a program manager at Public Health Seattle & King County in the Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention Section.

She had drawn two Republican opponents — Bernard Moody and Anita Azariah — as of Monday.

Anita Azariah

Anita Azariah

Robinson beat Moody, a career law enforcement officer, in 2020, garnering nearly 59% of the vote.

Azariah is the vice chair of the Snohomish County Republican Party and oversees the outreach committee. Azariah also goes by Anita Shad, and under that name ran for hospital commissioner in November. Jim Distelhorst beat Shad 61.5% to 38.1%.

As Anita Azariah she has hosted well-attended rallies against mask and vaccine mandates in Everett. She has helped organize conservative protests at school board meetings around Snohomish County and rallies in support of law enforcement in Olympia.

Candidate filing is in May. The primary election is on Aug. 2.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dospueblos.

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