Retired Navy captain appointed to fill state House seat

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday appointed Republican Doug Roulstone of Snohomish to an open seat in the state House of Representatives, serving the 44th Legislative District.

Roulstone, a retired Navy captain and 2006 candidate for Congress, fills a vacancy created in July by the resignation of Republican Mike Hope.

Inslee called Roulstone Friday afternoon to ask him to serve and he accepted, said David Postman, the governor’s executive director of communication. Roulstone will serve until results of the general election are certified on Nov. 25.

Inslee is the first governor in more than half a century to appoint a member of the Legislature and did so because the Snohomish County Council balked at taking action Sept. 15. The council of four Democrats and a Republican voted unanimously to ask the governor to decide which of three Republican nominees should get the temporary job.

Inslee’s decision didn’t sit well with the leader of the Snohomish County Republican Party because he didn’t choose the party’s preferred choice, Mill Creek City Councilman Mark Harmsworth. Lake Stevens City Councilman Sam Low was Roulstone the third nominee.

Billye Brooks Sebastiani, chairwoman of the county Republican Party, said Roulstone is “very qualified,” but she wanted to see Harmsworth chosen.

She contended Harmsworth didn’t get selected because he’s a candidate for the office in the upcoming election, and Democrats on the County Council and the Democratic governor worried about giving him a boost with the appointment. Harmsworth’s opponent is Democrat Mike Wilson.

“It is political. I’m very disappointed,” she said.

State law doesn’t require that the party’s preferred nominee be chosen, and the governor was looking for somebody who would be a good caretaker, Postman explained.

The governor told Roulstone he understood that Harmsworth was the top choice of precinct officers, Postman said.

But the governor was impressed by Roulstone’s statement to the County Council that “If you should choose me I will work very hard for the people. I will be basically non-partisan in how I work and I’ll do the best I can.”

Postman stepped around Sebastiani’s charge that the governor passed over Harmsworth solely because of his candidacy.

Appointing someone who is in the midst of an election could have an effect on an election, Postman acknowledged. The governor should not be involved in a local campaign and this was a way to avoid doing so, he said.

Choosing someone who says they will be nonpartisan cannot be seen as a political decision, Postman said.

“Doug is a good choice,” Postman said. The governor “picked a guy who is the perfect person to hold this seat for this short period.”

Inslee notified the clerk of the House of Representatives on Friday, clearing the way for Roulstone to be sworn in.

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

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