Left: Nate Nehring is welcomed at a candidate forum hosted by the Snohomish County Republican Women’s Club on Thursday in Everett. (Dan Bates / The Herald). Right: Ray Miller talks with voter Debbie Weed outside her home in Arlington on Friday. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Left: Nate Nehring is welcomed at a candidate forum hosted by the Snohomish County Republican Women’s Club on Thursday in Everett. (Dan Bates / The Herald). Right: Ray Miller talks with voter Debbie Weed outside her home in Arlington on Friday. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

County Council candidates have vastly different experience

Nate Nehring is young but politically anointed. Ray Miller is a civic volunteer and retired social worker.

MARYSVILLE — Nate Nehring’s political star rose quickly, but the appointed Snohomish County councilman still has to win an election.

Nehring gets his chance Nov. 7. Voters will choose between the 22-year-old Republican and Raymond Miller, a Democrat who is retired from a career helping military veterans escape homelessness and drug addiction. They’re competing for a four-year term in Council District 1.

Nehring showcases policy command and a firm stance against new taxes, while Miller highlights his deep experience confronting what some consider the region’s most pressing issue: fighting opioid abuse and the problems that come with it.

Nehring may have scored a legislative victory on Miller’s signature issue last month. He proposed an emergency ban on safe drug-injection sites, the kind that King County and Seattle have been exploring. It passed unanimously.

“I constantly hear from folks in my district who say I don’t want to live in an area that looks like King County or Seattle,” Nehring said. “I’ve had constituents ask me that and say, ‘Hey, I don’t want these here.’”

Miller said he also would have supported the moratorium — if he thought it necessary. He was unaware of any serious proposal to create government-sanctioned injection sites anywhere in Snohomish County.

“Why waste our time on something that nobody is talking about?” Miller said. “I think it was made up so he could say he’d done something because of his lack of experience, his lack of a record.”

Miller said his background as a chemical dependency counselor uniquely qualifies him to take on the issue.

“I have a great understanding of what it takes to get someone from being homeless to owning their own home,” he said.

Different approaches

District 1 includes most of north Snohomish County, from Marysville up, except for Tulalip. More than 150,000 people live there.

Nehring was appointed to represent the area in January, beating two other nominees from his party. The seat opened when Ken Klein resigned to take a management job under County Executive Dave Somers.

At the time, Nehring was working as a contract science teacher at Marysville’s Cedarcrest Middle School, having graduated from Western Washington University the previous spring. He lives in Stanwood and grew up in Marysville, where his father, Jon Nehring, is mayor.

Miller moved to Marysville about a decade ago. He retired more than two years ago from his job as a veterans service officer in the Everett offices of Therapeutic Health Services. In that role, he estimates he helped more than 1,000 veterans and their families find stable housing or even buy a home.

Miller has kept busy in retirement. He was elected to the county’s Charter Review Commission in 2015 and serves as an appointee on the county’s Human Rights Commission.

He grew up in South Bend, Indiana, and moved to the Pacific Northwest after high school. When he was 20, he joined the U.S. Air Force, where he served for 14 years. He’s a former national director of the National Association for Black Veterans, Inc.

The candidates take different stances on the county budget, a key task for the council each fall.

Nehring said he’s against any new property taxes next year. Miller said he agrees with increases that Somers, the county executive, proposed as part of a $252 million plan.

The executive’s 2018 operating budget would collect an extra $11.32 in property taxes from the owner of a house assessed at the countywide average of $336,000. Somers has said the increase is necessary, above all, to support public safety, including putting another five deputies on the streets. Under the executive’s plan, a typical homeowner in an unincorporated area would pay an additional $4.78 in property taxes for road repairs and construction.

When door-belling, “The No. 1 thing I hear is don’t raise our property taxes,” Nehring said. “I would like to see no tax increase, but we’ll see what happens.”

Miller said he’s leery of taking money out of people’s pockets, but said he also recognizes the need to maintain county services.

The challenger said his overriding problem with Nehring’s performance on the council is that, “He just takes credit for other people’s work.”

As an example, he cited the manufacturing and industrial center that Arlington and Marysville have been working on together. Miller said he was working to promote that economic development project five years ago, “when he (Nehring) was in high school.”

Nehring said he’s not taking credit, merely championing worthwhile projects that others started.

“I’ve consistently talked about the work that Arlington and Marysville have put in place,” he said.

GOP-friendly district

Nehring has enlisted nearly unanimous support from the area’s Republican leaders, as well as major public-sector unions and even a few prominent Democrats, among them Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson and former County Executive Bob Drewel.

Miller has a long roster of elected Democrats backing him, plus at least one Republican: Chris Ihler, a candidate who finished third in the District 1 primary after irking many in the GOP establishment with attacks on Nehring as “Nepotism Nate.” Ihler said he was won over by Miller’s experience combating drug addiction and homelessness.

By Monday, Nehring reported raising $121,180 for his campaign, some $30,000 more than either of the two other council colleagues running for re-election this fall. Miller reported $14,367, just $3,528 of it from cash donations.

In the primary election, Nehring won 39.6 percent of the vote and Miller nearly 35 percent. Two other Republican candidates who did not advance took a combined 25 percent.

The seat has favored Republicans in past cycles, with Klein winning more than 56 percent in 2013 and former Councilman John Koster holding the post for three election cycles before that.

Ballots are set to be mailed Thursday.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

Meet the candidates

What’s at stake? A four-year term representing Snohomish County Council District 1, which covers Arlington, Darrington, Granite Falls, Marysville and Stanwood, as well as surrounding unincorporated areas. The salary for a County Council member will rise to $120,472 in 2018.


Party: Republican

Age: 22

Residence: Stanwood

Experience: Snohomish County Council, District 1 (appointed January to present); middle school science teacher (fall 2016 to January 2017); Snohomish County Tomorrow steering committee, co-vice chairman; Stanwood Planning Commission, former vice chairman; Snohomish County Republican Party, 10th Legislative District chairman.

Website: www.electnatenehring.com.


Party: Democrat

Age: 67

Residence: Marysville

Experience: certified veteran service officer, drug and alcohol counselor (retired); U.S. Air Force (retired, 14 years of service); Snohomish County Charter Review Commission (elected 2015 for one-year commitment); Snohomish County Human Rights Commission, vice chairman; National Association of Black Veterans, Inc., past national director; Snohomish County Democrats, 38th Legislative District past chairman.

Website: www.elect-raymiller.org

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