Six seeking appointment to Koster’s House seat in Olympia

ARLINGTON — A mayor, a former mayor and a professional harpist want to fill Republican state Rep. John Koster’s seat when he leaves at the end of the month.

So, too, do a city councilman, a party activist and the woman who served as 39th Legislative District representative before Koster.

Koster, 65, of Arlington, is resigning to become executive director of the County Roads Administration Board, a small state agency responsible for distributing gas tax dollars for road projects in Washington’s 39 counties. His last day is Aug. 31.

Since he announced his plans in late July, three men and three women have said they will seek appointment to the seat.

They are Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick, Granite Falls City Councilman Tom FitzGerald, former state Rep. Elizabeth Scott, former Monroe Mayor Robert Zimmerman, Evergreen Republican Women’s President Georgene Faries and professional musician Bronn Journey.

The first step of the appointment process will occur the evening of Sept. 6 at Hadley Hall in Arlington. That’s when Republican precinct committee officers (PCOs) in the legislative district will meet and nominate three people for the position.

Because the 39th Legislative District encompasses portions of Snohomish, Skagit and King counties, the council members and commissioners in all three will collectively choose one of the nominees. The appointed person will serve through the November 2018 election.

Party officials said there are 40 PCOs eligible to vote — 11 from Skagit County and 29 from Snohomish County. King County, with only a sliver in the district, has no precinct officers.

Eslick was elected mayor of Sultan in 2007 and is in her third term. Prior to being mayor, she served six years on the City Council.

She is the founder and executive director of GROW Washington, a nonprofit business development center. In 2014, she made an unsuccessful run for Snohomish County executive. At that time, she won support from the precinct committee officers.

“I know the district and I know the area. I will work on the issues that will help develop the community and empower families,” she said.

Scott, of Monroe, is looking to re-enter politics following an extended break to deal with health issues.

She was first elected to the Legislature in 2012 and won re-election in 2014. In 2016, she decided to run for Congress rather than seek a third state term.

But she contracted whooping cough in the spring and ended her congressional campaign in May 2016 due to unspecified health reasons.

Last month, she posted on Facebook of her improved health. On July 24, she issued a press release announcing her intention to seek the appointment. Scott did not return phone calls for this story.

Zimmerman, a former Monroe mayor, also is looking to return to the political arena.

He served on the Monroe City Council for two terms before getting elected mayor in 2009. He chose not to seek re-election. In 2012, he ran for a House seat in the 39th Legislative District but finished third in the primary behind Scott and Democrat Eleanor Walters.

Zimmerman said his service in local government plus experience as a distribution manager for a small business provides him a solid resume for the job.

“I am not looking to turn Olympia on its ear,” he said. “I am putting my name in the hat because I think I can be an influence in Olympia.”

Journey, of Sultan, said he has never served in elected office. He also said he knows and likes many of the others seeking the appointment.

“The more good quality people in there, the better to choose from,” he said. “We see what’s happening in Washington, D.C., right now and it’s not working.”

He said he and his wife are co-owners of Andy’s Fish House restaurant in Snohomish but his first love — and the talent for which he’s best known — is playing the harp. His wife is a singer. The couple has played all over the country, he said.

“If you are in the right circle, I’m famous,” he said.

Faries, of Arlington, is a precinct committee officer, is in her fourth year as president of the Evergreen Republican Women and is the vice chairwoman of the 39th Legislative District Republicans.

This is the first time she said she’s sought a political office.

“I have been thinking about it for a couple years,” she said in an interview. “It is the right time.”

She elaborated in a Facebook post, writing that she has “worked hard to build and support our conservative movement in Snohomish County” and if appointed would “fight for the rights of citizens who are often ignored in our state’s current climate.”

FitzGerald has served on the Granite Falls City Council since 2003. He is seeking re-election to that position this fall. State law would permit him to hold both elected offices if he chose to do so.

It is unclear if that’s his desire as he did not respond to phone messages and emails for this story.

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

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