EVERETT — State Rep. Hans Dunshee is preparing for a new stage in his lengthy political career after the Snohomish County Council appointed him Monday as its fifth member.
Dunshee, a Democrat from Snohomish, beat nominees Guy Palumbo and Mark Hintz to fill the vacant seat. He received support from the three Democrats on the council: Chairman Terry Ryan, Stephanie Wright and Brian Sullivan.
“The county is going to be well served by Hans and we’re looking forward to having him start,” Ryan said. “Guy is a fantastic candidate. He has a lot of attributes that could really help the council. With Hans, we have somebody with more legislative experience.”
Dunshee was scheduled to be sworn in at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, but cancelled to continue working on the state budget. He’s expected to keep his House seat through the Legislative session, which is scheduled to end on March 10.
Councilman Ken Klein, a Republican, cast the sole vote for Palumbo, who was the top-ranked nominee of Snohomish County Democrats. The council had the discretion to choose any of the three candidates.
A 2-2 tie would have sent the appointment to Gov. Jay Inslee.
In a public interview before the vote, Dunshee said his 20 years of experience in Olympia would provide valuable connections. He reminded council members that he had given them the governor’s phone number, as well as contacts for Republican state lawmakers who could vouch for his ability to collaborate.
“It’s not just to cut the baby in half — that never works,” he said. “You really need to come to mutual agreement versus compromise.”
Replacing the 1960s-era county courthouse would be a top priority, Dunshee said. Plans for an eight-story, $162 million building across the street from the main county administrative buildings in downtown Everett were scrapped last summer. A committee of judicial, political and public safety officials is now tasked with delivering recommendations for a less-expensive building by June 30.
Dunshee has kept busy during this Legislative session as the House Democrats’ chief budget writer. He left for Olympia immediately after Monday morning’s interview and missed the vote that appointed him to the new job.
The District 5 council seat became vacant after Democrat Dave Somers was elected county executive last year. To serve beyond the appointed term, Dunshee will need to run for election this fall to a special one-year term.
Somers released a statement Monday approving of Dunshee’s appointment. The executive had kept his distance throughout the nomination process.
“I’m particularly pleased because Hans is now my representative,” Somers wrote. “I know Hans well and am confident he will be a champion for our community and Snohomish County. All three of the nominees were excellent candidates, and I thank them for their willingness to serve.”
The choice left Palumbo and his supporters upset.
When Democratic precinct committee officers from the council district voted on Feb. 6, they picked Palumbo over Dunshee by 17 to 11. Hintz received three votes.
Palumbo, who runs a dog-boarding business in the Maltby area, is a former product manager for Amazon.com who serves as a District 7 fire commissioner and a county planning commissioner. He campaigned hard for the appointment, impressing many with his grasp of issues such as the county budget, land use and traffic gridlock.
“I am obviously extremely disappointed in the decision today,” he said. “I wish the new council the best moving forward.”
Palumbo drew much of his support from the 1st Legislative District, which straddles the county line and covers southern portions of the council district.
Richard Moralez, a state Democratic committeeman who used to be the chairman of the 1st District Democrats, criticized the council for passing over their preferred candidate.
“Yet the council turns around and says, ‘We know better than you do,’” Moralez said. “‘We’re going to select a guy we owe a favor to.’”
Moralez said Palumbo proved his readiness for the job during a public forum in late January.
Unlike Dunshee, he said, Palumbo, “did not give platitudes, he did not give excuses and he did not give the notions of weariness of fighting. He gave just the opposite: that he is willing to fight, that he is willing to do the job and willing to put the energy in to make it work.”
Klein, the councilman who supported Palumbo, said the outcome shows why the partisan system is flawed when it comes to the county executive and county council. He’s asked the Snohomish County Charter Review Commission to make those positions nonpartisan, as King County has done.
“I think it works in King County and it will work here,” he said.
Palumbo has already started fundraising to challenge Dunshee for the seat later this year.
Lake Stevens City Councilman Sam Low, a Republican, also has started campaigning for the job. Low criticizes Dunshee as a “far-left Olympia politician” who has “neglected and failed east Snohomish County.”
Low wants to find solutions to traffic problems and has proposed adding lanes to major highways in the council district.
About 150,000 people live in the district. It includes Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Monroe, Sultan, Gold Bar, Index and parts of Bothell. It also encompasses the unincorporated communities of Clearview, Machias, Maltby and areas north of Woodinville city limits.
Dunshee’s departure will create a vacancy in the 44th Legislative District to be filled through a similar appointment process. Former County Executive John Lovick, a Democrat who lost to Somers in November, has said he will seek it.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; email@example.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.