EVERETT — Some powerful political players who worked to retain John Lovick as Snohomish County executive last year are now trying to unseat him.
That’s helped Lovick’s chief rival, County Councilman Dave Somers, surge past the incumbent in fundraising.
Those who have switched alliances include the political arm of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish counties. The Affordable Housing Council gave Lovick $950 when he ran for a one-year term in office in 2014, but last month donated twice as much to Somers.
“There is a desire for change,” said David Hoffman, the group’s director. “For too long members of the County Council and senior leadership have had an uncooperative and combative relationship. Our members are not confident the current executive can change that.”
The builders add to a support base for Somers that also includes environmentalists and aerospace interests.
Lovick acknowledged his disappointment at seeing former supporters endorsing Somers.
“But that’s the way politics is,” he said.
The county executive’s race is the marquee contest in Tuesday’s primary. Voters also will be narrowing the field for seats on the city councils of Everett, Lake Stevens, Lynnwood, Mukilteo and Bothell.
And in Snohomish voters will decide the fate of a controversial measure to establish a citywide park district.
The race for executive is the only countywide contest on the ballot. Also competing for the job are Republicans Norm Nunnally and Robert Sutherland, as well as non-partisan candidate James Robert Deal. Lovick and Somers are considered the two candidates most likely to survive the primary.
Sutherland was a distant third, with about $8,100.
This election has not attracted the kind of political contributions as previous cycles. By the end of July 2011, Democrat Aaron Reardon had generated $168,325 for his bid to win a third term as county executive. His challenger, then-state lawmaker Mike Hope, a Republican, had $77,618. Reardon won the race, but resigned in scandal a year and a half later, making way for Lovick’s appointment.
In his 2014 campaign to serve out the final year of Reardon’s unexpired term, Lovick raised $128,777.
Fast-forward to 2015, and the builders’ group isn’t the only one experiencing a change of heart and expressing it with money.
Familiar names among the list of Somers donors who previously gave to Lovick include: Dave Gossett, a former Snohomish County councilman who voted to appoint Lovick to replace Reardon; Bob Terwilliger, a former county auditor and court administrator; and Karen Guzak, the mayor of Snohomish.
Lovick is personable and charismatic and a tremendous cheerleader for the county, they say. He’s provided a much-needed morale boost for employees.
But, two years into the job, he’s proving to be a less-than-sterling executive with a deputy, Mark Ericks, who is seen by some as a divisive force.
“I was a very strong supporter of him to get the appointment. I thought he’d do a great job,” Gossett said. “I’ve been very disappointed in John.”
Terwilliger gave $100 to Lovick in March, two months before Somers entered the race. He’s since given $500 to Somers.
Guzak gave $50 to Lovick’s campaign in February and $150 to the challenger since then.
“Both have real benefits,” she said. “I did vote for Dave in the primary. I am hoping Dave and John are in the November election and we’ll see how this plays out.”
Adding to Somers’ momentum, three county elected officials in non-partisan posts sent out a joint press release last week supporting his bid to replace Lovick. Auditor Carolyn Weikel, Clerk Sonya Kraski and Treasurer Kirke Sievers cited Somers’ leadership ability and said they believe he will confront budget problems the current administration has failed to address.
When Somers entered the race, some Democrats feared he and Lovick would split campaign donations and votes in the primary. For that reason, Somers said he has taken pains to explain his reasons for running.
“This is a difficult election for people because I’m challenging a fellow Democrat,” he said. “A lot of us have supported John in the past.”
He’s pleased with the reception, and not just from home builders. Washington Conservation voters gave him $950. The Aerospace Futures Alliance has endorsed him. And Somers late last week said the Boeing Co.’s political action committee had just written a check.
“People realized I had a serious campaign,” he said. “A lot of people were sitting on the sidelines. The last three or four weeks, we’ve really come alive.”
Lovick said he’s not letting the cash disadvantage bother him. He’s hoping personal connections with voters carry him through.
“I’d rather have 10 donations for $50 than one donation for $1,000,” he said, “because you know those are 10 people who will be voting for you.”
While Lovick may have lost the builders’ support, he’s happy to have the backing from Realtors. The union that represents most county workers also remains a steady ally.
The statewide Realtors’ association gave him $500 for last year’s election and $1,900 this year.
The Realtors group made its decision to back Lovick on the Friday before the candidate filing period — before Somers got into the race. They acted on the recommendation of their local affiliate.
“We figured we would stand by the decision,” said Ryan McIrvin, director of government and public affairs for the Snohomish County-Camano Association of Realtors. “We gave the maximum because this is the biggest race we can play in.”
Somers said he’s grateful for all of the support his campaign has received, despite a late start.
“A lot of people are really displeased with John’s performance and I really hope that shows on Tuesday,” he said.
Lovick said he’ll never raise more money that Somers — but it’s the votes that count.
“That’s why we have elections,” he said.
Ballots for the all-mail primary are due by 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; email@example.com.