Sedro-Woolley mayor chosen to fill vacant state Senate seat

Keith Wagoner will need to run, and win, in this year’s election if he wants to continue serving.

Keith Wagoner

Keith Wagoner

EVERETT — Sedro-Woolley Mayor Keith Wagoner became the newest Republican state senator Wednesday.

Wagoner was appointed to fill the vacancy in the 39th Legislative District created when Republican Kirk Pearson, of Monroe, resigned in November to take a job in the Trump administration.

Wagoner will represent residents of a sprawling legislative territory encompassing swaths of rural Snohomish and Skagit counties, and a sliver of King County. The portion of the district in Snohomish County includes the cities of Arlington, Monroe, Sultan, Gold Bar and Index.

Because the district spills into three counties, the five Snohomish County Council members, three Skagit County commissioners and nine King County Council members met Wednesday to collectively make the appointment. The meeting took place in the Snohomish County Council chambers.

With no debate and almost no comments, the 17 elected officials voted unanimously to appoint Wagoner.

Wagoner took the oath of office moments later. His appointment lasts through the 2018 election. He’ll need to run, and win, in this year’s elections if he wants to continue serving past November.

“I am super excited,” he said shortly after getting sworn in. “I was happy to see a unanimous decision, which I did not expect.”

He said he will step down as mayor in the near future. His focus now turns to the legislative session that begins Monday.

“I have very little time to get ready,” he said, noting he needs to find staff and set up an office. “Right now, I don’t even know my phone number.”

Republican Snohomish County Councilman Nate Nehring said he was pleased to see the party’s preferred candidate chosen.

“I’ve heard very good things about him,” he said. “He seems like a hard-working guy. He’s going to do a good job representing our interests in Olympia.”

King County Councilman Joe McDermott, a Democrat, said he liked that Wagoner had a distinguished military career and record of service as a public servant.

“I believe we just appointed a well-qualified and strong person to the seat who will serve the 39th District well,” he said.

Wagoner bested former lawmaker Elizabeth Scott, of Monroe, and party stalwart Georgene Faries for the position. He had received the most support of precinct officers in balloting at a special meeting in November. Scott ranked second and Faries third.

Scott served two terms in the House in the 39th district. She was first elected 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 because of unspecified health reasons. She’s healthy now and seeking to get back into politics.

Faries, a former owner of a real estate investment business, is a much-respected party activist. She is president of the Evergreen Republican Women’s Club and vice-chairwoman of the 39th Legislative District Republicans. She had been seeking her first political office.

Wednesday’s decision marked the second time in four months the leaders of the three counties did not choose either Scott or Faries to fill a legislative vacancy.

In September, the same group of county leaders met to fill a vacant House seat in the 39th District. Although Scott had the most support of precinct officers with Faries ranked second, they chose the party’s third choice, Carolyn Eslick, who was Sultan’s mayor at the time.

Wagoner, a retired U.S. Navy commander, was elected mayor of Sedro-Woolley in 2015. Before that he served five years on the City Council.

He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1984 with a degree in physical oceanography, according to his official biography. He also holds a master’s degree in global leadership from the University of San Diego.

He retired in 2007 after 23 years as a naval officer piloting helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. He and his wife have three children.

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

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