Who will replace Radcliff?


Herald Writer

Control of the 2002 state Legislature could lie in the hands of the Snohomish County Council on Monday morning.

That’s when the Democrat-controlled council will choose from among the three Republican candidates who county party leaders picked Wednesday night to replace Rep. Renee Radcliff, R-Mukilteo. The choices include one former lawmaker attempting a surprise comeback.

Radcliff’s post-election resignation gives Democrats a second chance next year to try for complete control of state government. Last month, voters elected a Democratic governor and Democratic Senate, and the House is currently split evenly between the two parties.

The Republican appointed to Radcliff’s spot won’t be allowed to serve the full two-year term but will have to run for election next year. And Democratic opponents are already eagerly lining up.

Some Republicans worry that will give the four Democrats on the five-member county council motivation to elect a weak Republican who will be easily defeated.

But Gary Nelson, the board’s lone Republican, said the public wouldn’t put up with those tactics, and it’s not something his colleagues would do anyway.

"The county council is above that kind of game-playing," Nelson said. "We need to have as effective a representative in the Legislature as we can possibly appoint so the interests of Snohomish County are covered."

Nelson said he has personal experience with that type of strategy. In 1994, he said, 71 percent of the 21st District’s precinct committee officers voted for him as their first choice for a county council appointment. The board instead chose a weaker candidate, whom Nelson defeated in an election later that year.

That put a blemish on the appointment process, he said, but "I don’t see that happening with this county council. They’re not prone to that type of gaming activity."

Council chairwoman Barbara Cothern said Republicans shouldn’t worry about Democrats maneuvering a weak candidate into the spot.

"They’ve picked three qualified candidates," Cothern said, "so I think any of them would be strong."

And there’s incentive for the parties to work together. Snohomish County Democratic precinct committee officers will meet next month to go through the same process in choosing a replacement for Rick Larsen, the county councilman who was elected to Congress.

That means there’s a lot to be gained by the parties choosing each other’s first choice, said former longtime Snohomish County Republican chairman Paul Elvig.

But the pressure to be partisan still exists. Next year, the parties are expected to pump half a million dollars into the race, Elvig said. The latest available financial records show that a week before the election this year, candidates in the race had spent less than a quarter of that amount.

The 50 Republican precinct committee officers from the 21st District who met Wednesday night hope the county council will vote for their first choice: Mukilteo city councilman Joe Marine, 38, who is also the 21st District’s GOP chairman.

The second choice is Stan Monlux of Edmonds, 36, a software executive who lost his race last month against Rep. Mike Cooper, D-Edmonds.

And the third choice is Jeannette Wood, 68, who was a Woodway city councilwoman and mayor and also served the district in the state Legislature for 10 years before losing in 1998 to Sen. Paull Shin, D-Mukilteo.

This is the third time Wood has gone through the appointment process. In 1988, she was chosen to replace Rep. Katherine "Katie" Allen, who died. Then, in 1994, she was appointed to take Nelson’s spot in the Senate when he resigned to run for county council.

While Wood trounces the other two in terms of political experience, she said she wasn’t surprised by her third-place showing in the contest.

"They’re both young and good-looking," Wood said.

Age did appear to be an issue.

"Let’s face it, we are now looking at another generation of leadership," Elvig said.

The county’s new GOP chairwoman, Frauna Hoglund, agreed: "I think maybe they were looking for somebody younger, and Joe is young and vivacious."

Wood said she had resolved to stay out of politics after losing her re-election bid in 1998, but her phone started ringing as soon as Radcliff announced her resignation.

"If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen," she said. "If it’s not meant to be, I’ll go on a cruise in January."

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