Council abdicates role, but only for GOP

Just in time for football, and clearly in an effort to fulfill its obligations to citizens from the 44th Legislative District, Snohomish County Council voted unanimously Monday to … punt.

Gov. Jay Inslee now has 28 days to decide who will replace 44th District Rep. Mike Hope (R), who resigned July 24. Citizens remain unrepresented. The buck doesn’t stop here, and apparently neither does the ball.

This may be unprecedented — the first time a Washington governor has been forced to fill such a vacancy due to inaction by one of 39 county councils. The state Constitution and Snohomish County Charter provide that the council fill such a vacancy within 60 days from a list of three people, submitted by the central committee of the same party.

On Aug. 14, the 44th District Republican Committee overwhelmingly voted for Mill Creek City Councilman Mark Harmsworth as their first choice, followed by Lake Stevens City Councilman Sam Low and U.S. Naval Capt. (ret.) Doug Roulstone, a 2008 Congressional candidate. Both Low and Roulstone stated that they were willing to serve, but supported Harmsworth for the position. County Republican Committee leadership approved and hand-delivered the list to the council on Aug. 15.

Harmsworth won among voters by 52 percent of the August primary for the same position, by a margin of 4 points.

Harmsworth, also Mill Creek’s mayor pro tem and past vice president of Snohomish Cities and Towns, is supported by numerous organizations, including the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, Snohomish County Deputy Sheriffs, Associated Builders and Contractors, the Washington State Farm Bureau, and the Washington Restaurant Association. Harmsworth was endorsed by the Seattle Times on Aug. 24, as in 2012 when running against 44th Rep. Hans Dunshee (D).

No doubt it was a really tough call for the Snohomish County Council, who delayed voting for a month, then deliberated in executive session for 25 minutes before emerging with their decision to “punt.”

Council Chairman Dave Somers (D), was quoted in the Everett Herald as saying, “There was no clear consensus,” adding that the council was in an “awkward position” with the seat becoming available in the midst of an election.

Hmmm.

The council apparently didn’t feel awkward during election season last June, when County Executive Aaron Reardon (D) resigned May 31, 2013. In three days flat, John Lovick was unanimously selected by the County Council.

Likewise, there were no bumps in the road when the council appointed 21st LD House Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self (D), 21st LD Senator Marko Liias (D), 38th LD Senator John McCoy (D), and 38th LD House Rep. June Robinson (D), all within the past year. The process seemed to work just fine then.

In fairness, County Councilman Ken Klein (R) supported Harmsworth. The unanimous vote Monday was not a “no vote” for Harmsworth, but in fact a vote to move the decision to the governor — also outlined in the Charter and Constitution — because no majority of three votes could be achieved.

“This was surprising to me because of Mark’s record of civic engagement and public service, support from the voters and Republican PCOs in the 44th, and his solid interview with the Snohomish County Council. It is my hope that Governor Inslee will issue a prompt and just decision,” Klein said.

That is my hope, as well. This was not tough, coach.

With leadership decisions like this, it’s tougher to garner 12th-man support and enthusiasm among voters. As a small business owner and active community member, I meet many who are tired of political maneuvering and inaction.

Citizens would prefer leadership to linebackers — except on Sundays.

Kristin Cook is the 44th Legislative District Chair of the Snohomish County Republicans.

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