On Monday afternoon, the King County Council took up the decision to appoint a replacement to the 33rd House seat recently vacated by Dave Upthegrove when he won his election to the King County Council. The timing of the discussion and vote was a surprise to many of us, as this decision was not expected until early January. At least two of the nominees (myself included) were not informed that the 33rd appointment would be on the agenda, and only learned of it through third-hand sources. Without this notification, I wasn’t able to be present at the meeting.

The PCO Caucus held on December 3rd resulted in three nominees, ranked in order of PCO preference. It has been traditional for the County Council to accept the first choice of the PCOs, as the PCOs have had the longer time with the candidates and thus are more able to determine which candidate they feel is the best suited to the position. And, in fact, the King County Council followed the recommendations of the PCOs from the 43rd Legislative District for the two appointments done on the same day.

But the 33rd position was handled differently. Apparent pressure was placed on several councilmembers to vote in favor of the PCOs second choice for reasons that have not been clearly communicated and certainly do not seem to be connected to the ability of any of the candidates to function in the position properly.

When the Washington State Constitution was first ratified in 1889, a vacancy in the state legislator was handled with a special election…a direct vote of the people. An amendment to the Constitution in 1930 changed this to make the appointment the responsibility of the County Council in whose legislative district the vacancy occurred…clearly this was done to reduce the price tag of an election. In 1956 (and again in 1969), other amendments occurred, to bring the voice of the people back into the process while balancing out the price tag…the County Council was required to choose from three nominees chosen by the political party the prior legislator had come from. Anyone reading the Voter Pamphlet of 1969 can CLEARLY see that the VOTE OF THE PEOPLE is considered paramount as the intent of the amendment. You can read that voter pamphlet here.

What the King County Council has done is not about choosing one candidate over another. All nominees were strong candidates from the 33rd that could receive the House appointment and continue representing the strong progressive values of the 33rd District Democrats.

What the King County Council has done is about subverting the will of the PCOs which also very clearly subverts the intent of the Constitution itself. Should a County Council rubber stamp the nomination of the PCOs without even looking at them? Of course not. But when the King County Council makes a decision while ignoring the recommendations of the PCOs, taking the advice of people from outside the district with other agendas, they have simply used a different rubber stamp!

I urge the County Council to recognize that such back-room dealings do not help the district in which the vacancy occurred. They do not help or encourage the PCOs, for whichever party the PCOs represent, to feel that they are being taken seriously. They do not help the voters of that district believe and trust in the interim legislator that has been chosen.

The 33rd District Democrats support Mia Gregerson as our interim House Representative. We simply do not support the way in which the King County Council proceeded with the 33rd House appointment. This process ignored the advice of the PCOs, discounted the will of the people, and ignored the process of Democracy.

Omaha Sternberg
Chair, 33rd District Democrats