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Political changes ahead for County Council

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By Noah Haglund
Herald Writer
EVERETT -- A major political shift looms for the Snohomish County Council in November, with two of the five seats opening up because of term limits.
Incumbents Dave Gossett, of Mountlake Terrace, and John Koster, of Arlington, cannot run again for the council because they will have served a maximum three consecutive terms in office.
County Councilman Dave Somers of Monroe, who is in his second consecutive term, is up for re-election as well. Somers served an earlier term, too, but lost re-election in 2001.
Democrats and Republicans are promising to back seasoned candidates for all of the contests. That said, don't expect party agendas to drive the workload for whomever gets elected.
"The good thing about this local government is it's not so partisan as state and federal government, thank goodness," said Koster, also a three-time Republican candidate for Congress. "It's more about good public policy."
Any hopefuls for Koster's job, or the other contested council seats, would do well to prioritize constituent work, he said.
There's also plenty of studying to do on all aspects of county government, spanning land-use regulations, the law-and-justice system and county parks, among myriad other areas.
As of Friday morning, Somers was the only County Council candidate with fundraising paperwork on file with the state's Public Disclosure Commission. The area he represents, District 5, includes communities along the U.S. 2 corridor as well as the areas of Lake Stevens and Maltby.
Two Republicans have declared their candidacy to follow Koster in representing District 1. The district covers most of northern Snohomish County except for Tulalip.
Arlington City Councilman Ken Klein is a financial manager who serves on the county planning commission.
Realtor Gary Wright, who has owned Coldwell Banker Gary Wright Realty in Marysville for more than 40 years, said he's running. His wife, Donna Wright, serves on the Marysville City Council. Also weighing runs are Arlington Republicans Larry Stickney, a political consultant and campaign manager, and Ed Moats, a public affairs consultant and former County Council analyst.
Koster's Democratic opponent from four years ago, marketing and public affairs consultant Ellen Hiatt from the Seven Lakes area, said she also is considering another run.
Nobody has made an announcement about seeking the seat Gossett has held in District 4, though former Mill Creek City Councilman Terry Ryan said he's giving it serious consideration. Ryan in September stepped down from the nonpartisan city post he held for more than 17 years, citing an increased workload in his commercial real estate job.
The Democratic-leaning district includes the areas of Mill Creek, Silver Firs, Mountlake Terrace, Brier and Bothell north of the county line.
It won't be clear who's in the mix for the three races until mid-May, when hopefuls must make their candidacies official by filing with the Snohomish County Auditor's Office.
The local leaders for the county's Democratic and Republican parties said they'll be busy preparing for that time.
"The Democrats will be fielding quality candidates in all three of the races," said Richard Wright, chairman for the Snohomish County Democrats and husband of County Councilwoman Stephanie Wright. "The folks I've spoken with, they're experienced candidates. This will not be their first campaign."
Wright's GOP counterpart said she would look for candidates who are familiar with the area and who could ask voters if they are happy with the direction of county government under the majority Democrats, who control four of the five County Council seats.
"If we focus on what the needs are for Snohomish County and drill down to the issues, we might be able to open some new doors," county Republican Party chairwoman Billye Brooks-Sebastiani said.
Fundraising for recent winners of Snohomish County Council seats ranged from Koster's high of $175,000 in 2009, to a low of $45,000 for Stephanie Wright in 2011, according to the Public Disclosure Commission.
The job pays $104,320.74 per year.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465;
Story tags » County CouncilLocal elections

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