Update: 10:53 a.m. Added comment from chair of 33rd District Democrats.
The Metropolitan King County Council on Monday bucked the choice of Democratic party activists to fill a vacant state House seat in the 33rd Legislative District.
The council appointed SeaTac City Councilmember and Deputy Mayor Mia Gregerson to the state House seat vacated by Dave Upthegrove, who was elected in November to the County Council.
The vote was unusual because it went against the first choice of Democratic precinct-committee officers in the 33rd Legislative District, who’d favored Kent City Councilmember Elizabeth Albertson for the position.
The Council usually follows the top recommendation of party groups in such cases — as it did in making two other Legislative appointments for Seattle’s 43rd District on Monday. But the Washington State Constitution says the Council can choose from any of three finalists submitted by the local political party organization. (Vacancies must be filled by a member of the same political party as the departing member.)
In backing Gregerson, King County Council Chairman Larry Gossett cited her experience in many civic and government organizations and said she’d be the first minority representative in a district that is over half people of color. (Gregerson was born in Taiwan and adopted by a U.S. Air Force couple, according to online bios.)
County Councilmember Joe McDermott objected, saying the Council should respect the vote of the 33rd District precinct committee officers, who had seen the candidates up close and ranked Albertson over Gregerson. “I respect their opinion,” he said.
But it had been clear early in the afternoon meeting that the Council was poised to go its own way.
County Councilmember Kathy Lambert said earlier the Council was no “rubber stamp” and was irritated that its vacancy-filling process had become a sham in many cases.
“This (process) been a joke for years and I am really tired of it,” Lambert said.
That usual process was on display earlier when the Council voted to fill two vacancies in Seattle’s 43rd Legislative District. Both seats went to the first choice of Democratic Party activists.
State Rep. Jamie Pedersen was named to the state Senate seat vacated by Seattle Mayor-Elect Ed Murray. That result was so preordained the the only two alternatives candidates were Pedersen supporters there to fill out the constitutional “three choices” requirement.
Brady Walkinshaw, a program director for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was appointed to Pedersen’s vacated House seat. He’d run a truly contested contest at a recent 43rd District Democrats meeting, beating out two rivals to get the top recommendation.
All three names were technically before the County Council on Monday, but only Walkinshaw showed up in person to speak and answer questions.
Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer noted so many people viewed the process as preordained that Walkinshaw’s Wikipedia entry already listed him as having been appointed to the House seat.
All the appointments are for the remainders of the current legislative terms. The seats all will be up for election in 2014.
The chair of the 33rd District Democrats, Omaha Sternberg, said in an email she was “deeply disappointed” in the council’s decision to pass over Albertson.
“There did not seem to be any legitimate reason for passing up the 1st choice of the 33rd PCOs. I recognize that the King County Council may choose to do so, but it is traditional that they go with the first choice unless a legitimate reason for not doing so presents itself,” she said.