Greg Nickels' election as Seattle mayor will commence a spirited game of musical chairs in his old West Seattle stomping grounds.
First, Nickels will resign his seat on the King County Council. While the Democratic Precinct Committee Officers [PCOs] in Nickels' council district won't meet until Nov. 26 to choose his successor, the clear favorite is state Sen. Dow Constantine. (West Seattle makes up the majority of both Nickels' 8th Council District and Constantine's 34th state Legislative District.)
Assuming Constantine gets the nod, the 34th Legislative District PCOs will meet Dec. 17 and likely elevate state Rep. Erik Poulsen to Constantine's current seat. But choosing Poulsen's House replacement will be a tougher task. "About a quarter of the registered voters in the 34th are seeking the House seat," jokes Constantine.
All of which makes for a bracing round of power politics for West Seattle PCOs. Tom Carr, Seattle city attorney-elect and a 34th precinct officer, notes, "Some PCOs never get to appoint anybody, but this is the fourth time I've participated."
No fewer than four well-known Democrats are in the hunt for the 34th House seat, including: Toni Lysen, an aide to U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott; Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition director Joanna Grist; No on I-747 fundraiser and longtime political veteran Cindi Laws; and Burien Mayor Sally Nelson. But the cast of candidates may change just days before the Dec. 17 vote, when the state's redistricting commission releases its final district lines.
After each census, state law requires that the districts that make up our state Legislature be adjusted so they are roughly equal. Each legislative district should contain around 120,000 people. Since growth is not uniform around the state, some politicians find themselves suddenly shifted into a new district. Such is the probable fate of state Rep. Eileen Cody, a veteran Democratic lawmaker, who is likely to get shifted into the 34th. That would mean the newly appointed House member might have to choose between serving a year and stepping aside for an esteemed party colleague, or facing the formidable Cody in a head-to-head battle next fall.
"It's enough to make your head hurt," says Carr.
But who ever said politics was simple?