Ross Hunter: Budget Wrangler for KC Exec

As Don Ward reports below, Ross Hunter, the man who first brought legislation to bail out the King County budget, is in it to win it in an increasingly expanding pool of candidates to replace Ron Sims. Speaking by phone this morning, he says he didn't want to announce earlier since he'd been so enmeshed in legislation the county was trying to pass to bolster it's ailing budget. "It felt like a conflict of interest," he says.

But last night he went to a meeting of the King County Democrats at the Renton Carpenter's Hall (a building he says is hard to find) and told them he officially plans to get in the race.

Hunter became the man with a plan for the King County budget last February when he introduced a bill to allow for more tax collection. It also gave the county more flexibility on spending the money it already gets.

It was an ugly fight to the end for the legislation. The bill legislators voted on ultimately came out of the Senate, though Hunter was appointed to the committee that created the final version both houses needed to approve. It ended in a tie in the Senate with Lt. Governor Brad Owen earning his paycheck and casting the final vote.

The win is big for Hunter and gives him cred with policy wonks who track things like the King County budget deficit. And he's proven popular with center-right Eastsiders (Attorney General Rob McKenna once approached him about running for office as a Republican.) But the man people call a "republicrat" behind his back will still need to win over a significant number of Seattleites to have a real shot at Dow Constantine and Larry Phillips.

Hunter wasn't able to raise money during the session, and says he hasn't finalized his plans for fundraising yet, "but I will." With a lot of heavy hitters running for the open seat, expect to see some serious cash start pouring into this race.

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