King-Making Is Alive and Well in King County Politics

Running for office is so hard. Getting appointed is much easier. Right, Joe?
You may think we live in a democratic society where office holders earn the right to represent people in government based on a popular vote. Not so much.

With Dow Constantine's ascension to the Executive's office, as many as three people might get a big bump to their political careers without planting so much as a single yard sign.

Three of the people interviewed today to replace Constantine on the council are already office holders: state Reps Sharon Nelson, D-34, and Zack Hudgins, D-11, and state Senator Joe McDermott, D-34. With full-time status and higher pay at the county level, it's considered a promotion. And if one of them is appointed to replace Constantine, it requires another appointment to the state legislature. (If Jan Drago gets the seat it will require no additional appointments, but she's considered a long shot.)

The most extensive possible Domino chain of appointments begins with giving McDermott the spot. McDermott has already said he'll be running and conventional wisdom says the West Seattle Democrat is popular enough (he ran unopposed in his last election) that it will be easiest just to appoint him when the council votes on Constantine's replacement on Dec. 14.

If McDermott gets the nod, he'll leave a seat open in the state Senate. Nelson seems the natural fit there; she plans to run for the seat and already has practice being appointed to replace McDermott. She got into politics in 2007, by appointment, when he was sent to the Senate, also by appointment, to replace Erik Poulsen. (Poulsen resigned to take a job with the Washington Public Utility District Association.)

Continuing the chain, if Nelson moves up to the Senate, she leaves behind a new vacant seat in the State House. The House is considered the minor league for Seattle-area politicos with grander ambitions. Constantine, for one, got his start there. Open House seats lead to large and difficult elections, so launch your political career with an election when you could be appointed?

People are already so convinced the McDermott/Nelson scenario will unfold, there is jockeying in the 34th District among political wannabes to replace Nelson. Joshua Johnston, the 29-year-old founder of lefty political campaign training program Washington Bus, has been most vocal in lobbying the 34th District Democrats leadership for Nelson's seat. Johnston says he's getting push-back in the district that spawned Constantine, Greg Nickels, Tom Carr, and Tim Ceis for being so young.

That's a lot of potential political victories without one single election. Ain't democracy grand?

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