One thing that hasn’t received a lot of attention in this election season are the races for King County Council. That’s mostly because four of the five incumbents up for reelection are running unopposed. The fifth, Reagan Dunn (Newcastle, Covington, points East) won 73% of the primary vote, so I’m not sure he had serious opposition.
The four others, running unopposed, are Bob Ferguson (Lake City/Shoreline), Kathy Lambert (Redmond/Issaquah/points East), Julia Patterson (Seatac/Kent), and Pete von Reichbauer (Federal Way/Auburn). I don’t mean to cast aspersions on the performance any of them (Patterson, in particular, has been very good), but doesn’t anybody want this job?
When compared to the overloaded fields for certain City Council seats, I find the difference mystifying. Consider:
- The King County government is the closest thing we have to a Metropolitan government, and many of our issues are metropolitan in scope. It is the most important level of government for transit issues. It is also responsible for tons of other stuff.
- Although City Councils can enable the density that reduces demand for sprawl, the other part of that equation is legislation to control sprawl, which generally falls under the responsibility of the County.
- County districts are actually smaller that the City of Seattle, where all City Council members must run at-large. As a result, County Council runs are, if anything, cheaper than City Council runs.
- The County’s fiscal situation is generally understood to be more dire than Seattle’s, providing more rhetorical ammunition to potential challengers.
- Seattle races tend to take place in a very small ideological continuum, whereas County races have large ideological consequences that mirror the nation at large.
To aspiring politicians out there: rather than jump into a six-way knife fight for city council, save money and improve your chances by running for King County Council. You can make just as much of a difference if you win, and simply by running you’ll at least provide a useful check on people in power.