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Our choices in three Pierce County Council races

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on July 10, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
July 10, 2012 5:16 pm

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

The Pierce County Council is getting a major makeover this year. Three of its seven members are term-limiting out at the end of this year, and a fourth is seeking re-election. So at least three new faces will be on the council come Jan. 1, 2013.

Of the four races, three will be on the Aug. 7 ballot, with the top two vote-getters in each contest going on to the Nov. 6 general election. The fourth race – District 6 (Lakewood, Steilacoom, Dupont) – has only two candidates, so it will be decided in the general election.

District 2 (Northeast Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner and Edgewood) – Incumbent Joyce McDonald, a Puyallup Republican and a former five-term state representative, is seeking a second term on the council. She should get it. The only woman on the county’s governing body, McDonald is a pragmatic consensus builder who knows the district well. She has played an important role in the county’s ability to weather the recession without drastic layoffs or cutting the public safety budget.

Her signature issue has been creation of the county flood control district – integral to obtaining outside grant money for projects that could mitigate potentially devastating floods. It was not a univerally popular idea among the county’s cities, particularly ones not near a river.

McDonald’s push for the district helped spur Edgewood Mayor Jeff Hogan, also a Republican, to file against her. Although he’s not opposed to creating a flood district, he doesn’t like how it was done or the unknowns associated with how it will be administered. He’s a respectable candidate, but he doesn’t make a case for unsesating an effective incumbent.

Also running is Puyallup auctioneer and real estate agent J.R. Wikane, who did not respond to the editorial board’s interview invitation.

District 3 (Spanaway, Graham, Eatonville) – Although this race will be on the primary ballot, the top two contenders are probably a foregone conclusion: Republican state Rep. Jim McCune of Graham and former legislator Marilyn Rasmussen, an Eatonville Democrat. Also in the race is newcomer Corey Drury, a Spanaway Republican who is employed by a Sumner bakery.

Democrats have only Rasmussen to vote for, and Republicans intent on holding on to the seat now occupied by Roger Bush are likely to vote for McCune. He easily defeated Rasmussen in 2010 when she challenged him for his 2nd District House position.

District 4 (University Place, Fircrest, much of Tacoma) – This is the council’s marquee race, pitting four very good candidates hoping to replace Democrat Tim Farrell.

Any of the four would be a fine addition to the County Council, but we think Democrat Connie Ladenburg of Tacoma and Republican Ken Grassi of University Place are the best two to advance.

If Democrats want to hold the seat – one of only two they have on the council – Ladenburg is the candidate more likely to do that. She’s been elected to the Tacoma City Council and the state House of Representatives in districts that overlap quite a bit with District 4. Her knowledge of local issues and the people involved would make her a formidable member of the County Council.

Her Democratic opponent is real estate agent Sharon Benson, a first-time candidate. Benson has solid civic credentials – service on the Pierce County Planning Commission and the AIDS Foundation board – but Ladenburg is more likely to defeat whichever Republican makes it through the primary.

The stronger Republican is Grassi, a businessman and longtime member of the University Place City Council. He is genial and able to work well with those who hold different views. He is genuinely committed to community service.

His Republican opponent is Chris Nye, who owns an online real estate listing service. Nye, who was elected only last year to the University Place City Council, says he would serve out the rest of his four-year term while serving on the Pierce County Council. We’d like to see him get the hang of the City Council position before trying to graduate to the County Council.

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