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King County Council picks Gregerson over Kent's Albertson for Legislature | Update

Mia Gregerson will represent House District 33 in the 2014 Legislature. - COURTESY PHOTO
Mia Gregerson will represent House District 33 in the 2014 Legislature.
— image credit: COURTESY PHOTO

The Metropolitan King County Council surprised many when they chose Mia Gregerson rather than Elizabeth Albertson on Monday to fill the 33rd Legislative District House seat vacated by Dave Upthegrove.

Albertson, of Kent, reacted strongly to the decision in a Tuesday email to the Kent Reporter. She called the decision a "fix" and that the council was "pressured to appoint a person of color."

Albertson, whose Kent City Council term expires the end of this year, was picked by the 33rd Legislative District Democrats to replace Upthegrove, who is giving up his seat next year after his election to the County Council to replace Julia Patterson in District 5 that covers parts of Kent and other south county cities. Gregerson, a city of SeaTac councilwoman and deputy mayor, was the Democrats second choice of the Precinct Committee Officers (PCOs).

"I knew the 'fix' was in the moment I arrived and none of the (County) Council members would look me in the eye," Albertson said. "The shame and embarrassment was palpable.

"I had been warned last spring, the King County Council was being pressured to appoint a person of color after they chose Rod Dembowski over Cindy Ryu to join their ranks, however, two wrongs, never make a right."

County Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, recently re-elected to a fourth term in District 3 that includes Redmond, Issaquah and other east county cities, denied Albertson's accusations about why the council picked Gregerson.

"No, her (Albertson) answers weren't as good as Mia," Lambert said during a phone interview. "Her regional work was not as extensive as Mia's."

Albertson couldn't believe the council didn't follow the recommendation.

"As a long-time Democratic activist, I wanted to believe the will of the people and the elected Precinct Committee Officers would prevail over Tammany Hall style shenanigans," Albertson said.

Albertson's Tammany Hall reference is to a Democratic political machine from the 1790s to 1960s that controlled New York and New York City politics.

"The will of the people was 137 (Precinct Committee Officers)," Lambert said. "I represent 214,000 people and follow the law as it is written. She's not as familiar with the law but with the way things have been done, which is sloppy."

Lambert said the PCOs are supposed to submit three names to the council, which then chooses one person. She said instead the PCOs rank the three nominees and ask the No. 2 and No. 3 choices to give up their spot to the top choice.

Omaha Sternberg, 33rd Democrat District chair, disliked that the council didn't follow the PCOs pick.

"I have to say that I am very disappointed in the King County Council for not following the will of the PCO's in this matter," Sternberg said in an email. "The PCO's were far more informed about the candidates then the King County Council was, as the council has only interviewed them for a couple of hours, but the PCO's had decided over weeks or even months which candidate they were going to support.

"If the will of the PCO's is not to be seriously considered then it seems to me that there is no purpose in actually holding a PCO caucus and asking for a PCO vote with a ranking," Sternberg said.

Sternberg commented on Gregerson's selection.

"I know that as a Democrat, Mia will work hard to support the 33rd District in her role as House Representative," she said.

But the decision definitely disappointed Sternberg.

"Unfortunately, I can't comment on why it happened as I am still trying to understand the situation myself," she said. "However, the PCOs of the 33rd District Democrats are the grassroots the party, and should never be taken lightly."

Fellow Kent City Council members congratulated Albertson last week for her nomination to the Legislature and how they looked forward to working with her at the state level.

Gregerson will serve one year as the replacement for Upthegrove. An election next year will decide who gets the two-year term starting in 2015.

“After consulting with (House) Speaker (Frank) Chopp, (County) Executive Dow Constantine and Councilmember Julia Patterson, and listening carefully to the answers to questions posed to council members Albertson and Gregerson, I was pleased to vote with the majority of my fellow Democrats on the Council to appoint Deputy Mayor Gregerson to the State House,” Dembowski said in a statement from the county. “I am confident Mia will be an excellent representative for the diverse residents of the 33rd Legislative District, pending a vote of the people in 2014.”

The 33rd District covers parts of Kent, Des Moines, SeaTac, Normandy Park and Burien.

"I appreciate going through the process with Elizabeth Albertson and Omaha Sternberg," Gregerson said Tuesday in a prepared statement. "Elizabeth brought her experience as a Kent city councilmember and a breadth of knowledge on a diverse set of issues to the process. I would love to work with her more closely and learn more from her as I go through my first session in the state Legislature. Omaha Sternberg and I talked (Tuesday) on the phone about continuing to work and support the progressive values of the 33rd District Democrats.

"We have many challenges facing South King County including investing in SR 509 and SR 167; implementing the Affordable Care Act; and ensuring economic fairness. I am excited to hit the ground running as the appointed state representative from the 33rd Legislative District."

Gregerson, a graduate of the University of Washington, has served on the Executive Board for the Puget Sound Regional Council and the Board of Directors of the Sound Cities Association.

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