Sammamish’s first City Council election: Lambs to the slaughter

City_of_SammamishComing off the euphoric high of a landslide win in the November 1998 election to incorporate, citizens of what would become the City of Sammamish were excited to elect the first City Council the following April.

Nearly two dozen people filed for Council in the February special election primary. People backed by the SHOUT and SING incorporation groups filed, along with those unaffiliated with either group. A surprise in the primary: Di Irons, a member of the activist Irons family, won more votes than former State Sen. Phil Dyer, a Republican. The results stunned the party establishment.

In fact, the SHOUT-backed candidates pretty well sailed through the primary, as did Republican-backed ones. One who did not clear the crowded primary field was Bob Keller, who was nonetheless destined to play key roles in the future of Sammamish.

It must be noted that SHOUT, the organization, was a 501 (c) 3 non-profit that as a group could not and did not back candidates in the elections. It’s members, however, did. For ease of identification, this article identifies those in SHOUT supporting candidate as “SHOUT-backed.”

Di Irons faced off against Phil Dyer for Position 1 in the April general election.

Jon Mathison ran against Troy Romero for Position 2. Both were newcomers to local politics. Romero was the Republican/SING backed candidate. Mathison was the SHOUT-backed candidate (for a time.)

Don Gerend ran against Helen Baxter for Position 3. Gerend, a Republican, was a long-time resident of the Plateau. Baxter, the wife of a King County Sheriff’s Deputy, was backed by SHOUT.

Leslie Kralicek faced Kathy Huckabay for Position 4. Kralicek was backed by SHOUT. Huckabay, the sole, official Democrat (in contrast to the SHOUT-backed candidates being Democrats but not active in the organization), presented a dilemma for the SING-Republicans. They opposed Kralicek but didn’t want to openly support an official Democrat. Thus, quietly they did. Huckabay had been active in Issaquah public service, while Kralicek was active in SHOUT.

Jack Barry faced Kent Marsh for Position 5. Barry, the SING-Republican candidate, was the husband of Janet Barry, the Issaquah School District superintendent. Marsh was the one candidate unaffiliated with either SING or SHOUT to survive the primary.

Vicki Baggette ran against Ken Kilroy for Position 6. Baggette was backed by SHOUT; Kilroy was backed by the SING-Republicans.

Bob Brady faced Ron Haworth for Position 7. Brady was an official of SHOUT; Haworth was a SING-Republican and a former fire chief.

On the face of it, the SING-Republicans, plus Huckabay, had the resumes. The SHOUT candidates were novices and idealists. But it was the SHOUT candidates who performed well in the primary. Thus, the stage was set for the bitterest, and dirtiest, election in Sammamish history.

Anonymous fliers using phony Political Action Committee names, like Coalition for Honesty in Campaigns, were frequently distributed. Signs were taken down, stolen and destroyed—a hazard in just about any campaign. The proliferation of signs was so great that Gerend subsequently vowed never to put up another sign (and he hasn’t in any of his future campaigns). Comments by SHOUT’s Brady were taken out of context in a particularly damaging way.

The biggest dirty trick: someone forged a SHOUT newsletter, mailing it to voters. The “articles” in the newsletter, written as if these were done so by SHOUT, painted SHOUT-backed candidates as arrogant, self-important know-it-alls intended to offend—and it did. The SHOUT candidates all went down in flames, by wide margins, in the general election, reversing the primary results. There were a handful of write-in votes in each race.

Candidate Votes Percentage
Irons

Dyer

3,795

5,109

42.54%

57.28%

Mathison

Romero

3,804

5,049

42.92%

56.97%

Gerend

Baxter

4,910

3,883

55.76%

44.09%

Kralicek

Huckabay

3,724

5,071

42.28%

57.57%

Barry

Marsh

5,423

3,320

61.92%

37.92%

Baggette

Kilroy

3,815

4,960

43.43%

56.46%

Brady

Haworth

3,837

4,885

43.91%

55.90%

 

The SHOUT candidates didn’t help their own cause in some cases. Marsh proved to be a poor candidate. Kralicek, well-spoken in small groups, proved to have stage fright in candidate forums and left a poor impression. The SHOUT-candidate resumes simply didn’t compare favorably with the SING-Republicans.

Mathison, an idealist, refused to go negative against the lawyer Romero. As a result, one of the founders of SHOUT withdrew his backing of Mathison, leaving him adrift without any organized support.

All-in-all, it was an election of amateurs and idealists running against solid resumes and professionally-backed candidates who also benefited from bare-knuckled tactics.

It was lambs to the slaughter.

Next: The first two years.

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4 Responses to Sammamish’s first City Council election: Lambs to the slaughter

  1. Lyle Whitcomb says:

    According to a college professor of mine, it was George Santayana who described history this way: “History is to remember and to be sad.” Amen.

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