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County Council fails to nominate Joe McDermott
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County Council fails to nominate Joe McDermott

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

In a contentious eight-hour meeting that dragged on into the night, the King County Council failed on Monday to appoint a replacement for Dow Constantine.

Sen. Joe McDermott (D-34), the apparent favorite, was only able to garner four votes, with four opposed to his appointment.

Constantine represented Council District 8 - West Seattle, Pioneer Square, Georgetown, Burien, Normandy Park, Vashon and Maury Islands, and parts of Tukwila and SeaTac - but gave up his seat to become King County executive. He was sworn into his new position on November 24.

As a state senator from the 34th Legislative District, McDermott already represents more than 60% of the County Council District. He had the unanimous endorsement of the 34th District Democratic Party organization.

While County offices have been officially non-partisan since November 2008, all current Council members were elected as Democrats or Republicans, and they split along party lines in voting for Constantine's replacement. With Constantine gone, the Council is split evenly between four Democrats and four Republicans.

On Monday morning, the motion to appoint McDermott failed on a 4-4 split. All the Council's Democrats voted Yes, all the Republicans No.

After a recess, the Council returned to the issue in the afternoon with a motion to appoint outgoing Seattle City Council member Jan Drago. That motion also failed on a 4-4 split, with all the Democrats voting No and all the Republicans Yes.

McDermott has already announced his intention to run for the seat in 2010, whether or not he wins the interim appointment. Drago said she would serve as a temporary "caretaker" Council member until the election.

While McDermott told SGN last week that he believed Republicans would gain nothing by trying to block his appointment, they apparently sought to prevent him from winning the incumbent's advantage in the 2010 election for the seat.

After failing to agree on either McDermott or Drago, the Council briefly considered a third candidate, Rep. Zack Hudgins (D-11).

Republicans had hoped that Hudgins would agree to serve as a caretaker Council member, but when he indicated he would run to return to his 11th District legislative seat if he couldn't run for election to the Council in 2010, they rejected him as well.

"I think we should give everybody here a cooling-off period," said Council member Pete von Reichbauer, a Republican, as the Council meeting dragged on without any obvious hope of agreement. "I would suggest we look at dealing with this issue at the first of the year."

"For tonight there is a deadlock, ultimately we will reach a consensus," Councilman Bob Ferguson, a Democrat, agreed.

Council members agreed to return to the issue in January.

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