Editorial: County political reshuffle could benefit Vashon

During the recent campaign for King County executive, Larry Phillips, one of the candidates, expressed his opposition to a countywide tax to fund a ferry district that served only Vashon and West Seattle.

He discussed the issue as though it were a widely held principle in representational government — that a small community was not to benefit from a tax that extended beyond its boundaries. But to us at The Beachcomber, his attitude seemed to underscore something Islanders have suspected for years: Vashon just wasn’t on the political map.

Now, with the election of Dow Constantine as county executive, there’s a chance we might be on the map.

Constantine, whose district included Vashon while he was on the county council, knows the Island well. He’s marched in the Strawberry Festival parade. He’s been at shoreline gatherings protesting Glacier Northwest’s proposed expansion. He held fundraisers for his candidacy while on the Island.

Indeed, in the September primary, when five strong candidates where vying for one of two spots in the general election, Constantine garnered 80 percent of the vote on Vashon. Clearly, we saw the councilmember as our man.

But his election is not the end of the political shuffle that is reshaping the region’s political map. As a result of his win, his seat on the county council stands empty; the county council is expected to fill it next week.

One scenario could unfold like this: Sharon Nelson, an Islander and state representative who has applied for the post, could get the nod to fill Constantine’s seat, an appointment that would mean she’d give up her House seat. She’d serve on the council as a caretaker, she says, meaning she wouldn’t run for the spot next fall, when Constantine’s term expires.

Sen. Joe McDermott, meanwhile, a West Seattleite and another lawmaker who knows Vashon well, has already announced his decision to step down from the Senate and run for Constantine’s seat next fall. Nelson, whether she gets the council spot or not, says she plans to run for the Senate, hopefully replacing McDermott.

Were all of this to come to pass — should Nelson and McDermott advance their political careers as they hope — Islanders might stand to benefit: We’d have a county executive, county councilmember and state senator who know the Island well, who’ve spent time here (in Nelson’s case, a lot of time) and seem to have a feel for the place.

Obviously, the county council, when it makes its decision on Constantine’s replacement, has to consider issues that extend far beyond Vashon’s needs and interests. But still, we can hope. A constituent can dream.

Imagine a suite of county and state office-holders who have actually ferried across the Sound to Vashon. They might sound a different note on a whole host of issues, such as the best way to fund a small but vital ferry district.

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