Voters elected Gig Harbor Democrat Derek Kilmer to Congress on Tuesday, and the competition for a one-year appointment to replace him in the state Senate is starting to look like a free-for-all.
A local Democratic Party committee is vetting potential appointees, who by law must come from the same party as Kilmer. Several confirmed they are interested:
• District party chairman Gerry Baldwin, a Gig Harbor consultant and retired airline pilot.
• Port Orchard City Councilman Fred Chang, who does public-information work for the state Department of Transportation.
• Mark Hoppen, a former Gig Harbor councilman and former city administrator there.
• Carl Olson of Port Orchard, a retired teacher and the former chairman of the Kitsap County Democratic Party.
• Nathaniel Schlicher, an emergency-room doctor who also is a lawyer.
Other people being mentioned include Mike Allen, a police officer in Gig Harbor, and Todd Iverson, a longshoreman on the Pen-Met Parks board. They couldn’t be reached Thursday.
The appointee will be expected to run for election in November 2013 to fill out the year that would then be left in Kilmer’s term.
Democrats will want a strong candidate. Their majority in the Senate is a slim three seats – dropping to two if Vancouver GOP Sen. Don Benton can hang on to a 62-vote lead over his challenger – and at least two conservative Democrats are prone to join with Republicans.
Whoever runs could face a tough Republican opponent. Potential GOP candidates include state Rep. Jan Angel, who has said she would consider running if Kilmer goes to Congress. Angel won re-election in the swing 26th district Tuesday with more than 59 percent of the vote in preliminary counting.
The starting gun to the Democratic contest will fire with Kilmer’s official resignation. His campaign manager, Chris Gregorich, said Kilmer hasn’t decided when to step down but will likely do so after the election is certified. That must happen by Dec. 6.
After that, here’s how the process works, according to Baldwin, who plays a role in getting it started as chairman of the 26th district Democrats:
• The district’s Democratic precinct-committee officers, rank-and-file party activists, will nominate a first, second and third choice. The nominees must be Democrats and live in the district, which runs from the west side of the Tacoma Narrows bridges in Pierce County to Port Orchard and part of Bremerton in Kitsap County.
• The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners and the Pierce County Council will jointly choose from the three nominees, with Democrats asking them to pick the first choice. It’s unclear exactly how the voting will be arranged for the seven-member council and three-member commission.
• If the two bodies can’t decide within 60 days after the vacancy opens, the governor has 30 days to make the appointment from the same three-person list.