By a single vote, local Democrats on Thursday made emergency room doctor Nathaniel Schlicher their top choice to serve a year in the state Senate.
Few other 30-year-olds could match Schlicher’s résumé. He graduated from high school at 14, from Pacific Lutheran University at 17 and from law school at 19 — all before going to medical school.
Now he has the backing of his party to succeed Derek Kilmer, who is headed to Congress. By law, Kitsap County commissioners and Pierce County Council members can pick Schlicher or one of two runners-up also nominated Thursday by 26th District Democrats: Todd Iverson or Gerry Baldwin.
The council and commission are working to schedule a vote for the appointment. They have until February. But a new legislative session starts Jan. 14, and a coalition of Republicans and two breakaway Democrats has seized control of the Senate by a margin of 25-24, so many decisions could be close.
Schlicher draws comparisons among supporters to Kilmer, another politician who started young and brought plenty of intellectual firepower.
“He reminds me so much of Derek. There’s something about him that inspires people,” said Port Orchard City Councilman Fred Chang, a rival for the job who dropped out and backed Schlicher.
That left a field of six candidates that also included Mark Hoppen, Mike Allen and Mike Eslava.
On the third vote of the party’s precinct committee officers, Schlicher won with 12 votes to 11 for Iverson, a longshoreman who serves on the Pen-Met Parks board.
Iverson said he hasn’t decided whether to lobby county officials for the job or tell them to pick Schlicher. He said one absent precinct officer had asked him to run and might have forced a tie if he had voted, but he was away on vacation Thursday.
Regardless of who’s picked, Iverson said he hopes the officials act fast to ensure representation for the 26th District, which stretches from the Tacoma Narrows Bridges to Bremerton.
Baldwin, a retired airline pilot and the third choice of Democrats, said he won’t seek the appointment now.
The winner will need four of the six votes that will be split equally between Kitsap and Pierce counties. The three Kitsap commissioners each get one vote, and the seven Pierce council members each get three-sevenths of a vote.
Whoever prevails will face a GOP opponent in November who Democrats presume will be Rep. Jan Angel, the only Republican who has declared for the seat — and the target of many of the candidates’ speeches Thursday.
Schlicher said he would bring a unique perspective as the state makes key decisions on implementing the Affordable Care Act. “We don’t have a single physician down in Olympia,” he told the precinct committee officers who voted in Port Orchard.
The doctor who works at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma said after the vote that he would seek to improve health care and get medical spending under control.Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826