Several Pierce County cities will see a leadership shakeup at the end of this year, as many cities are losing their mayors and others have attracted challengers.
Election season started this week as candidates filed with the Pierce County Auditor’s Office for races in the Aug. 6 primary and the Nov. 5 general election.
Cities or towns with departing mayors include Gig Harbor, Puyallup, Edgewood, Orting and Eatonville. Incumbent mayors in University Place, Sumner, Bonney Lake and Milton all will face challengers.
But there will be stability in the urban core of the county, as Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland did not draw a challenger and Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson is not up for election this year.
This year’s elections will be dominated by grass-roots local races such as city councils, school boards, fire districts and port commissioners.
But one South Sound state legislative seat is up for grabs in a special election that was forced when state Sen. Derek Kilmer stepped down to go to Congress.
It’s a pivotal race for the balance of power in the Senate, and it could get expensive.
In Tacoma, few surprises and little activity emerged during filing week. In all, five seats on the city’s nonpartisan council are up for election.
Olgy Diaz, a legislative aide to state Rep. David Sawyer, will challenge Councilman Joe Lonergan for the 5th District seat representing south Tacoma.
In Tacoma’s 2nd District covering Northeast Tacoma to Old Town, incumbent council appointee Robert Thoms will face downtown activist Patricia Lecy-Davis as expected.
The only other contested race in Tacoma involves the at-large seat held by Victoria Woodards. Robert “the Traveller” Hill, an oddball activist and regular candidate with a rap sheet, filed to challenge her.
Incumbent Mayor Strickland and District 4 Councilman Marty Campbell won’t face opposition to their re-election bids.
LAKEWOOD AND UNIVERSITY PLACE
Four candidates filed to run for the lone open seat on the Lakewood City Council, while the three incumbents are unchallenged.
Don Daniels, chairman of the city Planning Advisory Board; Ria Johnson, a social worker; Bryan Thomas, chairman of the city Public Safety Advisory Committee; and John Simpson, a history teacher, all put their names in for the Position 5 seat.
They all applied for appointment to the seat that former Mayor Doug Richardson vacated when he joined the Pierce County Council this year. The council appointed Helen McGovern, who did not seek election to the seat.
No one filed to run against council members Mike Brandstetter, Mary Moss and Jason Whalen.
In nearby University Place, Mayor Ken Grassi, the last remaining member of the original City Council, filed to run for his fifth four-year term. He drew a challenge from Carl Mollnow, who has unsuccessfully run for a council seat in three consecutive elections.
UP Councilman Javier Figueroa drew a challenge from Frank Boykin Jr., a member of the city planning commission. Steve Worthington, the former Fife city manager, is running against Councilman Eric Choiniere.
Councilwoman Denise McCluskey is running unopposed.
OTHER WEST PIERCE
Gig Harbor will have its first new mayor in eight years as Councilwoman Jill Guernsey was the only candidate to file to succeed Mayor Chuck Hunter.
Gig Harbor Councilman Steven Ekberg faces challenger Jim Hagman, but the other three races are unopposed.
Steilacoom Mayor Ron Lucas will run unopposed for a fourth four-year term. Two Town Council incumbents will run unopposed, and Pete Franklin was the lone candidate to file for an open seat.
It will be a busy election season in DuPont, as all four City Council races are contested, with one seat drawing two challengers running against an incumbent.
In Fircrest, all four incumbents up for election drew one challenger.
Several Planning Commission members have filed to run for open seats on the Puyallup City Council.
Mayor Rick Hansen is ineligible to run for his council seat again, and candidates Steve Hastings and Heather Shadko filed to run for the open position.
Hansen has reached the 12-year lifetime term limit set by the City Council in 2011. A new mayor will be chosen by the full council after the election. It is an appointed two-year position.
Hastings is the chair of the city’s Planning Commission. Shadko, who works for the Port of Tacoma, is also a commission member.
Chris McNutt, vice chair of the Planning Commission, filed to run for District 3, Position 2. Julie Door of Puyallup, who was vocal in the process of passing state legislation related to inmate housing, also filed for the seat. District 3 Councilman Kent Boyle did not file for re-election. Boyle’s voting record has often aligned with the opposition on a City Council that experienced a majority shift after the 2011 election.
Councilman John Hopkins is running for re-election to District 1, Position 2, facing challenger Corry Glucoft.
OTHER EAST PIERCE
In Sumner, City Council member Nancy Dumas filed to challenge Mayor Dave Enslow.
“I firmly believe a candidate should never run unopposed,” Dumas said.
Enslow wants to keep going after two terms in office.
“It’s an honor to represent the great people in Sumner, and I would be honored to serve in that role for another four years,” he said in a news release.
Orting Mayor Cheryl Temple is stepping away from city government after more than 20 years. Joachim “Joe” Pestinger, a fire commissioner for Orting Valley Fire & Rescue, is running unopposed to replace her.
Bonney Lake Mayor Neil Johnson is seeking re-election and faces challengers Mike Munson and Councilman James Rackley.
In Milton, Mayor Debra Perry will face Philip “Marty” Lelli Jr.
Edgewood Mayor Jeff Hogan is not running for re-election, and Jeff Stokes and Tyron J. Christopherson have filed to run for his council seat.
In Eatonville, four candidates filed to run for mayor after Ray Harper opted not to seek a second term.
Harper said working full time at Boeing factored into his decision, but he wants to continue to serve the town, so he will run for Council Position 2 against Bob Walter.
For mayor, town treasurer Mike Schaub and Carl “Bud” Lucas, Eatonville’s former fire chief, are challenging Town Council members Gordon Bowman and James Valentine.
“This is the first time I can recall having to hold a primary for a mayor race (in Eatonville),” Town Administrator Doug Beagle said.
The single school board seat up for grabs in Tacoma currently belongs to Debbie Winskill, who has held it since 1989. But she faces a challenge from a familiar face: Dexter Gordon, the University of Puget Sound professor who unsuccessfully ran for a different board seat two years ago.
Gordon said he appreciates Winskill’s service, but he believes it is time for a change to confront “21st-century challenges.” If elected, he would be the only black on the five-member board.
Winskill has overseen seven superintendents, and believes her long tenure and her record of helping solve problems for individuals are assets. She is sometimes the lone voice of public dissent in board votes.
Elsewhere in Pierce County, there will be three school board primary races: in the Peninsula district, Puyallup and Fife. In each of those districts, three candidates have filed for a single seat.
PORT OF TACOMA
Two challengers have joined the race for the Port of Tacoma Commission position now held by longtime commissioner Connie Bacon.
Eric Holdeman, an emergency management and security consultant, and Dave Dormier, an engineer, have entered the race against Bacon, a 17-year veteran of the port commission.
Holdeman was the port’s security director until February when his position was eliminated in an administrative reorganization. Holdeman now serves as part-time director of the Pacific Northwest Center for Regional Disaster Resilience as well as being a security consultant.
Dormier is a professional engineer with Auburn’s Rupert Engineering Inc. He also serves as a Republican deputy district director in Gig Harbor’s 26th Legislative District.
Two other port commissioners, Dick Marzano and Don Meyer, have filed for re-election. They are unopposed.
No dark horse candidates jumped in to represent parts of Pierce and Kitsap counties in the state Senate, so Rep. Jan Angel and Sen. Nathan Schlicher have the 26th Legislative District field to themselves.
Schlicher, an emergency room doctor from Gig Harbor, was appointed to replace the departing Kilmer in January. The vacancy was filled for a year by Kilmer’s fellow Democrat and is now up for grabs for what would have been the final year of Kilmer’s term.
Schlicher faces off against Angel of Port Orchard, a former banker and Realtor in her third term as a House Republican.
Neither can raise money while lawmakers are in session, but they used a two-week break before the current special session to haul in cash. Schlicher’s total stands at more than $118,000 while Angel has nearly $114,000.
Staff writers Kari Plog, Lewis Kamb, Christian Hill, Debbie Cafazzo, John Gillie and Jordan Schrader contributed to this report.