In picking replacement for deceased Rep. Roger Freeman, the date could be important

Democrats are getting ready to make their choices to replace Roger Freeman in the House, but there are questions over who gets to vote.

Federal Way Rep. Freeman died Oct. 29 after undergoing treatment for colon cancer, but last week voters elected him anyway.

With the deceased Democrat winning, a successor will be appointed for a year and that person is required to be a Democrat as well.

Three people have declared for the job, 30th District Democratic Party chairman Tim Burns said this week: former legislative candidates Shari Song and Roger Flygare and local party officer Richard Champion. Federal Way School Board President Carol Gregory has said she’s considering a run.

The first step in making the appointment involves 30th District Democratic PCOs – precinct committee officers, the party’s grassroots activists whom local voters elect every two years. The PCOs meet and choose three nominees in ranked order of preference.

The 30th District Democrats last week requested that vote to take place in December, but on Monday, the state Democratic Party set the meeting for 7 p.m. Nov. 25. A party spokeswoman says that’s not set in stone, however, and a final decision could come by the end of this week.

What difference does it make? Just this: Dec. 1 is the beginning of a new term for PCOs.

If the vote happens next month, the new slate of PCOs will vote: those elected this year. There are 37 of them, Burns said.

But if the vote happens this month, the current slate of PCOs will vote: those elected in 2012 or appointed since then to fill vacancies. There are about 55 to 58 of them, Burns said – including six appointed just last week. It seems likely the newcomers are showing up at least partly in hopes of participating in the vote.

Which candidates would benefit in each scenario? It’s hard to say for sure.

The local party discussed various time conflicts tied to a November vote, but Burns said the state party wants to hasten the process in hopes of picking a lawmaker in time for the start of the legislative session in January or even for pre-session organizational decisions.

Once the state party ratifies the choices, the King and Pierce county councils will meet as a group to choose one of the three. (If they can’t make a decision, the choice goes to the governor.) Joint meetings like that sometimes take a while to schedule.

There’s one more wrinkle. The county councils have yet to work out a plan, but Burns said as he understands it the two councils each get an equal say – even though Pierce County makes up only about 5 percent of the 30th District.

If that holds true, Republicans would actually have slightly more votes than Democrats in the decision about which Democrat to choose.