Inslee should go with Gregory for vacancy in 30th District

When Democratic state Rep. Roger Freeman of Federal Way was re-elected posthumously six days after his death, it set off an unnecessarily contrarian kerfuffle over filling the vacancy

Because Freeman’s 30th Legislative District straddles King and Pierce counties, the appointment to serve for a year either must be agreed upon by both counties’ councils or be decided by the governor. The 30th District Democratic precinct officers offered three choices, in order of preference: Federal Way School Board President Carol Gregory; chemical engineer Richard Champion; and real estate agent Shari Song.

Gregory is a good choice, with probably the best chance among the Democrats of holding on to the seat when it goes up for election next November. The retired teacher won election in the district’s population center of Federal Way just last year.

Pierce County Council members wanted a joint meeting with their King County counterparts to fill the vacancy, a method used in earlier appointments that crossed county lines. That method has the backing of a 1941 state attorney general opinion.

But the King County Council rebuffed a Pierce County Council invitation to jointly meet Dec. 22. It acted unilaterally Dec. 8 and unanimously chose the Democrats’ top candidate, Gregory. The reason given for not holding a joint meeting was that the members wanted to decide on the vacancy before the holidays.

At that point, the Pierce County Council had a choice to make: it could second the King County Council’s choice of Gregory, it could pick a different candidate or it could punt. It punted.

By not making a choice, the council effectively leaves the decision up to Gov. Jay Inslee. As a Democrat, he’s likely to go along with the candidate preferred by Freeman’s party and the King County Council.

And he should. The 30th District is much more heavily weighted toward King County than to Pierce; 95 percent of the district’s registered voters live in King County. It just makes sense that the King County Council should have a greater say in filling the vacancy. A joint meeting would have given Pierce councilmembers only a proportionate say in the decision. That seems hardly worth the dustup.

The Republican-dominated Pierce County Council should have gone along with the preferred choice of Freeman’s party on this vacancy. It looks a little petty that it didn’t.