Von Reichbauer favors nonpartisan county elections
Pete von Reichbauer, a Republican who was once a Democrat, doesn't want to wear either party's label when he runs for re-election to the...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Pete von Reichbauer, a Republican who was once a Democrat, doesn't want to wear either party's label when he runs for re-election to the Metropolitan King County Council.
Von Reichbauer, a council member since 1994, is promoting an initiative and a county charter amendment to make the County Council, county executive and assessor nonpartisan offices.
"I believe it will make elected offices more accessible, and I believe it will make elected offices more accountable," he said this week. If candidates don't have to pass political parties' "litmus tests," he said, elections will become more competitive.
He calls the county "a meat-and-potatoes government" delivering basic local services — and says there's no need to polarize those issues with party rivalry.
Von Reichbauer's chief of staff, Joe Fain, will manage the campaign to collect signatures of 52,817 voters to put the initiative on the ballot. If the initiative is either adopted as an ordinance by the County Council or approved by voters, the charter amendment would then go to voters.
Fain said he expects the initiative to go on the August 2008 primary ballot and the charter amendment on the November ballot.
The initiative has not yet been filed with the county clerk, but Fain said Citizens for Independent Government has raised $50,000.
The committee has reported to the state Public Disclosure Commission a $25,000 contribution from Issaquah developer George "Skip" Rowley and says former wireless-industry executive John Stanton has given $25,000.
The charter amendment would make all county elective offices nonpartisan, except prosecuting attorney, which by state law is partisan. Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg promised during his campaign he would lobby the Legislature in its coming session to allow counties to elect prosecutors on a nonpartisan basis.
Von Reichbauer informed his fellow council members of the initiative in a letter Wednesday. "While I know this will be met with mixed feelings, I am confident that through our dialogue and debate on the issue you will see its merits," he wrote.
Civic organizations such as the Municipal League of King County and League of Women Voters have long advocated nonpartisan elections.
The County Council has refused each time to let voters decide the question, even though former Democratic councilmembers Greg Nickels, now Seattle mayor, and Dwight Pelz, now state Democratic Party chairman, each proposed nonpartisan elections.
Von Reichbauer proposed a charter amendment to the council in April, but it has languished in committee.
Despite his upbeat letter to his colleagues, he says he expects both parties to oppose the initiative: "I actually dread the reaction."
Julia Patterson, D-SeaTac, who as chairwoman of the council committee-of-the-whole didn't bring his earlier proposal up for a vote, says she wants to see what the current Charter Review Commission recommends.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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