Politics & Government

Counties may vote separately on replacement for Rep. Roger Freeman

Two county boards will have equal say in filling a vacancy in the state House, but they might not make the decision together.

Pierce County Council Chairman Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake, said Pierce County could probably line up a vote in the next week or two on a replacement for the late Rep. Roger Freeman.

But the King County Council plans to vote at its Monday meeting. Officials there said the reason for going it alone is to expedite the vote because council members and candidates are available now, and a holiday break is looming.

The Pierce County Council has been pushing for a joint meeting, a method it has used in other recent legislative appointments for districts that cross county lines. Its legal counsel, Susan Long, said separate meetings might not be allowed.

King County Council clerk Anne Noris said the state constitution’s requirement for “joint action” does not require a joint meeting. A similar appointment in the 1990s was done via two separate votes, she said, although in that case they were held at the same place and time.

But a 1941 opinion of the state attorney general says “joint action” means “the two boards are to sit in joint session,” and that if they were intended to meet separately, the constitution would use the plural, “joint actions.”

The councils must choose one of three Democrats nominated by their party to replace Democrat Freeman, who died Oct. 29. Democrats’ first choice was Federal Way School Board President Carol Gregory, with Richard Champion and Shari Song as runners-up.

Each county council gets three votes on the replacement. The King County Council, made up of five Democrats and four Republicans, is the bigger of the two, so each of its council members gets less of a say.

The Pierce County Council has five Republicans and two Democrats. If it waits until the new year to vote, the composition will have changed to four Republicans and three Democrats.