Politics & Government

Possible Senate replacements surface after Roach elected to County Council

Sen. Pam Roach, R-Sumner, stands and is applauded after being elected as President Pro Tempore in the Senate at the start of the newest legislative session, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Sen. Pam Roach, R-Sumner, stands and is applauded after being elected as President Pro Tempore in the Senate at the start of the newest legislative session, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) AP

With state Sen. Pam Roach’s election to the Pierce County Council official, the state Republican Party is beginning the process of replacing the longest serving senator in the Legislature.

So far, two GOP politicians have publicly said they’re interested in being appointed to Roach’s Senate seat: Pierce County Charter Review Commission Chairwoman Sharon Hanek and state Rep. Drew Stokesbary.

Hanek and others familiar with the process said Republican state Rep. Phil Fortunato also is interested. Fortunato did not respond to requests for comment.

Roach said during her campaign that she did not plan to hold both offices simultaneously. Nor could she, apparently: In the same election that saw Roach elected to the council, voters also approved a county ban on dual officeholding.

Roach has not yet announced when she plans to resign.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler and others said they hadn’t heard from Roach about the issue, at least partly because she was out of town. Roach, by Twitter, said she was attending a conference for sportsmen in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Roach has not returned numerous phone calls from four News Tribune reporters since Nov. 8. By text message Thursday, she said she would send a news release on the topic “when things shake out.”

On Friday, after she was told The News Tribune would publish a story about her possible successors, she accused the newspaper of bullying her. “Can the Trib ever respect women?” she said on Twitter.

She also posted a picture of her meeting with a Jewish group last summer, saying in part: “Bullying led to the unimaginable and I fear some men in power forget the evil.”

State Sen. Bruce Dammeier, who recently was elected Pierce County executive, said he plans to resign his Senate seat effective Dec. 31, because he will be sworn into the county position before his Senate term ends in early January. The Republican from Puyallup said the steps were necessary to avoid breaking the new county charter rules.

Even without Roach’s resignation in hand, some groups responsible for appointing a new senator are operating under the assumption Roach will soon leave her post.

Roach will be sworn in on the council Jan. 3. The next legislative session begins days later.

“We are moving forward with preparing for a vacant seat at the end of the year,” said Caleb Heimlich, executive director of the state Republican Party.

When the Senate post comes open, Heimlich says, the state party will call a meeting of the elected precinct committee officers in the 31st Legislative District.

The district includes Auburn, Edgewood, Sumner, Lake Tapps, Bonney Lake, Enumclaw, Buckley, South Prairie, Wilkeson and Carbonado.

The PCOs will select three names to forward to the Pierce and King county councils because the district includes parts of both counties. The council members will then vote on which of the three to appoint.

Pierce County Council’s legal adviser, Susan Long, said she has contacted the chief of staff for the King County Council to discuss the process to appoint Roach’s successor. The counties hope to schedule a joint meeting.

All three candidates mentioned have government experience.

▪ Fortunato, of Auburn, was elected to the state House this year, although he previously served one term in the state House in 1999 and 2000.

▪ Stokesbary, of Auburn, was first elected in 2014 and serves on the House appropriations, finance and judiciary committees.

▪ Hanek, a PCO in the 31st District, was elected to the the charter review commission last year. She lives in Bonney Lake.

Walker Orenstein: 360-786-1826, @walkerorenstein

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