Todd Iverson summed up the political stakes.
"It's a swing district in a swing Senate," he said, "and this vote will really matter."
The Pierce and Kitsap county boards interviewed Gig Harbor Democrats Iverson and Nathaniel Schlicher on Thursday for a vacant spot in the state Senate.
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And with control of the Senate resting on a scalpel's edge, they sent emergency-room doctor Schlicher to Olympia.
Schlicher had been the top choice of local Democrats, with Iverson a close runner-up and Gerry Baldwin, who didn't ask the council to choose him, coming in third. Because they were replacing a Democrat -- Derek Kilmer, who was elected to Congress -- the Pierce County Council and Kitsap County Commission were required to appoint one of the three.
Kitsap commissioners are Democrats and the Pierce council is under GOP control, but the two didn't clash, giving Schlicher a lopsided vote of support with only Republican councilmen Stan Flemming opposed and Jim McCune abstaining.
Supporters cited his articulate presentation and impressive credentials. Commissioner Josh Brown joked that if anyone could handle the madness of the legislative schedule it would be an ER doctor.
"I think he’s going to have a very short learning curve," said Connie Ladenburg, a Tacoma Democrat.
Schlicher will spend the next year representing the 26th District that runs from Bremerton to the west side of the Tacoma Narrows bridges. He can stay for another year if he wins a special election this November, with Port Orchard Republican Rep. Jan Angel expected to be his main opponent.
Democrats want a candidate who can beat Angel. And Iverson acknowledged he wasn't sure if he would run if he won.
That caught the attention of council members, even a Republican, Dan Roach of Bonney Lake, who said he didn't want a "placeholder."
But what sealed the deal for Roach, and perhaps others, was that Schlicher was the choice of the nominating group made up of Democratic precinct-committee officers. "You need to respect the fact that it's a Democratic seat and thee Democratic PCOs are bringing it forward," Roach said.