Mercer Island Reporter


Democrats nominate 3 Mercer Islanders for Maxwell’s seat

Mercer Island Reporter Former editor
August 20, 2013 · Updated 8:27 AM

The resignation of state Rep. Marcie Maxwell, a Democrat, of the 41st District has set in motion a process that remains obscure to most casual observers of state government. The political party of the outgoing legislator gets to nominate candidates for the interim replacement. The appointee must be a resident in the same district. Three candidates will be ‘nominated’ for Maxwell’s seat, by a vote of the precinct committee officers (PCO)of the 41st District Democrats at an Aug. 21 meeting.

The King County Council will then meet and subsequently choose one of the three as the appointee or, in the event of Council deadlock, the governor will do so.

After 10 individuals expressed interest in Maxwell’s seat, five candidates completed questionnaires for the one-year term. The seat will then be up for election in the fall of 2014.

There are 200 precincts in the 41st District; more than half do not have PCOs. Candidates can lobby for fellow Democrats to become PCOs, in order to promote their candidacy.

David Ellis

David Ellis is a 2006 graduate of Mercer Island High School. He holds a degree from Kenyon College with a double major in political science and theater arts.

According to his responses on the 41st District’s candidate questionnaire, Ellis has been active as an organizer and fundraiser in statewide campaigns such as  Washington United for Marriage, regarding Initiative 74, and in the Sierra Club, WASHPIRG, and environmental causes. He was a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Convention in both 2006 and 2012.

Despite his relative youth, Ellis believes he represents a new, unique voice for the Legislature. He calls his approach “passionate progress.”

“I am an idealistic person,” he said. “I know how to organize and build coalitions.”

Like Maxwell, he said, he will be a strong voice on education and many other issues of importance.

On his questionnaire, Ellis lists off issues that matter to him and the 41st Democrats. The first matter is education to be fully funded from pre-kindergarten on; affordable higher education, the environment and sustainability. He wants to help ensure that there will be meaningful gun control, and passage of the transportation funding legislation. He is opposed to tolling I-90, but said we need to find a way to pay for maintenance of the state’s highways.

Ellis is the grandson of Jim Ellis, now 92, the activist and visionary who led campaigns to clean up Lake Washington in the 1950s; finance mass transit, parks, pools and other public facilities through ‘Forward Thrust’ bonds in the 1960s; to preserve farmlands in the 1970s; to build and later expand the Washington State Convention & Trade Center in the 1980s, and to establish the Mountains to Sound Greenway in the 1990s.

It is big shoes to fill, his grandson admitted. But his family’s involvement in the community was a formative part of his upbringing.

“It is what I know,” he said.

Ellis, who has a polished speaking voice, started his own company earlier this year, David Ellis Voiceovers, to provide voiceover services to commercial entities. But since the news of Maxwell’s resignation, he has been using his voice to promote his candidacy for her seat.

Tana Senn

Mercer Island City Councilmember Tana Senn was one of the first people who Marcie Maxwell told that she was resigning her seat in the Legislature to take a position in Gov. Jay Inslee’s government. Later, Inslee himself called Senn to urge her to put her name in for her replacement. The first thing she thought, she said, was that she could not tell her parents the news.

“I was sad,” she remembered. “They are both gone now.”

Next, she thought of her children; one in elementary school and the other just starting middle school.

“I thought, I cannot do this because of them,” she said. Then, “I thought, wait — I have to do this because of my kids.”

Senn, concerned about education funding, and safety issues for children, sees her young family as an asset to state government. She noted that there are just a handful of legislators with young children in Olympia.

Hearing about Maxwell’s plans was a big surprise, she said. “Honestly, I love local government, but there are things you cannot do at the city level like passing a transportation budget or improving gun control.

“It would be exciting to work on larger issues,” she said. She sees her possible appointment to the Legislature, “not as ‘a leaving,’ but as a different way to serve Islanders.”

Senn, who has not been active in the 41st District Democrats, said she attended her first meeting last month after she heard about the appointment and was elected that evening, as a PCO. Attending the meeting with her were six other Islanders who were also voted in as PCOs.

Senn joined the Mercer Island City Council in January 2012 when she was appointed to fill the remaining term of former Island mayor, Jim Pearman. She is running unopposed for her City Council seat, up for reelection in November.

Announcing her candidacy to retain her City Council seat last March, she told Islanders, “I am working hard to fight tolling on I-90 at the local, state and federal levels. At the same time, I’m focused on the day-to-day issues that make our Island a wonderful place to live — parks and open spaces, safe roads and sidewalks, a vibrant Town Center and quality education.”

Senn said that she expects to remain on the City Council even if she is appointed to the year-long position.

Senn has a background in communications and government relations. Senn earned a Master in Public Policy and Administration from Columbia University.

Senn’s volunteer involvement includes campaigning for the fire station and rescue truck levy campaign, Youth and Family Services, and the PTA at Island Park Elementary. She was on the board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle for six years.

George Pieper

Business owner and civil rights activist, George Pieper has been an active member of the 41st Democrats for 11 years. He acknowledges up front what the intent is of the replacement process for Maxwell’s seat in Olympia.

“For the 41st, the goal is to keep the seat Democratic — now and later,” he said.

Pieper himself has been active in the Democratic Party for more than 22 years, first in the 36th Legislative District and later the 41st. His application states that he has been involved in and led many party activities, including presiding over the statewide Washington Stonewall Democrats and the LGBT Caucus. He  has been a member of the 41st District Democrats for 11 years, served as an acting Precinct Committee Officer (PCO), and then as an elected PCO in his precinct since 2008.

Born in California, Pieper, 42, came to Seattle as a young man. He put himself through college in Seattle. He is now a 17-year resident of Bellevue.

“This is my chosen home,” he said.

He has an Island address for his business, OutSmart Office Solutions.

Pieper describes himself as a community leader, civil rights advocate, and business pioneer. He is the former vice president of the Greater Seattle Business Association, where he served on the board for eight years. For the last five years, he has served as the 6th District Commissioner on the King County Civil Rights Commission, and as the chair for two years. In 2012, Pieper was honored at the GSBA Business & Humanitarian Awards Dinner as the recipient of the President’s Award for Community Leadership.

He has put his name in the statehouse hat once before, for the appointment to fill Fred Jarrett’s Senate seat when the Islander decided to join the King County Council staff in January 2010, after being elected a few months earlier. Randy Gordon was appointed instead. He was later defeated by Islander Steve Litzow in the November general election for the seat.

Pieper said he is well connected and knows how to raise money. He is a prolific fundraiser for a range of organizations from KCTS9 to groups within the (LGBT) community.

“I have been fundraising forever,” he said.

For more than 20 years he worked as an advocate for the environment, social justice, economic and LGBT equality issues.

Along with tackling the issues of education and transportation, Pieper says if he were appointed, he hopes to be able to launch a campaign finance effort.

Other candidates

The two other candidates for the open King County Council position are from Sammamish. They include Don Gerund, a former Boeing scientist and a 14-year member of the City Council there. Also, Seattle attorney,  Greg Hoover who practices immigration law, civil matters, arbitration and mediation, has put his name forward.

Don Gerend is well-known in Sammamish as one of the original Sammamish City Council members — he still serves on the council. Gerend said he came to the state of Washington in 1962 from the flat lands of Wisconsin and never looked back.

"I've seen the state from the top of Mt. Rainier to scuba diving in the San Juans," he said. "When Sammamish incorporated I decided it was time to give back. This is an opportunity to take it to the next level."

Gerend has a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Washington. "As a former rocket scientist at Boeing, college teacher (physics, astronomy, environmental science and business calculus), commercial real estate syndicator and investment manager, and private phone company owner and operator, in addition to the years in city government, I feel well qualified to address the wide range of societal, scientific and number-crunching challenges facing the State Legislature," Gerend states in his candidate questionnaire.

He supports the right of public sector workers to bargain and strike with the exception of police and fire where binding interest arbitration should continue to be the final resolution to the bargaining process, he said.

Gerend does not support the two-thirds majority for tax increases at the legislative level. He is also unsupportive of school vouchers. With regard to charter schools, he would support them with proper state guidance, but he advocates options for learning such as Running Start, AP classes and STEM high schools. Gerend's priority for the 41st District is transportation, balancing the state budget without raiding city and county revenue sources and making higher education  and work force training affordable and accessible.

Gerend is proud of the fact that in his 14 years on the Sammamish City Council, the city of 48,000 residents has an AAA bond rating, over $60 million cash in the bank, no bonded indebtedness, great infrastructure and has three times been judged by CNN/Money Magazine as among the 15 best cities to live in under a population of 50,000. This year Forbes listed Sammamish as the “Friendliest City in the US" under a population of 150,000.

Greg Hoover is an attorney with his practice, Hoover Law Group, in Seattle and Portland. He has lived in Sammamish since 1999. He said he believes he can help people by serving as the legislator for the 41st District.

Hoover received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law in 1996. Subsequently he received his Qualified Lawyer's Transfer Test from Oxford Brooks University in London in 2008.

He is licensed to practice law in both Washington and Oregon. His expertise includes immigration law, civil litigation and personal injury, criminal defense, arbitration and mediation, and pro hac vice. Hoover does not support the two-thirds majority for tax increases at the legislative level. He also does not support area standards of wages and benefits. Hoover is not in favor of charter schools or school vouchers.

He said the top three issues facing the 41st District are education for all children, improving the economy by encouraging job growth, and tolling I-90. He wants to improve traffic congestion and expedite light rail to the Eastside.

"In, 2010 when I ran for state representative, I doorbelled over 10,000 homes. I would do this again. In 2010 I, along with my team, raised approximately $40,000 and ran a properly budgeted race. I would be willing to do this again," Hoover said.

Results from the vote will be posted on Wednesday.


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