Rep. Hunter joins Jarrett in County Exec race
By JOSHUA ADAM HICKS
Mercer Island Reporter Reporter
May 5, 2009 · Updated 3:00 PM
State Rep. Ross Hunter announced Tuesday that he is running for King County executive.
Describing his plan as King County 2.0, the former Microsoft manager said his top priorities would be consolidating county services and making them more efficient.
Five candidates are now in the running to replace current executive Ron Sims, who is slated for a position as deputy secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The contenders include fellow Eastsiders Fred Jarrett, a Democratic senator from Mercer Island, and former KIRO news anchor Susan Hutchison.
King County Councilmembers Dow Constantine and Larry Phillips are also candidates.
"The county has problems," Hunter said. "It needs work, and I think it needs someone from outside the council."
Hunter told The Reporter it will be difficult to run against Jarrett whom he described as one of his "best friends in the world." But he also drew a distinction between himself and his peer.
"I'm probably more impatient than Fred," he said. "Sometimes, patience is a virtue. Right now with King County, I think impatience is a virtue."
Jarrett said he welcomes Hunter's entry into the race.
"It'll be great to have his voice in the debate," he said. "The more people we have talking about changes, the better it will be for King County."
Jarrett suggested he would be more of a consensus builder than Hunter, adding that he plans to use the executive office as a leadership position to move the region's various jurisdictions in a similar direction.
Both candidates have noted that the county needs to repair its reputation in Olympia.
"The image is that the county is always doing new things and not getting its basic house in order," Jarrett said.
Hunter criticized the county for having too many governments working without unity. He also said the relationship between the county and its cities is dysfunctional.
"Nobody trusts each other," he said, citing the county jail situation as an example.
King County recently stopped accepting misdemeanants from its cities, prompting the municipalities to a plan for separate correctional facilities after the sides couldn't agree on terms for a new lockup.
Hunter said this solution is inefficient and overly expensive for taxpayers.
"They had to build a separate legal entity that looks like a county, walks like a county, and quacks like a county," he said. "Why should we have to do that?
"It has to be cheaper to run another county jail."
Hunter is also taking issue with the level of mitigation required for public projects, saying the measures tend to inflate overall costs beyond reason. He used the Brightwater Waste Treatment facility as an example, as well as the new 520 bridge plan, which he called "a mitigation project with a bridge attached."
The Yale graduate made his first foray into politics by rallying for support of the last two Bellevue school levies in 2002 and 2006.
He was elected to the state House in 2003, when he became the only Democrat to ever represent the 48th Legislative District. He has since played a key role in budget writing for the legislature.