Sullivan eyes congressional stint

Councilmember to run for 'temp' job in 1st Congressional District
By Paul Archipley | May 14, 2012

United States Congressman Brian Sullivan.

Sullivan likes the sound of that title. But the Snohomish County councilman isn't thinking about quitting his current post. What he's vying for is a "temp" job.

Sullivan, the Snohomish County District 2 representative who currently is serving as chair of the County Council, said state Democratic Party officials have asked him if he would consider running for Congress.

Sullivan said he'd be honored. But he isn't getting too big-headed about the offer. It's only for four or five weeks.

The unusual opportunity presented itself when Rep. Jay Inslee resigned from his 1st Congressional District seat to devote himself to full-time campaigning for governor.

Because of the timing of his resignation, U.S. law requires that someone fill his position until a winner in the November general election is sworn in come January for a full two-year term.

But because of the cost of an election – in this case, about $750,000 – state officials are piggybacking the special election with the general election.

The result, at least for some voters, will be general confusion. That's because the 1st Congressional District boundaries have also been redrawn. Sullivan will be running to represent constituents in the old district, which disappears at the start of 2013.

A crowded pack of candidates, including so far about a half dozen Democrats and one Republican, have announced their intention to run in the realigned district. The filing deadline is this Friday. A primary election will be held Aug. 7, followed by the general election on Nov. 6.

That means some voters in November will see two races for the 1st Congressional District on the same ballot.

While Inslee's old district, hugging north Puget Sound suburbs, was considered a safe Democratic seat, the newly drawn district, which stretches all the way to the Canadian border, will be a horse race.

Because of the unusual circumstances, Sullivan thinks he may be the only candidate for the temporary job.

"It is bizarre," he admitted. "There will be two congressional races at the same time for the same district."

Since Democratic Party officials are backing Sullivan, he expects he'll be the only candidate for that party. Since it's for such a short amount of time, he doesn't expect anyone else would be interested in running, let alone spend any money, on the race.

He suspects Republicans won't even want to bother putting up a candidate, to avoid confusion.

If elected, Sullivan would take office immediately to serve out the remainder of 2012. The winner of the regular election race would be sworn into office in January.

The former Mukilteo mayor thinks his stint could range from basic babysitting to really exciting, depending on other events, including the presidential and other congressional races.

"Congress generally is in session the first two weeks of December," he said. "But you know how it goes in Washington. It could drag out to the end of the year.

"So whether there will be much to do will depend on if there are any major issues. Things could turn on a dime.

"It could be really busy or really boring."

His primary job would be to handle constituent issues. Since the Democrats are in the minority, he wouldn't expect to have much opportunity to make law. Nevertheless, asked if he'd introduce any legislation, he suggested – only half in jest – that he could bring up legislation to block commercial passenger service at Paine Field.

If nothing else, the notoriety itself tickles his fancy.

"I think the goal here is to be on 'The Colbert Report,'" he laughed.

As chair of the County Council, Sullivan could make sure his time in the nation's capital wouldn't conflict with his duties back home.

"We'll only take one or two votes here," he said. "Since I'm the chair, I can write the schedule." He also could vote by phone if need be, he said.

But, figuring he may very well run unopposed, he's excited about the opportunity to serve in Congress.

"This is a call to duty by your party and the governor," Sullivan said. "I was asked to serve, and I'm happy and proud to do it."

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