Your Next County Council Member: Jan Drago?

By Erica C. Barnett January 4, 2010

UPDATE: King County Council member Larry Phillips confirms that he is now supporting Jan Drago to replace Dow Constantine, although he says state Sen. Joe McDermott (D-34) was his "first choice."

"I support Joe, I have supported Joe on the record, but we can't break the impasse" between Republicans and Democrats on the council, Phillips says. "You have four votes for Joe and four against him, and I don't care what kind of math you use, that leaves District 8 without a representative."

King County Council chair Bob Ferguson says he plans to ask his fellow council members to delay voting on a replacement for Dow Constantine until this afternoon's meeting, which starts around 1:30. Meanwhile, four council members are still in another meeting elsewhere at the county courthouse, and the five members who were just reelected are being sworn in.

There are about a dozen folks from the 34th District Democrats here wearing red "JOE" buttons in support of state Sen. Joe McDermott (D-34), one of two likely candidates for Constantine's old position. McDermott, who has the support of the four Democrats on the council, has said he will run for reelection to the position; former Seattle City Council member Jan Drago, who has the support of the four Republicans, has said she will serve only as a placeholder until November.

County council member Larry Phillips, who unsuccessfully opposed Constantine in last year's primary election,  reportedly plans to introduce a motion to appoint Drago today, breaking the deadlock on the council.

Drago doesn't have much experience with county politics; nor does she live in West Seattle, in Burien, or on Vashon Island, which make up the majority of Constantine's former district.

Drago did not sign a letter supporting federal stimulus funding to replace the South Park Bridge earlier this year. Constantine was a strong supporter of the grant, which would provide $99 million to replace the crumbling 78-year-old bridge. Instead, Drago, along with others on the council, wanted the federal dollars to pay for city of Seattle projects, including the $300 million Mercer project. The total cost of replacing the South Park bridge is estimated at around $150 million.

As a city council member, Drago also opposed annexing the unincorporated North Highline area of South King County, arguing that the city couldn't afford to annex a "new area with huge infrastructure [and] human-service needs." Burien annexed the south part of North Highline last August, and may annex the rest in a future vote.

Phillips says the fact that a council-appointed advisory group recommended Drago as one of four candidates for the position convinced him that she would do a good job representing the district. "She knows local government, she's an excellent Democrat"—elected as a Democratic precinct committee officer over the years in three different legislative districts—"and she realizes she [will be] a county elected official, not a city official," Phillips says.
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