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Rolfes appointed to state Senate; field of House hopefuls grows

Rep. Christine Rolfes ... appointed to state Senate by the Kitsap Board of County Commissioners.  - Office of state Rep. Christine Rolfes
Rep. Christine Rolfes ... appointed to state Senate by the Kitsap Board of County Commissioners.
— image credit: Office of state Rep. Christine Rolfes

POULSBO — Give Ed Stern credit for maintaining a sense of humor.

Before the Kitsap County Democratic Party precinct committee officers caucus to select a preferred choice for appointment to the state Senate, the Poulsbo city councilman likened his chances of winning appointment to the Seattle Mariners’ chances of winning the World Series. “There’s a chance,” he said.

But as Wednesday’s County Commission meeting approached, he predicted, “The Mariners are not going to win the World Series.”

He was right, at least about the state Senate appointment.

State Rep. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge, was appointed Wednesday to succeed Phil Rockefeller as the 23rd District’s senator; Rockefeller resigned after Gov. Chris Gregoire appointed him to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

According to Rolfes’ office, her appointment to the Senate takes effect when the chief clerks of the House and Senate receive her resignation from the House and the resolution appointing her to the Senate. The process for appointing someone to succeed her in the state House of Representatives will then begin, a process that mirrors the selection for state Senate. Applications will be accepted by the 23rd District Democratic Party Central Committee, followed by a caucus to choose the top three candidates to forward to the County Commission for consideration.

Party chairman Mike Arnold said the precinct committee officers have 60 days to forward the names of three nominees to the County Commission. The 60-day period begins when Rolfes takes office as senator.

Rolfes was the overwhelming choice of precinct committee officers at the July 12 caucus.

Candidates have already lined up for appointment to the state House: Hilary Franz, a Bainbridge Island City Council member; Drew Hansen of Bainbridge, a partner in a Seattle law firm; Holly Mortlock of Bremerton, legislative assistant to state Rep. Eileen Cody, D-Seattle; and Stern, a Poulsbo City Council member since 1998.

One candidate has announced his candidacy to run for the position in 2012: James Olsen, Republican, of Bainbridge Island. The retired U.S. Coast Guard captain, who ran unsuccessfully for the House in 2010, has repeatedly criticized Rockefeller for leaving office before his term’s end — and Rolfes for offering to leave the House for the Senate — saying elected officials have a contract with voters to serve the terms to which they are elected, not use those positions as stepping stones.

“Both legislators have an elected day job for which they actively campaigned, took contributions and made promises to voters on terms of service,” Olsen wrote in a letter to the North Kitsap Herald. “Sen. Rockefeller had 19 months to term completion; Ms. Rolfes’ announcement to seek appointment comes with only six months completed in her 24-month term. Personal health issues or family illness would be an acceptable reason to break your contract, not the grass-is-greener new assignment reasons here. Both these two elected officials and the voters knew the terms of employment. The voters are being short-changed.”

This was the first time since 1943 that 23rd District Democratic Party precinct committee officers went through the process of vetting and recommending candidates for appointment to a Senate vacancy; on Nov. 30 of that year, Gertrude L. Johnson was appointed to succeed Charles L. Klinefelter, who had resigned to become executive director of the Port Orchard Housing Authority (Klinefelter had been appointed only 11 months earlier, after Lulu D. Haddon resigned).

Members of the House and Senate receive $42,106 a year. House members serve two-year terms; there are 98 representatives from 49 districts. Senators serve four-year terms; there are 49 senators from 49 districts.

At the July 12 caucus, Rolfes talked about taking to the Senate the work she’s done in the House — fighting for education funding, environmental protections for Puget Sound, and creating a strong foundation for jobs creation.

“In the Senate, I’ll have a stronger voice to do that,” she told the Herald later.

Rolfes said government doesn’t create jobs, it creates the infrastructure and the climate for the private sector to create jobs. She said the district needs a strong transportation system, affordable ferry fares, and investment in higher education. She said the state has tax policies in place that can help revitalize commercial areas in the district, like Wheaton Way in Bremerton.

Prior to being elected to the House in 2006, Rolfes was twice elected to the Bainbridge Island City Council and served two terms as council chair. She served as the city’s representative to the Kitsap County Regional Council and the Kitsap County Board of Health, and as a Kitsap County alternate on the Puget Sound Regional Council and the Puget Sound Economic Development District. She also served on the  Kitsap County Public Facilities District and the Citizen Advisory Board of the Kitsap County Community Development Block Grant Program.

In the early 1990s, she worked as an open space program coordinator and watershed planner with the Kitsap County Department of Community Development. She was a business development officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development, and served in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow during her tenure with that agency.

Rolfes earned a master of public administration from the University of Washington Evans School of Public Affairs and a bachelor of arts in economics from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

 

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