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Lawyer, author Drew Hansen is top choice for appointment to state House

Drew Hansen ... top choice for appointment to state House of Representatives. - Drew Hansen
Drew Hansen ... top choice for appointment to state House of Representatives.
— image credit: Drew Hansen

POULSBO — Lawyer Drew Hansen of Bainbridge Island was the top choice of Democratic Party precinct committee officers for appointment to the 23rd District state House seat, Sunday.

Legislative aide Holly Mortlock placed second, Poulsbo City Councilman Ed Stern placed third. There were six applicants for appointment. The prioritized list of finalists goes to the Kitsap Board of County Commissioners, which will make the appointment.

Stern said Monday he expected the County Commission would abide by the PCOs' choice and appoint Hansen. "I know from discussions with county commissioners that they always go with the No. 1 recommendation all things being equal," he said.

The House seat was vacated by Christine Rolfes, who was appointed to the state Senate after Phil Rockefeller resigned. Rockefeller was appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire to the multi-state Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

The Kitsap County Democratic Central Committee held a special caucus Sunday at the Kitsap County Event Center, across the street from the fairgrounds, to interview the candidates and prioritize their choices for appointment. Democrats get to make the recommendation because the office had been held by a Democrat. The appointee will have to run in November 2012 for a full term.

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

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.

Hansen is a partner at Susman Godfrey LLP, focusing over the last few years on climate change litigation. According to his website, he represented a coalition of more than 30 Texas cities in an attempt to block construction of a petroleum coke-fired power plant. He is a part-time lecturer at the University of Washington Law School, a member of the Olympic College Foundation Board, a governor-appointed member of the Community Economic Revitalization Board, and a 23rd Legislative District Democrats Executive Board member and precinct committee officer.

Hansen is the author of "The Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Speech That Inspired A Nation" (HarperCollins 2003) and is a guest speaker on civil rights issues at public schools and colleges. According to his website, he was endorsed for appointment by Rockefeller, the local chapter of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and 54 other individuals.

Stern also finished third among applicants for appointment to Rockefeller's Senate seat. He said he appreciated the opportunity to talk about issues "to a key group of influence makers in the county. You don't often get that forum."

As when he applied for the Senate, Stern pitched changes he sees as necessary to economic recovery, jobs creation, and protecting the state against future economic downturns.

“There needs to be a partnership between government and the private sector. The recession underlines that,” he said in an earlier interview. “If we don’t address the revenue and expenditure gap, we will continue to have a cycle of boom and bust.”

He has proposed raising the exemption on the business and occupation tax, or B&O, from $20,000 to $100,000 to help small businesses; taxing the incomes of individuals earning $250,000 a year or more and couples earning $500,000 a year or more; and reducing property tax and sales tax. He has proposed putting a “lockbox” on the ability of future legislators to raise property and sales taxes, to calm the fear that voters had when they turned down the state income tax in 2010.

He'd also like to see investment in telecommuting. "Puget Sound has the nation's ninth-largest population of knowledge workers, and the seventh-longest commute. There's something wrong with that."

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