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Filling an independent seat

OLYMPIA -- The death of a Mason County commissioner has created a wrinkle in the usual process for filling an opening.

Jerry Lingle, who died over the weekend, was elected last November after listing his preference as Independent Party. But there's no established Independent Party in Washington, and other candidates in the primary listed the two major parties as their preference.

Had he been elected listing his preference as Democrat or Republican, that party's structure in Mason County would have nominated up to three replacements.

"Unless either of the political parties in Mason County tries to claim that they 'nominated' Mr. Lingle during the last election (which sounds unlikely since six candidates originally filed) the remaining two commissioners can take names from the general public for the appointment, Elections Co-Director Katie Blinn said. "They will not take three names from a party."

Instead, the commissioners will take names from the general public and have 60 days to make the appointment. If they can't settle on one candidate, the governor has 30 days to make the appointment.

Whoever gets the nod must run for election next year, because it's too late to put the vacancy on the 2011 ballot, Blinn said.

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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