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County leaders pick Mary Dye to replace Susan Fagan in state House

UPDATED: Fri., May 8, 2015, 8:30 p.m.

OLYMPIA –Mary Dye, longtime GOP activist from Garfield County, will represent southeastern Washington in the state House.

Dye, 53, was named Friday afternoon by commissioners from the district’s six counties to fill the 9th Legislative District seat left open a week ago when Susan Fagan of Pullman resigned amid allegations of ethics violations. State GOP Chairwoman Susan Hutchison said the appointment may have been the fastest replacement for an open legislative seat in history.

Dye and her husband operate a wheat farm near Pomeroy. She is the Republican state committeewoman for Garfield County and has been active for some two decades in GOP campaigns, Hutchison said. In 2012 she was a delegate to the Republican National Convention, where she served as co-chairwoman of the Agriculture and Environment plank for the Platform Committee. She once served as chairwoman of former Rep. George Nethercutt’s 5th Congressional District advisory committee and in the late 1990s was active in the “Save Our Dams” movement to fight any efforts to breach federal dams on the Snake River. The Dye’s barn carried that three-word admonition in large white letters.

When candidate George W. Bush campaigned in Eastern Washington during the 2000 presidential election, she and her husband shared the stage with the future president where he promised the dams would never be breached if he were elected and dared Democratic rival Al Gore to make a similar vow.

She has a bachelor of science in plant science and crop management from the University of Idaho and served in the Peace Corps in Thailand, Hutchison said.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, a Ritzville Republican who represents the same district, applauded the choice.

“Her knowledge and experience in agriculture and her family’s deep roots in Garfield County make her a natural leader on issues important to the 9th District,” Schoesler said in a press release.

Other than her election as a precinct committee officer, she has not run for elective office, but will file next week for the seat which will be on this year’s ballot because of Fagan’s resignation in the middle of the term. Other Republican hopefuls who sought the seat might also file for the election, Hutchison said.

Republican precinct committee officers from around the district met Wednesday evening in Ritzville to select three nominees for the opening. Richard Lathim, a former Franklin County sheriff, was their first pick, Dye their second and Patrick Guettner, a Franklin County party officer, their third.

But county commissioners are not obligated to follow the rankings and at a meeting in Colfax selected Dye, who is expected to be in Olympia Monday for the remainder of the special session.

Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke said 17 of 18 eligible county commissioners participated in the vote, and 13 picked Dye, three picked Lathim and one picked Guettner. Among the Spokane County commissioners, Mielke and Shelly O’Quinn backed Dye, and Al French voted for Lathim.

Mielke said Dye’s involvement in local, state and federal issues made her standout. He noted that Lathim recently lost re-election for sheriff.

“She just impressed me as someone who has been self-motivated,” Mielke said. “She didn’t necessarily have a title to do it; she did it on her own volition.”

Fagan agreed to resign as of last Friday in the middle of an ongoing investigation by the Legislative Ethics Board that she padded her expense accounts by inflating mileage, sought reimbursement for trips that were listed as legislative business but were connected to her campaign, and pressured aides to falsify the accounts. She has attributed the mistakes to poor recordkeeping and denied that she sought “personal gain” from the expense accounts.

Completing the replacement process in a week may be historic and involved coordinating schedules for commissioners from six counties, Hutchison said.

“We can’t find one that’s faster,” she said. “If you can find one, let me know.”

Staff editor Jonathan Brunt contributed to this report.


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