The Spokane County Republican Party will have several weeks after the new year to choose its candidates to replace outgoing County Commissioner Todd Mielke.
They may need that time, given the intense interest in the seat, said Party Chairman Dave Moore.
“I’ve seen a lot of interest,” Moore said Tuesday, just hours after Mielke and Greater Spokane Inc. announced the long-serving commissioner would take over as the group’s chief executive.
Mielke’s move sets into motion once again the process to replace him. The Republican party anticipated having to name his successor in June, but Mielke’s bid to take over as chief executive for the county was stymied by colleague Al French’s lack of support.
French said at the time he wanted the county to employ a national recruiting firm to name their replacement for Marshall Farnell, who will leave the county at the end of this year. Former Whitworth University administrator and longtime county employee Gerry Gemmill was eventually named Farnell’s replacement by Mielke and Commissioner Shelly O’Quinn.
Mielke’s last day with the county will be Jan. 31, Moore said, which starts a 60-day clock for the GOP to send three names to French and O’Quinn for approval. If they can’t decide, Gov. Jay Inslee would pick from the names submitted by the Republicans, according to a process written into the Washington Constitution, said Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton.
Many have been rumored to be eyeing Mielke’s seat, according to GOP members. Josh Kerns, a legislative aide for state Rep. Jeff Holy who has also worked with Reps. Kevin Parker and John Ahern, officially announced his candidacy in an online posting this week.
Kerns, 30, said he’d resolved to run in the spring when it was believed Mielke would take the county CEO job.
“I really thought about it, prayed about it, and spoke with my wife and family,” Kerns said. “I felt driven to go for it.”
Kerns said if appointed, he would focus on economic development and preserving the property rights of residents.
Josh Arritola, who ran an unsuccessful 2014 campaign to unseat state Rep. Matt Shea, said he was not interested in Mielke’s seat.
The County GOP has scheduled a meeting with its precinct officers at 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 6, at the New Life Church, 10920 E. Sprague Ave., to discuss which three names will submit to French and O’Quinn for consideration.
The process to replace Mielke is not without a modern precedent.
In May 1995, former Democratic Spokane County Commissioner Skip Chilberg left in the middle of his first term to take a job on a statewide planning board. Six people applied for Chilberg’s job, with the nod eventually going to George Marlton, a Spokane County public defender. Marlton was defeated soundly in the primary that year.
Kerns said, if appointed, he would seek re-election to the seat when it is on the ballot in November.
“I assume pretty much everyone that applies this time, I assume that they will also seek the seat come November,” Kerns said.
O’Quinn’s seat will also be on the ballot in that election.
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