The Kennewick City Council seat being vacated by Bob Parks is shaping up as the one to watch in the 2017 election season.
May 15 to 19 is filing week in Washington. By Tuesday, there were five announced candidates for the at-large position held by Parks. Parks, who came under fire for Facebook, previously said he would not seek reelection.
The three candidates who filed Monday — Jim Millbauer, Bill McKay and Christy Watts — were joined Tuesday by Ed Pacheco. The fifth candidate is Leo Perales. Perales has not formally filed, but issued a press release confirming he will. Pacheco could not be reached to comment on his plans.
With five candidates in the race, the Kennewick council contest will trigger an August primary to winnow the field to two in the November general election..
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There are no other races in either Benton or Franklin counties with three or more candidates that would necessitate a primary.
But the week is young.
The odd-year election is heavily focused on local government — city councils, school boards, fire districts, port commissions and so forth. In addition, Benton County is conducting off-year races for treasurer and sheriff after the former office holders departed. Treasurer Duane Davidson left to become Washington State Treasurer, while Sheriff Steven Keane retired for health reasons.
Local election officials anticipate that heightened interest in politics will result in an above-average number of candidates.
There are 43 open seats in Franklin County and 55 in Benton County. All are nonpartisan, with the exception of the races for sheriff and treasurer in Benton County.
Here’s a roundup of Tuesday’s filing news.
Position 1: Incumbent Dr. Leonard Dreisbach, a retired OBGYN, was unopposed as of Tuesday. He was recently appointed to succeed Jim Mefford, who resigned in March.
Position 2: Dr. Raymond H. Sjerven is looking to unseat incumbent Gary G. Long.
Long, a retired Benton PUD official who served on Trios’ planning and finance committees, was appointed to the board last summer after the death of longtime member Kathy Davidson. Dr. Sjerven is a longtime Kennewick family physician. He could not be reached Tuesday.
Position 3: Board president Marvin Kinney is running for reelection. As of Tuesday, he was unopposed.
Position 5: Filing was marred by an apparent glitch in the online filing system. Incumbent and Mayor Pro Tem Rebecca Francik announced at Monday night’s City Council meeting that she had tried to file online earlier in the day, but wasn’t given the option to choose the District 5 position. She said she had contacted the Franklin County Auditor's Office.
Auditor Matt Beaton told the Herald that when his staff came in Tuesday morning, they heard Francik’s message and immediately called the Washington Secretary of State’s Office, which hosts the online filing website.
Beaton said he doesn’t know where the problem was, but it has been fixed. He encourages anyone who may have experienced technological problems to try again online or do it in person.
Francik stopped by his office Tuesday to submit her paperwork. She had no opponent by the end of the day.
City council: To date, incumbents Chi Flores, Bob Hoffman and Matt Watkins have not drawn challengers in their respective races. Incumbent Saul Martinez has been challenged by Rick Rios.
Position 4: Maricela Sanchez, an anesthesiologist, threw her name in the ring to challenge appointee Scott Coleman.
Coleman is seeking his first full term after he was appointed in March to replace Warren Barmore.
Sanchez, the daughter of two migrant workers, credited her success to the instruction offered by the school district, she said.
“I’ve always been very grateful for how well the Prosser School District taught me,” she said. “I’d like to continue that academic rigor here in Prosser.”
Sanchez, 36, left the city for roughly 18 years, first working as a teacher, then going to medical school. She returned last year to work at Kadlec Medical Center.
She became interested in the school board as part of the response to Facebook posts by Cheriese Rhode and Peggy Brown.
“It did become clear to me there was a need for representation here in Prosser,” she said.
Position 1: Rhoda Williams joined fellow newcomer Kalen Finn in the race for the position currently held by Bob Thompson. Thompson said he plans to file, but had not decided which position to seek. All positions in Richland are at-large and open to all qualifying city residents. Williams could not be reached.
Position 4: Michael Luzzo joined Ginger Wireman in the race for the seat being vacated by David Rose. Luzzo’s sister, Dori Luzzo Gilmour, is an incumbent. He could not be reached.
Position 7: Incumbent Dori Luzzo Gilmour has drawn a challenger in Eldon E. Eskeli.
Eskeli, 52, is a Richland native who wants to be the voice of the common man on what he called an elitist city council.
“It’s the blue-collar people who aren’t getting fair representation,” Eskeli said. “I want to represent those people who don’t have a voice in the city council. … I feel like they’re catering to the elite.”
He raised concerns about the city’s move to institute a $20 car tab to pay for the construction of the Duportail Bridge and fund road repairs. Eskeli said the fee unfairly targets Richland residents, rather than everyone responsible for causing wear on the roads or using the bridge.
This is Eskeli’s third run for a spot on the council. He unsuccessfully pursued a seat during elections in 2011 and 2013.
“I sat out the last election cycle,” he said. “This year I had a lot of people who voted for me come up and say, ‘We need to you to run because we need good representation.’”
Kristin Kraemer and Sara Schilling contributed to this report