The Greenies fight back: the 2001 Sammamish City Council election

After being routed in the 1999 City Council elections and licking their wounds for the better part of two years, the environmentalists in Sammamish—the “greenies—“ began a comeback.

All seven Council seats were up for election in 2001. This was because that as a new city, two- and four-year terms had to be established. The largest vote-getters in 2001 would get four year terms. The three lowest vote getters would get two year terms.

As it happened, only three Council members were challenged by people backed by the Greenies, and by SHOUT officials (see the post of March 28 to understand who SHOUT was): Ron Haworth, Ken Kilroy and Phil Dyer. Don Gerend, Kathy Huckabay, Jack Barry and Troy Romero were unopposed. By default, they would receive the most votes and four year terms.

Dyer v Petitti

Dyer was opposed by Michele Petitti, an unknown in the scheme of Sammamish politics and activism. Kilroy drew opposition from Nancy Whitten, a long-time active environmentalist. Haworth

Phil Dyer, the first mayor of Sammamish.

was opposed by Michael Friedman, another unknown.

Dyer, a former State Senator, was considered to be conservative—actually all the Council members were, except Democrat Huckabay and moderate Republican (even in those days) Gerend. Petitti would be backed by the Democratic Party, despite the non-partisan nature of the City Council.

Petitti proved to be an energetic and dogged campaigner. She door-belled diligently, accidentally ringing Dyer’s bell, an amusing anecdote to what would become another rather bitter election. She hired a professional political consulting firm.

Dyer, over-confident with his Republican roots and comfortable victory in 1999, did little campaigning. Considered by many to be arrogant (his personal email was “HonPDyer,” a throwback to his State Senator days), Dyer’s personality became an issue.

His attendance at the City Council was poor, just 54%. As one letter writer to the Sammamish Review put it, any 16-year old working at McDonald’s would be fired for such poor attendance. One of his supporters responded by writing that Dyer, a member of the National Guard reserves, missed Council meetings because of this. In the post 9/11 era, the implication was obvious. In reality, Dyer was a public relations reservist, not a combatant.

An anonymous mailer claimed that instead of attending one Council meeting, Dyer was seen at a country club having drinks with friends. The source of the mailer was never identified despite a complaint to and an investigation by the state Public Disclosure Commission.

There were anonymous mailers on both sides of this election, instead of the forgery of the SHOUT newsletter and other materials sent backing the Republican candidates in 1999.

In going back to refresh memory of this year’s election, Sammamish Comment discovered that Petitti’s King County Voters Pamphlet listing said she was in favor of Sammamish having the right to Initiative.

Kilroy v Whitten

Ken Kilroy

Those opposing Kilroy believed him to be affable but lazy. An imposing man of around 6ft 4in or 6ft 6in, Kilroy certainly didn’t appear to do much homework for the Council meetings. Blessed with a keen sense of humor, one of Kilroy’s notable comments concerned the then-newly built Saffron mixed use center, the one on the northeast corner of 228th and NE 8th. The building style is metal, which at the time was a rarity in Sammamish. It was painted in muted greens, reds and sort of a dull yellow.

When were they going to paint over the primer? Kilroy impishly asked the developer the grand opening. The developer was not amused.

Kilroy, life Dyer, was confident in his reelection for the same reason: an easy 1999 victory and a generally conservative Sammamish.

Whitten is a bulldog on issues, forceful and often irritating. She’s a lawyer. It is a combination for a strong campaigner. Whitten was anything but. She was terrified of door-belling and didn’t like even standing in front of the supermarkets to shake hands. It was a recipe for an easy reelection for Kilroy.

Friedman v Haworth—sort of

Friedman, an unknown, filed against Haworth, who won in 1999 by the smallest margin of any of the seven (albeit still a comfortable 55.9%.).

Haworth geared up to run a campaign. Then Friedman announced he was dropping out. It was too late to take his name off the ballot and certainly too late to find another candidate.

Haworth relaxed, and sat back to an expected easy coast to reelection.

Then Friedman dropped back in. Haworth restarted his campaign.

The Election Results

On election night, to the surprise of Dyer, newcomer Petitti walloped him, taking 57.84% of the vote. Haworth coasted to an easy win, though smaller than two years previously, taking 54.28% of the vote. However, Whitten, who didn’t campaign, ended election night 15 votes ahead of Kilroy—a stunning result. By the time all votes were counted two weeks later, including absentees, Kilroy eked out a 147 vote victory, of 50.88%.

Complaints and counter-complaints about election tactics and anonymous fliers and mailers were filed with the PDC. One local gadfly professed to have a “forensic accountant” go through Petitti’s contributions and expenditures, trying to find misdeeds, without success.

Although the 2001 election had its nastiness, it wasn’t nearly as bad as 1999.

Petitti joined the erstwhile bond of Gerend and Huckabay, resulting in a 4-3 split on the Council. Petitti, Gerend and Huckabay often allied on issues. Romero, Kilroy, Barry and Haworth remained allies and in the conservative majority.

The Greenies were heartened by Petitti’s wide victory and Whitten’s near win. They began looking forward to the 2003 election.

The East Lake Sammamish Trail, an issue in 1999 and 2001, would become a leading issue in 2003. The Greenies would ally to make a big push in 2003. Petitti would have to run again, having won a two-year term in 2001. Kilroy and Haworth, the two lowest vote-winners in 2001 and considered the most vulnerable, decided not to seek reelection in 2003. Special interests would dominate the 2003 election on both sides of the ELST issue.

Next: The East Lake Sammamish Trail: the issue that won’t go away.

2 thoughts on “The Greenies fight back: the 2001 Sammamish City Council election

  1. Pingback: 2003 City Council election flips from 4-3 conservative majority to 6-1 “green” Council | Sammamish Comment

  2. Pingback: History of Sammamish resumes today | Sammamish Comment

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