Sammamish City Council member Ramiro Valderrama displayed hypocrisy last Tuesday in his aggressive attempt to force fellow member Tom Hornish to remain on committees following acceptance of a new job in the private sector.
Two years ago, Valderrama sought a new job in the public sector that would have had direct conflict of interest with his city council position. It would have meant choosing between his new job and the council when it came to attending meetings and committee meetings. It likely meant Valderrama would have missed the council’s annual retreat at which goals and committee assignments are made for the coming year.
Yet Valderrama vowed to retain his council position if he got the new job and brushed aside all objections from his constituents.
When Hornish stepped up and recognized time constraints were coming, resigned his position as deputy mayor and stepped off all but one committee, Valderrama—oblivious o his own actions two years earlier—objected and engaged in a transparent attempt to set Hornish up to fail and ultimately force him off the council.
Running for the legislature
Valderrama ran for state representative from the 45th District (the northern half of Sammamish) in 2016. He was reelected to his second term on the city council in November 2015 and was sworn in the following January. Hornish and Christie Malchow were elected to their first terms. Both were supported by Valderrama.
Valderrama didn’t declare his candidacy for the legislature until April, but in February, the candidate who previously declared for the seat dropped out. He told Sammamish Comment that the state Republican Party advised him they were backing Valderrama for the race.
Vowing to serve both posts
When Valderrama announced his run for the state office, he declared he would continue to serve as city councilman if elected to the House of Representatives.
Some of his constituents objected.
The November council races had been bitter. Then-Mayor Tom Vance, who was also up for reelection, and then-Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay openly opposed Valderrama’s reelection and recruited a candidate to run against him.
They also recruited a candidate, former council member/mayor Mark Cross, to run against Malchow. Hornish opposed Vance.
The activities created de facto slates, dubbed the V-3 (Valderrama, Malchow and Hornish) and Gang of Four (Vance, Huckabay and council members Tom Odell and Bob Keller).
The candidate opposing Valderrama Hank Klein, dropped out of the race when he found out the nature of the campaign that was going to be run against Valderrama. It was too late to withdraw his name from the ballot, however.
The campaigns against Hornish and Malchow tied them to Valderrama in an attempt to bring down their candidacies. (Vance and Cross were tied to Huckabay and the Gang of Four in the counter-campaigns.)
Valderrama won with 85% of the vote. Malchow defeated Cross with 58% of the vote and Hornish defeated Vance with 53% of the vote.
The wins flipped the power bases on the council from 4-2-1 (the latter being a swing vote) to 3-3-1. Huckabay, who expected to be mayor had Vance and Cross won, not only didn’t get the position, she lost her slot as deputy mayor.
Don Gerend, the swing vote, became mayor. Valderrama became deputy mayor despite a strong behind-the-scenes campaign with his fellow council members to become mayor. Keller became deputy mayor in Gerend’s second year. He moved up to mayor when Gerend resigned the mayoralship due to conflicts in time; he remained on the council. Malchow became deputy mayor, and then mayor this year.
Declaring for the House
In retrospect, it became clear that Valderrama was running hard for reelection despite Klein’s dropout to run up the score and set the stage for the House race. With word out in February that Valderrama was going to run for the House, the strategy in hindsight became clear.
Key backers of Valderrama in the city council race were not happy, and told him so. They didn’t back him for reelection only to see him run for state office and resign from the council.
Valderrama vowed to remain on the council if elected to the House, but this didn’t quell the objections.
Conflicts of interest, time
The conflicts of interest and time were obvious.
There are issues at the state and city levels that naturally align or conflict with each other. Which constituency would Valderrama choose to represent when the interests conflicted? Or would he recuse himself and represent no constituency?
The conflicts in time were even more apparent.
The legislature organizes itself in January, as does the city council. Where would Valderrama be when these meetings occurred?
Where would he be when the legislature was in session and so was the city council?
Where would he be when legislative committees were in session and so were those of the city council?
Valderrama waved off all these concerns and objections.
The Seattle Times didn’t bite. It endorsed Valderrama’s opponent, incumbent Roger Goodman, a lackluster legislator, in part over the pledge to serve both positions if elected.
Valderrama’s Sammamish constituents didn’t bite, either. Although he won 85% of the vote in the city council race the year before, he took only 39.5% of the vote in the city against Goodman. Goodman easily defeated Valderrama across the entire 45th.
Going after Hornish
None of this history mattered to Valderrama last Tuesday when he led the debate over Hornish’s resignations from the leadership and committee positions. Hornish remains on the council.
Valderrama couched his points in previous precedents, citing Troy Romero and John Curley. (See details here.) Valderrama tried, but failed, to get the council to force Hornish to remain on the committees for the next month to see whether Hornish could do the job.
Valderrama was backed by his new allies on the council, Pam Stuart and Jason Ritchie.
Since Hornish already said he could not do so with his new job, the effort was transparently setting Hornish up to fail and opening a new opportunity to demand Hornish resign from the council.
But a fourth vote wasn’t forthcoming and Valderrama’s effort failed.