A veteran prosecutor with virtually no political experience may face a politically savvy King County Council member who has never handled...

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A veteran prosecutor with virtually no political experience may face a politically savvy King County Council member who has never handled a criminal case, in the developing race for prosecuting attorney.

Acting Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, a Republican, has told leaders of his party he will run for the nomination. Council member Bob Ferguson, a Democrat, said Thursday he is seriously considering entering the primary but won’t announce a decision for several days.

The winner of a special election in November will complete the last three years of the late Prosecutor Norm Maleng’s term. Maleng, 68, died unexpectedly last week after 28 years in office.

The five-day filing period for candidates opens Monday, two days after a scheduled memorial service for Maleng.

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Satterberg, 47, who was a criminal prosecutor before Maleng promoted him to chief of staff in 1990, was named acting prosecuting attorney by the County Council on Tuesday.

Ferguson, 42, was a private-litigation attorney before gaining a reputation as a political giant-killer by defeating longtime County Council member Cynthia Sullivan in the 2003 Democratic primary.

“I think the race is being defined by those two gentlemen,” King County Republican Party Chairman Michael Young said Thursday.

Neither man has announced his candidacy.

“My plan is to make a decision by next week,” Ferguson said. “There are many, many factors I need to weigh before I make a final decision. That includes more conversations with my family.”

Satterberg, who has the advantage of incumbency and a 22-year career in the prosecutor’s office, has gone further in solidifying Republican support than Ferguson has among Democrats.

Republican County Council member Reagan Dunn, a former federal prosecutor, said Thursday he won’t run for county prosecutor and threw his support to Satterberg.

“People really want to make sure they have somebody with a background and experience in criminal law and management in that job,” Dunn said. “I think Dan is the person who can best fill that role.”

Two other potentially strong Republican candidates, former U.S. attorneys John and Mike McKay, who are brothers, have indicated they won’t seek the job, Republican sources said.

Ferguson isn’t the only Democrat whose name has been raised as a possible candidate. Others include Jenny Durkan, an attorney in private practice; King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Hilyer; and Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission Chairman Mark Sidran.

Durkan and Hilyer could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Sidran, who was a county deputy prosecutor for eight years and Seattle city attorney for 12 years, said he is “mulling” whether to run. “I’m trying to decide at this stage of my career and my life whether this is something to pursue or not.”

Ferguson currently cannot practice law because he let his membership in the Washington State Bar Association become inactive after he was elected to the County Council. To reinstate his license, he would have to pay $440 in licensing fees and late fees, submit paperwork for continuing legal education he completed between 2001 and 2003, and complete 45 credits of education for the 2004-06 period, state-bar spokeswoman Stephanie Perry said.

Ferguson said he has inquired with the bar about how to reinstate his license. He said he let it lapse because he stopped practicing law when he became a County Council candidate.

“I think it’s appropriate that I’m focused on my job as a County Council member and not as a lawyer,” he said.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

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