The strategy worked so well to get him onto the King County Council that, even after two years on the job, Bob Ferguson is again positioning...

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The strategy worked so well to get him onto the King County Council that, even after two years on the job, Bob Ferguson is again positioning himself as an independent-minded outsider in his race against his council colleague, Carolyn Edmonds.

Edmonds, who is completing her first four-year term, doesn’t entirely dispute that characterization. But she interprets its significance differently, saying she’s the more effective legislator because she’s a team player who builds partnerships.

The two incumbents are in the unusual position of running against each other in a “Survivor”-like Sept. 20 Democratic primary that will remove one of them from the Metropolitan King County Council.

Ferguson and Edmonds were thrown into the same district after voters last fall decided to reduce the County Council from 13 members to nine.

Carolyn Edmonds, 51

Party: Democrat

Residence: Shoreline

Occupation: King County Council member

Personal: Two children

Background:Once a PTA officer and Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Senior Center chairwoman, she managed the successful Shoreline incorporation campaign in 1994 and served in the state House of Representatives, 1998-2001.

Top three endorsements: Washington Conservation Voters, Aerospace Machinists, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray

Campaign Web site:

The contest isn’t about ideological differences between the two, who vote the same way on most issues. It’s more about style. Movers and shakers in the Democratic Party view Edmonds as a reliable and hard-working ally, Ferguson as one of the party’s rising stars, if a bit of a maverick.

Theirs is one of two races in which incumbents from the same party are battling each other. Republicans Reagan Dunn of Bellevue and Steve Hammond of Enumclaw are also fighting a tough contest.

Edmonds, a former state representative, has the backing of many of the county and state’s most prominent Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, state House Speaker Frank Chopp, King County Executive Ron Sims and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels.

Ferguson, an attorney, miffed some Democrats in 2003 when, as a political newcomer, he challenged and defeated 20-year County Council member Cynthia Sullivan in the Democratic primary. He advocated eliminating four seats on the council.

When district lines were redrawn this year, Ferguson’s was effectively obliterated, half of it moved into Carolyn Edmonds’ enlarged district to the north, half into Larry Gossett’s to the south.

The heavily Democratic new 1st District includes Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Bothell, Kenmore, and much of Northeast Seattle, where Ferguson lives.

Redistricting reinforced Ferguson’s portrayal of himself as an independent outsider prepared to shake up the old ways of doing business — and his characterization of Edmonds as a part of the status quo.

Bob Ferguson, 40

Party: Democrat

Residence: Seattle

Occupation: King County Council member

Personal: Married

Background:Past positions include University of Washington student body president, King County Democrats executive director, Jesuit Volunteer Corps volunteer, attorney with Preston Gates & Ellis

Top three endorsements: Washington State Democratic Party, Alki Foundation, Joint Council of Teamsters No. 28

Campaign Web site:

“There is an establishment in King County,” he says. “She’s part of that; I’m not. That’s no secret.”

Ferguson, who sponsored legislation for a $350,000 audit of the Elections Section and torpedoed Sims’ proposal to create a new $23 million elections center in Seattle’s Rainier Valley, says he has turned a timid, “go-along council” into a legislature that isn’t afraid to flex its muscles.

He claims Edmonds has been “largely silent” on election foul-ups under the watch of her political ally, Sims.

Edmonds responds that the County Council exercised its independence well before Ferguson arrived by routinely amending legislation proposed by the executive.

“This is not someone who’s a team player,” she says of Ferguson. He didn’t play with the team, she claims, when he voted against the council’s appointments to the redistricting committee and when he declined to go on a lobbying trip to Washington, D.C. Edmonds says she’s been a more successful legislator, building “relationships and partnerships” that weaned county parks and cultural resources from the cash-strapped general fund and opened a farmer’s market in Lake Forest Park.

Edmonds managed the successful Shoreline incorporation campaign a decade ago before being elected to the Legislature. She was elected to the County Council seat vacated by Maggie Fimia in 2001.

Ferguson, who rides the bus to work and who supported the initial Sound Transit light-rail plan, angrily denies Edmonds’ claim in a campaign flier that he “is on record opposing public transit.” (Ferguson in 2003 opposed a revised Sound Transit plan for a system seven miles shorter than the plan approved by voters.)

While many party leaders have endorsed

Steven Pyeatt, 47

Party: Republican

Residence: Unincorporated King County, between Bothell and Kirkland

Occupation: Businessman

Personal: Single

Background: Raised money for several charities, officiated football and co-founded King County Communities for Fair Process, a citizens group that has fought for restrictions on tent cities for the homeless.

Top three endorsements: King County Republican Party, King County Communities for Fair Process, state Attorney General Rob McKenna

Campaign Web site:

Edmonds, she has struggled at the grass-roots level. Ferguson defeated her in the Democratic Party’s June nominating convention (which, because of a subsequent federal-court ruling, won’t determine the party nominee).

When the state Democratic Party refused to give her a voter list, saying she had lost the convention, Edmonds accused Ferguson of cutting “a backroom deal” with party leaders — a claim denied by state party Chairman Paul Berendt.

Democrats in the 32nd Legislative District, which Edmonds once represented, this month endorsed Ferguson in a 53-4 vote. Edmonds didn’t show up for the debate, later saying the organization was “not in touch with voters” and had moved “very far to the left.”

But political observers say Edmonds is likely to benefit from Shoreline voters’ history of favoring female candidates. All three lawmakers who now represent the 32nd Legislative District are women.

Ferguson and Edmonds are now at the center of a battle over his proposal to put a ballot measure before voters in November that would add to a property-tax levy that funds social services for veterans.

A coalition of social-service providers, including some veterans groups, wants the County Council to hold off for fear of undercutting a levy the coalition hopes to put before voters in 2006 or 2007 to fund a broader range of social services. A task force established by Sims and supported by Edmonds called for a new tax that would provide a dedicated revenue source for human services.

“It just gives the smell of political opportunism,” Edmonds says of the veterans levy endorsed by the Regional Policy Committee that Ferguson chairs.

“To me, it just does not make sense to leave people behind: our seniors … the disabled community,” Edmonds says. “What about domestic violence? What about early-childhood education? What about mental health?”

Ferguson says it’s better to go for a smaller but achievable tax now. “I’m not prepared to wait,” he says. “There are people on the streets. There are veterans who need mental-illness counseling. There is a need out there. I’m prepared to act now.” The County Council’s budget committee will hold a hearing on the veterans levy tomorrow.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican candidate Steve Pyeatt in the November election. Pyeatt, who lives between Bothell and Kirkland, organized much of the community opposition to Eastside tent cities for the homeless last year.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or