State Sen. Cheryl Pflug departs suddenly to accept board post

May 29, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Snoqualmie businessman Brad Toft, Councilman Mark Mullet seek seat

Gov. Chris Gregoire appointed Republican state Sen. Cheryl Pflug, a representative for Issaquah and surrounding communities, to a state growth board May 18, the same day Pflug withdrew from the race for another legislative term.
The surprise announcement stunned the political establishment in Olympia and reverberated in the Senate race Pflug departed.

Cheryl Pflug

The last-minute withdrawal left Issaquah Councilman Mark Mullet, a Democrat, and Snoqualmie businessman Brad Toft, a Republican, in the running to represent Issaquah and the reshaped 5th Legislative District in Olympia.

Gregoire appointed Pflug to a six-year term on the Washington Growth Management Hearings Board, the panel responsible for mediating disputes about planning and development issues in municipalities throughout the state. Members earn $92,500 per year.

Members cannot serve simultaneously on the board and in the Legislature. Pflug intends to resign from the Senate on July 1, the same day the state board appointment starts and about six months before the Senate term expires.

Under state law, the King County Council is responsible for appointing a successor to the Senate seat after Pflug resigns. The law calls for GOP officials to submit three candidates to the council for the open seat. Then, the council must make a selection within 60 days of Pflug’s resignation.

Pflug, a 13-year legislator, ascended to the Senate through the same process, after then-Sen. Dino Rossi resigned to run for governor. Before the Senate appointment in 2004, she represented the district in the state House of Representatives since 1999.

“Cheryl is well respected by both sides of the aisle as an effective problem solver and has served her constituents well,” Gregoire said in a statement. “Her legislative experience and commitment to serve will be a great asset to the work of the board and I welcome her to this new role.”

Pflug said the knowledge she gained as a legislator representing the 5th District — and communities straddling the boundary between urban and rural — should prove useful on the Growth Management Hearings Board.

“This is an exciting opportunity for me to carry on a family legacy of public service in our beloved Pacific Northwest while also growing my experience in the legal profession,” she said in a statement. “I feel very fortunate.”

In the Legislature, Pflug, a Maple Valley resident and a registered nurse, focused on health care policy. In Olympia, she obtained funding to expand state Route 18, crafted legislation to create treatment alternatives for nonviolent criminals and cast the decisive vote to create a simple-majority requirement for school levies.

In the most recent regular legislative session, Pflug championed a Medicaid reform bill, secured $4 million for a project at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery and joined a handful of Republican lawmakers to support legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington.

Pflug also embarked on economic development missions to Brazil, China, Japan and Vietnam.

“It is an honor and privilege to receive this appointment by Gov. Gregoire,” she said. “I am excited for the opportunity to continue serving the citizens of our great state in another capacity and look forward to the challenges ahead.”

Pflug also earned a spot in recent years among the legislators on the list for the most missed votes.

In recent years, she attributed some missed votes to schedule conflicts between the Legislature and law school. Pflug graduated from the Seattle University School of Law on May 12.

Pflug filed for re-election to the Senate before the May 18 deadline and listed “Independent GOP Party” under party preference, although she did not report any campaign fundraising to the state Public Disclosure Commission in the most recent filing period.

Pflug could not be reached for additional comment May 25.

(Mullet raised $60,096 and Toft raised $12,804 in the most recent filing period.)

“There seems to be more interest in the race now from everybody,” Mullet said May 25. “Before, I was always really optimistic and the people that were close to the campaign were optimistic. Now, I feel like there’s a larger group of people who are optimistic.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment at

Bookmark and Share
Other Stories of Interest: , , , , , , , , , , ,


4 Responses to “State Sen. Cheryl Pflug departs suddenly to accept board post”

  1. Denny Wagenman on May 30th, 2012 6:44 am

    I don’t think this was unexpected. She gave her vote for gay marriage in exchange for this position.

  2. Smoley on May 30th, 2012 10:54 pm


    I agree. Reminds me of what former state senator Bill Finkbeiner did after he broke party lines and voted for the gay rights bill in 2006 (it wouldn’t have passed otherwise). He resigned his position as senate minority leader and very likely wouldn’t have been reelected had he chosen to run again.

    I don’t much about this Toft fellow, but I don’t think Mark Mullet is ready for this level of political office just yet. The plastic bag ban that he has recently championed is an example of him trying to run something through the council before getting adequate input from the public. Moving him to Olympia would put him even farther away from the voice of his constituents (that he apparently has problems listening to).

  3. Pieter Hart on June 3rd, 2012 7:09 am

    The unfolding of these circumstances are a good message to voters. Mark Mullet is complicit in this scheme of the governor and former Senator Pflug. I don’t know what Gregoire is referring to with her comments about respect; on both sides of the aisle and in he lobbying community, Pflug’s exit was welcomed. Mark Mullet should show better judgment if he wants to earn the trust of voters; these types of politics are what have our state in its current mess. Mullet is preoccupied with political moves, and is not listening to his constituents. He’s a self funder, which is why his numbers look higher, and he thinks he can announce his candidacy at city council meetings and get votes.

    Brad Toft has been viciously attacked by Senator Pflug, but has remained true to his word of a clean campaign so far. If he stays on the issues, he will clean Mullets clock in the fall. A candidate who has knocked on 5000 doors is listening to the district.

  4. Ava on June 8th, 2012 7:22 am

    Pflug withdrew right AFTER the filing deadline, ensuring that no strong Republican could run for the seat. It’s painfully obvious this was a deal — a very lucrative deal — between her and Gregoire.

    Perhaps there should be a new law where former legislators must wait a year before accepting state jobs, like the laws preventing lobbying activities within a given amount of time.

Got something to say?

Before you comment, please note:

  • These comments are moderated.
  • Comments should be relevant to the topic at hand and contribute to its discussion.
  • Personal attacks and/or excessive profanity will not be tolerated and such comments will not be approved.
  • This is not your personal chat room or forum, so please stay on topic.