Mark Mullet elected to represent Issaquah in state Senate
November 13, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
The unexpectedly ugly race to represent Issaquah in the state Senate reached a coda in the days after the Nov. 6 election, but not before more public friction between the candidates.
Issaquah City Councilman Mark Mullet, a Democrat, claimed a lead over Snoqualmie Republican Brad Toft in initial results released on Election Day, 54 percent to 46 percent, and then maintained the margin the next day after King County Elections counted more ballots.
Mullet declared victory after the initial results landed on election night, and then disputed Toft’s assertions about a possible turnaround in subsequent days.
Toft’s campaign said uncounted ballots could shift the balance in the race — a claim Mullet dismissed. Then, less than 24 hours later, Toft conceded the hard-fought race.
The race attracted attention in recent weeks for the insults the candidates lobbed at one another. The candidates’ differences in style and substance clashed in competing campaign mailers, TV spots and endorsements.
Observers said the match-up could determine state Senate control, but Republicans did not gain enough seats on Election Day to crack the Democrats’ majority in the chamber.
On election night, as the exhausting campaign concluded, Democrats gathered at Mullet’s Zeeks Pizza restaurant, not far from the candidate’s Issaquah Highlands home, to await the initial results. Toft joined other GOP candidates at the Bellevue Hyatt for the party’s election night celebration.
By the numbers
Mark Mullet: 54 percent (33,390 votes)
Brad Toft: 46 percent (28,331 votes)
In a victory speech at the restaurant, Mullet credited campaign volunteers for knocking on 20,000 doors throughout the district. (The expansive district is a combination of suburban and rural areas stretched from Issaquah to Snoqualmie Pass, and from Carnation to Black Diamond.)
“The voters were able to pick, I think, where the real truth was,” he said. “If you don’t have people helping you out, you just can’t get to that.”
Toft thanked voters for support and asked supporters to stay engaged in the political process.
“We worked in this campaign with our own hands, with the belief that political parties and government should serve the people, rather than manage them,” he said in a concession statement issued Nov. 9.
City Council prepares to address vacancy
Issaquah City Council members must decide early next year on a successor to Mark Mullet.
The council is expected to turn to a time-tested process to select a replacement for the state senator-elect. Members last filled a vacancy after then-Councilwoman Maureen McCarry resigned in December 2010.
Once Mullet resigns next month or in early January, council members can put out a call for nominations.
Candidates for council vacancies must be at least 18, a registered voter and a resident of Issaquah for at least a year prior to appointment.
Mullet ran unopposed for the council in 2009 and, upon assuming office, became the first Issaquah Highlands resident to serve.
Mullet’s victory sets up a vacancy on the Issaquah City Council. The council is expected to develop a timeline and process to fill the seat after Mullet resigns.
The last Democrat elected to represent the district in Olympia, Kathleen Drew, won election in 1992.
The seat opened after then-state Sen. Cheryl Pflug suddenly withdrew from the campaign in May, and Gov. Chris Gregoire appointed the Maple Valley Republican to a state post. Pflug later resigned from the Senate and endorsed Mullet.
The actions opened a rift between Pflug and other Republicans.
The race turned increasingly bitter in the closing weeks, as Democrats seized on Toft’s past legal troubles and Republicans attempted — and failed — to link Mullet to a deal between Gregoire and Pflug to claim the seat for the Democrats.
In July, King County Council members appointed Sammamish Republican Dino Rossi — former state senator for the district, in addition to a former candidate for governor and U.S. Senate — to the seat in a caretaker role until Mullet takes office.
In Olympia, “I want to help the Democratic Party understand business issues better,” Mullet said just before the elections office released results at about 8:15 p.m. “That would be where I add all the value.”