Enumclaw minister in running for council seat

By Kevin Hanson, The Courier-Herald

Enumclaw minister Steve Hammond will be a major player in the process that will result in a new member chosen for the King County Council.

A vacancy now exists, due to the untimely death of longtime Councilman Kent Pullen.

Several candidates have stepped forward as possible replacements, as Hammond is actively seeking the appointment.

Because Pullen was a Republican, his replacement will come from the ranks of District 9 GOP members. Precinct committee officers from District 9 will consider all interested candidates, conduct interviews and then forward the names of three finalists (in priority order) to the entire King County Council. Council members will make the final decision on a Pullen replacement, and are not obligated to follow the rankings.

The situation has become a bit muddied, as several candidates have indicated they were Pullen's personal choice. Hammond isn't sure what the stories are with the other council hopefuls, but he clearly believes Pullen wanted him (Hammond) to join the County Council.

Hammond recalls getting a phone call from Pullen, who was slipping physically. During that call, Pullen said - if he had to be replaced - state legislator Steve Johnson would be the obvious selection. But if Johnson didn't want the job, "you're my first choice," Hammond recalls Pullen saying.

Following that conversation, Pullen began briefing Hammond on the inner workings of the King County Council. "I believe time ran out on him" before the lessons were finished, Hammond said. "His health just turned downhill rapidly."

As Pullen's health declined, he turned over leadership of Citizen Taxpayers to Hammond. That grassroots group, formed by Pullen, serves a watchdog role, keeping tabs on government.

Hammond acknowledges he was in an awkward position, discussing what would happen in the event of Pullen's death. But Pullen instigated the conversation, Hammond said, and Hammond made the decision to get involved.

With Pullen's passing, several candidates quickly made their intentions known, but Hammond took a few days before throwing his hat in the ring. "I refused to start (campaigning) before Kent's memorial," he said, admitting the decision put him a few steps behind.

Now, he's in the process of contacting the numerous precinct committee officers who will develop a short list of finalists for the County Council vacancy. It's expected the PCOs will gather late this month to choose their finalists.

Hammond has lived in the Enumclaw area since 1975 and is pastor at Cornerstone Bible Church. He mounted an unsuccessful campaign in 2000 for a seat in the state House of Representatives, his only attempt at elective office. Recently, he has been selected a precinct committee officer and was a key player in the formation of the Property Rights Political Action Committee.

The Property Rights PAC was formed one evening in late February by private citizens, with guidance from Pullen.

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