It’s the 31st District shuffle

With former Sen. Pam Roach now on the Pierce County Council, Rep. Phil Fortunado has taken her seat in the senate while former Enumclaw Councilman Morgan Irwin takes his seat in the House.

Enumclaw Councilman Morgan Irwin resigned his council position last night, Jan. 9, to take a seat in the state House after a reshuffling of seats. Photo by Ray Still.

The changing face of the local legislative delegation came into clear view Saturday, with Phil Fortunato and Morgan Irwin walking away as the big winners.

A 31st District shuffling necessitated a rare, joint gathering of the King and Pierce county councils. Members of those two bodies came together at Fife City Hall to address vacancies – or potential vacancies, at least – at the legislative level.

A political domino effect stemmed for November’s election of Pam Roach to a seat on the Pierce County Council, a move that brought her resignation from the 31st District post in the state Senate. Consistently popular among voters and often controversial within her party caucus in Olympia, Roach ended a 26-year run in the Senate.

The first step in the replacement process came Jan. 3 when Republican Party precinct committee officers from throughout the 31st gathered to formulate a list of three favored candidates to replace Roach. The top choice was Phil Fortunato, a member of the state House of Representatives who was elected to a two-year term in November. His name was followed by David Patrick, a retired engineer from Bonney Lake, and Cheryl Marshall, an aide to Roach in the state Senate and has followed her boss to Pierce County government.

Because Roach is a Republican, only GOP candidates could be considered for her replacement.

At the Jan. 3 meeting, the assembled PCOs also considered what would happen if Fortunato was elevated to the Senate. They used the opportunity to place three names in nomination to replace him in the House of Representatives, should the need arise. In order, their favorites were Sharon Hanek, who recently chaired the Pierce County Charter Review Commission; Morgan Irwin, a Seattle police officer and member of the Enumclaw City Council; and Enumclaw business owner Ted DeVol.

The King and Pierce council members first agreed to bump Fortunato to the Senate, then tabbed Irwin for the sudden House vacancy.

Fortunato previously served in the state legislature (1999-2001). He was elected in November to serve voters of the 31st District for a two-year term, but now heads to the Senate instead.

Irwin ran for a 31st seat in the legislature in the fall, but failed to advance to November’s general election. Now he finds himself with committee assignments and a seat on the floor of the House, a member of the GOP majority. He was sworn in Monday.

To accommodate the legislative post, Irwin has taken temporary leave from his job with the Seattle police force and, Monday night, intended to resign from the Enumclaw City Council.

Irwin’s placement in the state legislature is a temporary one and he will have run later this year to keep the House seat.

The 31st Legislative District includes Enumclaw, Bonney Lake, the Lake Tapps area, Sumner, Buckley, Carbonado, Wilkeson, South Prairie, Auburn and Edgewood.

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