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'It's getting pretty hot' — this week in politics, not the weather

caption: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announces that no counties will phase down for two weeks, May 4, 2021.
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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announces that no counties will phase down for two weeks, May 4, 2021.

How would you like to be stuck in Phase 2 of the state's reopening plan while the bulk of Washington counties gets to remain in the more relaxed, more business-friendly Phase 3?

Pierce County doesn’t like it one bit.

Governor Jay Inslee announced all counties would remain in their current phases for at least another two weeks; King County was among at least a dozen counties expected to be rolled back to Phase 2, where Pierce County ended up three weeks ago.

In non-pandemic political news, the recall campaign against Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant is gearing up, and another candidate is jumping into the crowded Seattle mayoral race.

"It's getting pretty hot," said Joni Balter, host of Seattle CityClub’s Civic Cocktail on the Seattle Channel — and she wasn't talking about the weather. "There's even bipartisan talk of a special legislative session to help Pierce County get out of this phase. I bet that doesn't happen. The numbers don't support it. I think the governor is going to find a way to fix this."

Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier has an idea: focus on getting people vaccinated and get to the point where we don't need the phases anymore.

"I don't think anybody should be rolled back. I don't think Pierce County should've been rolled back three weeks ago. I don't think King County should be rolled back," he said.

"We need to focus on moving forward, not rolling backward," he added. "I think we're clearly entering what I would call the final phase of the emergency of Covid."

Dammeier and other Pierce County officials were frustrated by Inslee's decision — not because they want other counties and businesses to suffer as they have, but because it came after they'd unsuccessfully lobbied the governor for a pause on rolling back to Phase 2 and more vaccine doses weeks earlier.

Dammeier said he wants to see the focus put on getting everyone who wants a shot vaccinated; He said he has received both of his doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

"Pierce County leaders — Republicans and Democrats — have been working the ref, as they say. They've been working the governor hard for weeks," said Essex Porter, government and politics reporter for KIRO TV. "And frankly, I'd argue they succeeded. Because without the rollback pause, the case and the hospitalization numbers that we are waking up to this morning would put Pierce County firmly back in Phase 1."

There is talk of a special legislative session to help Pierce County get out of Phase 2, said Balter. But she doubts that will actually happen.

Speaking of being doubtful: The campaigns for recalling or retaining Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant are gearing up. Balter isn't ready to call this one.

"I think, in general, recalls waste time unless a public official clearly violates the law," she said. "In my mind, Sawant violated more rules than laws. She did do reckless things," including speaking at a protest outside the home of Mayor Jenny Durkan.

Porter lives in the district and has seen the well-funded campaigns at work for himself; he said he's received campaign mailers from both sides in his mailbox this week.

"This could be a battle that could overshadow the mayor’s race in November," he said.

That might be hard to imagine, as the mayoral contest grows more crowded.

Deputy Seattle Mayor Casey Sixkiller has joined the fray.

He has strong conventional qualifications. Yet when he announced his run, he "described himself as an outsider," Balter said. "Really? He is about as inside-city-government as anyone can get. He’s the deputy mayor. He earlier served as a chief operating officer for King County Executive Dow Constantine. How is that outside?"

Balter and Porter joined KUOW's Angela King to talk about the week in politics. Listen to the conversation by clicking the audio above.

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