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Hague to face two challengers for county seat

Fresh off a tense and painful election season, the wheels are already in motion for many local officials in 2011, including King County Councilwoman Jane Hague, who will seek another term as the 6th district (Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond, Mercer Island) representative.

Two challengers, Seattle Port Commissioner John Creighton, and former counsel to Gov. Christine Gregoire Richard E. Mitchell, announced this week they will attempt to take the seat from Hague.

Hague, the current council's vice-chair, ran all of her reelection campaigns unopposed since defeating her former colleague on the Bellevue City Council Cary Bozeman in 1993. She received her first challenger since being elected in 2007 against Richard Pope. The race turned tense with personal issues blazing to the forefront. Coming off a bitter election year statewide, the last thing anyone wants to see is another negative campaign.

"The tone (of the 2007 campaign) was less focused on the issues and more on personal issues," Hague said. "I look forward to a campaign where we look at the issues at hand, and who is the best person to deliver those issues."

The primary issue in most minds remains the economy. King County just finished a difficult budgeting session, in which it failed to gain enough trust from the voters to pass a .2 percent sales tax increase to offset some cuts.

Hague believes her history as a willing collaborator and fiscal conservative will persuade the voters that she is the best candidate to lead them through the economic mess.

Hague's two challengers, Creighton and Mitchell both point to the economy, and the need for county government to adjust as a result of the downturn as early priorities.

"The thing that's drawn me to the decision to get into the race is a combination of the kind of phenomenal growth our region is capable of coupled with the severe economic changes," Mitchell said. "It's something you see once in a lifetime."

Mitchell's done everything from working as an architect, to a planner and now a lawyer, and he believes his multi-disciplinary background will serve him at a time with so many developing issues.

He cited transportation as one of the council's top priorities in the coming years. Mitchell listed the SR-99 viaduct, SR-520 bridge replacement, Eastlink light-rail and development of Bellevue's Bel-Red corridor as hot buttons over the next few years.

"There's just so much going on that requires long-range planning and leadership from the county," he said.

Creighton, an attorney who has served on the Seattle Port Commission since 2006, sees a first task of resizing county government. He said reducing the number of council seats from nine to seven and cutting council members' pay are immediate actions that could start the ball rolling.

Creighton, who grew up on the Eastside and graduated from Interlake High School, has watched the painful budget cuts put together by the council, and he believes long-term changes will provide the answer.

"The issues are more long-term and systemic, and I think we're to have to work hard to deliver new models and council services efficiently with the revenue we have," he said.

Along with protecting the environment, Creighton listed transportation as a concern as well. While on the Port Commission he participated in the acquisition of the BNSF rail corridor. He prioritizes funding a replacement for the South Park Bridge in Seattle and depoliticizing important transportation decisions, focusing them purely on ridership and engineering.

All three candidates understand the historical significance of this moment, and Hague said she's proven she's the right person to help navigate the county through it.

"We're at a crossroads in government right now," she said. "I'm running on my record as somebody who's already shown fiscal restraint."

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