By Noah Haglund
Officials from three counties and two political parties unanimously picked Whidbey Island farm owner Ron Muzzall on Friday to fill a vacant state senate seat.
The opening in the 10th Legislative District arose after Barbara Bailey, a Republican from Oak Harbor, retired last month with a year left in her term. Muzzall, who was sworn in Friday, will serve until the November 2020 election is certified. He was one of three nominees put forward by Republican Party officers.
Washington’s newest state lawmaker said he has no agenda as he heads into the job. To start, he expects to stay busy getting to know people in the district.
“I need to work, and network and learn,” Muzzall said. “That’s my first priority going into this.”
The 10th District takes in all of Island County and communities in northwest Snohomish County and southwest Skagit County. Stanwood is the largest city in the Snohomish County portion.
Because the district spills into three counties, it required the five Snohomish County Council members, three Skagit County commissioners and three Island County commissioners to collectively make the appointment.
Muzzall, 56, of Oak Harbor, manages 3 Sisters Family Farm and 3 Sisters Cattle Co. on Whidbey Island. He was the top choice of Republican Party officials. A former commissioner for North Whidbey Fire and Rescue, this is his first bid for a partisan legislative seat.
“He’s got a fire hose to drink out of,” said Snohomish County Councilman Brian Sullivan, a former state representative, after the vote hosted at the Skagit County Board of Commissioners.
Another contender for the appointment was Christine Cribb, the executive director of the Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce. She is a past member of the Oak Harbor School Board. Bailey endorsed her for the job.
Like Muzzall, Cribb had never before sought a partisan office.
The third nominee for the vacancy was Sara Hyatt, who lives in unincorporated Snohomish County near Stanwood. She is a precinct committee officer and vice president of Hyatt Construction, a family-owned civil contracting business.
Nine votes were cast for Muzzall.
“It’s a humbling experience to have support like that,” he said.
Democratic Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson recused herself from the vote because she intends to run for the same senate seat.
Before excusing herself from the meeting, Price Johnson urged the other commissioners and council members to support the best candidate.
Price Johnson, of Clinton, launched her campaign Aug. 1. The former South Whidbey School Board member is in her third term on the county commission. Her term expires next year.
The official filing period to run for office is in May. Running for election can be trickier for sitting state lawmakers. They are barred from raising money starting 30 days before the Legislature convenes in January, until the session wraps up.