Accusations of political carpetbagging are as common as elections, but it's rare that a candidate gets called a carpetbagger for simply moving from one neighborhood to another within the same city. Welcome to the contentious race to be the next state representative from West Seattle's 34th District, in which candidate Mike Heavey is now being called a carpetbagger for moving from Madison Valley to West Seattle just before his current run for the state house.
Since early August, political insiders (all with their own political agendas) have been whispering to reporters about Heavey's voting record—namely, that he has missed a lot of elections and that he is a carpetbagger, Seattle edition. According to King County Elections, Heavey was registered to vote at an address in the 43rd District's Madison Valley until just last year. That's when—on August 31, 2009—Heavey requested that King County Elections switch his voter registration to an address in West Seattle's 34th District.
As confirmed by David Ammons, spokesman for Washington secretary of state Sam Reed, Heavey could not have mounted his current run for 34th District state representative unless he was able to show that he was registered to vote in the 34th.
Heavey appears to have been registered to vote at that Madison Valley address ever since he came of voting age and first registered in December 1997. How does he square that with his campaign-trail claim that he was "raised" in West Seattle?
"After my parents divorced," Heavey says, "I was split between living with my mom in Madison Valley and living with my dad in West Seattle." As a result, he first registered to vote in Madison Valley. Then, more recently, he switched his voting address to West Seattle, home of his father—who happens to have been a former state senator from the 34th District. "The only places I have ever lived in Seattle are in the 43rd and 34th," Heavey says.
One of his challengers, Marcee Stone—who has been registered to vote in the 34th for decades—said she's not at all concerned. "I'm not bothered by that," Stone says of Heavey's registration address switch. "I know his family has long lived there, so no, I'm not concerned about it."
But Heavey's other major challenger, Joe Fitzgibbon, is a little more willing to twist the knife. "I first got to know Mike as volunteers on the Dow [Constantine] campaign last year, and he lived in Madison Valley at the time," Fitzgibbon says. "I know he moved to West Seattle late last year, and of course he has a long family history in West Seattle. But I'm proud of the fact that I've been working on behalf of my community, both as a legislative assistant and as a Burien planning commissioner, for a few years now. I grew up in Burien, I own a home in Burien, and I am pretty invested in the community. I didn't move here just to run for office."
King County Elections confirms that Fitzgibbon has been registered to vote in the 34th ever since he came of voting age in 2004. "West Seattle was always the place I wanted to be long-term," Heavey says. "It was where I was raised and where I want to raise my family. Working for Dow was a great opportunity to reconnect with my family's tradition of public service and to move back to the district I consider my home."
We'll find out on August 17 whether the voters of the 34th care who's been registered to vote in the district the longest. (The Stranger has endorsed Fitzgibbon.) But, while we had the voter files open, we checked on one more thing people might want to know about Heavey, Fitzgibbon, and Stone: How often have they actually voted?
Stone, it turns out, has the best record of the bunch—a perfect voting record, in fact. Fitzgibbon has missed three elections, all primaries. Heavey has missed far more elections, but it's hard to figure out exactly how many because he pins many of those missed elections to his attending college in Alabama for eight years, from 1998 to 2006. As for why it took Heavey eight years to finish college: "I had to pay my own tuition." Heavey says that he waited tables and tended bar to make money for school. "This took some time, as any person who paid their own way can likely attest." He says he registered to vote in Alabama while he was there. Under Washington law, it's not illegal to be registered to vote in another state as long as you don't vote in both states at once.
With research by Stranger intern Galen Weber.