The Seattle City Council will have to fill Rob Johnson's District 4 seat a lot sooner than planned. Johnson announced Thursday that he will resign from his post on April 5. The following day, the city council will start its search for Johnson's replacement. They have 20 calendar days to do so.
Johnson was the first city council member to announce that he wasn't going to seek reelection during the 2019 city council race. He then unexpectedly announced he will be resigning much earlier than the end of his term and will be bowing out in a little over two weeks. Johnson and his team were not available for comment, citing that Johnson is not granting any interviews—aside from an exclusive interview with KING5—on this subject today.
Currently, the Seattle City Council race is gearing up. District 4 is one of the thickest races with nine candidates already filed. The filing deadline is still months away in May. Johnson said that he hopes the council will pick a "caretaker" instead of one of the candidates already running for the District 4 seat.
"[Appointing] a caretaker respects the Democratic process that’s already underway," Alex Pedersen, a candidate running in District 4 said. "People have already given Democratic vouchers to candidates."
Pedersen doesn't think any person who takes the seat should be able to run. It's a valid concern.
"Because he stepped down before the May 17 filing deadline, I think that the person who’s appointed can actually be running," Shaun Scott, another candidate running for the District 4 seat, said.
That means that when the clock runs out on the 20-day search at the end of April and a new person is selected there would still be enough time for that person to file for the 2019 election.
"If people are running there's a perception that some backroom deal was made," Pedersen said, "and it’s not fair to the residents."
Earlier this year, Johnson announced that he would be joining NHL Seattle to assist with transportation issues. Pedersen was highly critical of this move.
"It’s something that’s not been anticipated that a council member would accept a job with an entire year left in his or her term," Pedersen said. "I think that was an alarm bell to close a loophole so it doesn’t happen with other council members."
According to a KING5 interview, Johnson's role in the NHL is not the reason for his resignation, though many people have voiced concerns over the potential conflict of interest. Johnson said that he wants to get back to being a dad.
"Rob is a family man," Scott said, "I had the chance to talk to him, from things he’s said publicly, the demands of being a council member are really, really tough especially for people who have young kids, it’s a pretty reasonable ask for him to be able to seek employment and be able to provide for his family after putting in some good years as a council member here."
Johnson's resignation also comes after a successful vote on the MHA (Mandatory Housing Affordability), legislation that Johnson championed.
Both Scott and Pedersen said that they won't be vying for the interim position.
"The demands and rigor of running a campaign are difficult enough for a working-class candidate—I don’t have two campaigns in me this year," Scott said.
During the 2017 Ed Murray hubbub, when Murray resigned and the city council did some reshuffling to make Tim Burgess interim mayor, there was a similar process to find an interim council member to fill Burgess's seat. That search saw 16 applicants. The application for Johnson's seat will open on March 25.