Left to right: State legislature candidates David Frockt, Scott White, and Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney last night.
  • Left to right: State legislature candidates David Frockt, Scott White, and Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney last night.

How do you explain a game of musical chairs like the one that took place in north Seattle's 46th District earlier this week?

First, Democratic state senator Ken Jacobsen made the sudden announcement that he's retiring. Then, almost immediately after, Democratic state representative Scott White announced he'd be running for Jacobsen's empty senate seat with the support of just about every major Democrat out there. At the same time, lawyer David Frockt announced he'd be dropping out of the race for Jacobsen's senate seat and running instead for White's empty house seat—with White's blessing.

After which, Democratic state representative Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney said she'd been kept in the dark about Jacobsen's retirement plans while White was given an early heads-up, allowing White to sew up major Democratic endorsements for his role in the switcheroo before she could even seriously consider running for senate. "The voters of the 46th deserve better," Kenney told me on Monday. "I am not a person who favors closed-door politics and I think that's what was done between White and Jacobsen."

Dude, its my cell phones fault.
  • Dude, it's my cell phone's fault.
Last night at the official nominating meeting of the 46th District Democrats, with accusations swirling of a grassroots-ignoring, process-short-circuiting fait accompli, Jacobsen himself tried to explain what happened—while also saying a fond goodbye to his district.

He began his farewell address with effusive praise for Kenney and then—somewhat oddly—compared White, whom he's endorsing, to his daughter. He said they both know how to seriously annoy him. (White, standing in the back of the room, grimaced.)

As for the switcheroo, Jacobsen played dumb. "I don't know what happened," he said. "There was no maneuvering on my part." Then he blamed his "primitive cell phone" for causing him to be unable to tell Kenney about his retirement in time for her to consider a run for his seat. The cell phone burned out, he said, right after he told White.

Kenney played the role of the good soldier, saying she'd recently had a sit-down with House Speaker Frank Chopp and ultimately decided to run again for her seat in the state house rather than challenge White for the senate seat. Frockt, for his part, admitted it had been "an unusual few months" and later told me he'd decided to switch races simply because he didn't think he could win against White. "If there were any back-room discussions, I wasn't involved," Frockt said.

When White addressed the room he said it had been "a crazy week to say the least," and later told me flatly: "Jacobsen did not give me a heads up." The chain of events remained murky, however, and White said even he and Kenney, after talking recently, had decided to "kind of let go of the details." As for Frockt's decision to switch races, White said Frockt "wants to be a team player."

Frockt, White, and Kenney: Not quite the picture of a happy family.
  • Frockt, White, and Kenney: Not quite the picture of a happy family.
Not letting go of the details: Gerry Pollet, who lost a race against White in the last election cycle and last night urged to 46th District Dems not to allow White to be nominated on a voice-vote alone. Pollet, who led the resistance to the perceived grassroots-ignoring, process-short-circuiting fait-accompli, said he instead wanted a hard count of the number of people backing White for senate.

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Those siding with Pollet then used an impressive command of Robert's Rules to overrule the 46th District chair and scuttle his plans for a voice vote. (The chair, Chad Lupkes, said the official tally of the hard count isn't yet available, but that the support for White for senate seemed "pretty overwhelming"—as was the support for Kenney and Frockt for their respective house seats.)

White, reacting to all of this, said he wouldn't comment on Pollet's pointed parliamentary maneuvering because he now wants to focus on the future and not the past.