ABERDEEN — Former prosecutor Michael Spencer was made ineligible to compete for the appointment to the unfilled term of Prosecutor Stew Menefee by the Grays Harbor Democrats Thursday night, who opted not to place Spencer on their list of three candidates seeking the position. Instead, the Democrats put Grays Harbor Deputy Prosecutor Katie Svoboda at the top of their list and two other candidates, who aren’t really interested in the position and will ultimately cast their support for Svoboda.
Spencer, who also served a term as judge, was the only candidate besides Svoboda, who sought the appointment before Thursday. Svoboda was at the top of the list of eligible appointees, followed by Grays Harbor Democratic Chairman George Smylie, an attorney for the state; and former Democratic chairwoman Vini Samuel, an attorney from Montesano.
The majority of Precinct Committee Officers Thursday night said they were worried that the Republican majority on the Board of County Commissioners would ignore their wishes and not give Svoboda a fair shot at the position. So, they decided to take away the commissioners’ choice through the political process. Some also questions Spencer’s Democratic pedigree since he hadn’t been to one of their meetings in years.
“I don’t trust them,” Samuel said the Republican majority, urging the Democrats to place Smylie and herself on the top three list to boost Svoboda’s chances.
“Let us be your offensive line,” she said.
Samuel cited a recent decision by the commissioners not to appoint Democrat and former county commissioner Al Carter to the Marine Resources Committee as evidence that the Republican majority was concerned more about party politics than the best person for the job.
To be formally considered, Spencer’s name had to be on the list of the Democrats’ top three favorites and the commissioners have to pick their appointee from that list. If the commissioners chose not to act on the appointment, the appointment ultimately becomes the responsibility of Gov. Jay Inslee.
Menefee retired on Monday. The commissioners named Gerald Fuller as acting prosecutor. Fuller didn’t seek the permanent position.
Each of the 21 Democratic Precinct Committee Officers present were allowed to vote for their top three picks, although they could decide to just put one name on their ballot if they chose. The first tally had Svoboda with 19 votes, Smylie with 14, Samuel with 14 and Spencer with five.
Spencer said he had questions about the process the Democrats used, but said he didn’t “feel like I could bring myself to sue the Democratic Party over this.”
He didn’t discount a possible run for the position in 2014, although he wasn’t prepared to immediately declare his candidacy.
Spencer served as the elected prosecutor in Grays Harbor County as a Democrat, and was elected twice, in 1982 and 1986, when he served just one year of his second term. Menefee was appointed in 1987. Spencer went on to serve another six years as a superior court judge and is currently in private practice at Brown Lewis Janhunen & Spencer with offices in Montesano and Aberdeen.
Svoboda has been with the Prosecutor’s Office since 2004 and Menefee says she “has my absolute support. She’ll do a good job with the office. She’ll make us all proud.”