Dead Candidate Wins Commissioner Election In Des Moines, Washington

| by Jonathan Wolfe

There were some very close races this week. In the Boston Mayoral election, candidate Martin Walsh beat John Connolly by just 5,000 votes. In the Virginia gubernatorial race, Democrat Terry McAuliffe beat Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli by only 2.5 percentage points. And lastly, in one of the closest state races in recent memory, Virginia Attorney General candidate Mark Obenshain beat Democratic opponent Mark Herring by a mere 479 votes.

But here is one race that wasn’t so close: the race for a King County commissioner seat in Des Moines, Washington. The race was between incumbent John E. Rosentangle and retired school teacher Jim Langston. Rosentangle won the election by a 71-29 margin. So, why is this race even worth mentioning?

Rosentangle is dead.

He passed away on August 12th of this year. But according to Des Moines election rules, ballots cannot be altered after July. Langston was given the news when he went to the Des Moines election office on August 13th to run as a write-in candidate.

"She said 'Well, Mr. Rosentangle just passed away last evening,'" Langston told My Northwest. "My mouth dropped open. I said I would like to have beat him in an election but I wouldn't want anyone dead."

After hearing the news of his opponent’s passing, Langston went door to door in his community to tell people that he was essentially the only candidate running for the position.

"I went around to every household,” he said. “In the condos where I didn't know someone who lived there they posted my flyers next to the mailboxes so they would know that way."

It’s hard enough to win an election when you’re alive, just ask Mitt Romney or Al Gore. Winning one when you’re dead is almost unfair. And it looks like Rosentangle isn’t even the only dead candidate to win a race in Washington. NBC-Washington reports that deceased 81-year-old John Erak won a council race in Aberdeen as well.

Langston will probably eventually be chosen to fill Rosentangle’s empty seat. According to city council rules, a new representative must be appointed to fill a deceased member’s seat within 90 days of their passing.

Regardless, Langston wants to change city election rules so that the ballots can be altered after the current deadline if a situation like this happens in the future.

"Hopefully, they'll draw up some kind of program or change to the law so this can't happen to anyone else. And that's my goal,” he said. 

Source: My Northwest, NBC Washington