Tri-Cities election rematch? This Democrat says she’d put an end to county ‘dysfunction’

A rematch is brewing in Franklin County.

Democrat Ana Ruiz Kennedy announced her candidacy Thursday for the seat occupied by Franklin County Commission Chairman Rocky Mullen.

The two previously faced off in the 2020 general election, where Mullen, a Republican, handily won his first term by nearly 20 percentage points.

Barring any other serious contenders or shakeups, it appears the two are headed for a rematch Nov. 5.

It will be the second of the county’s three commissioner positions up for election in November.

Mullen declined on Thursday to comment on Kennedy’s announcement.

He has yet to make a reelection announcement or file paperwork with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission, the state agency that interprets and enforces campaign finance laws.

May 6 marks the start of filing week, when candidates running for state and local office can file paperwork with the Washington Secretary of State’s Office and formally declare their candidacy.

The Franklin County Commission is the primary legislative body responsible with passing laws and policies for the county.

Mullen represents District 2, which is much of the eastern part of Franklin County. That includes downtown and east Pasco, the Tri-Cities Airport, Connell, Kahlotus and Mesa.

Ana Ruiz Kennedy
Ana Ruiz Kennedy

Ruiz Kennedy contends, “Franklin County is facing a serious financial crisis, low employee morale and high turnover, years of lack of planning, internal feuds and dysfunction. I have a proven record of bringing people together and leading to get results.”

Ruiz Kennedy works as a business liaison for Craft3, a nonprofit community development organization that serves the broader Pacific Northwest region. She also separately serves as chair of the Franklin County Democrats.

She said in a statement she’s running to bring “her extensive experience of collaboration, problem solving, and effective servant leadership” to the commission.

She has previously served on the Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs, the Tri-Cities Regional Chamber of Commerce and chaired the Tri-Cities Community Health Board. Ruiz Kennedy also is a co-founder of the Pasco Taco Crawl and has been involved in the Pasco-Colima Cooperation and Friendship Agreement.

Ruiz Kennedy is a first-generation immigrant, born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and raised in Colima. She first came to Franklin County in 1998, and began calling it home in 2009. She is married to Pasco School Board member John Kennedy.

Rocky Mullen
Rocky Mullen

Mullen is a lifelong Franklin County resident and local cattle rancher, who owns Dove Financial Services and other retail and food service businesses in the area.

He has more than 35 years of “management experience working and negotiating with national and international corporations, U.S. military contracts and the motion picture industry,” according to his 2020 pamphlet statement.

Mullen has found himself in the middle of infighting and eruptions between former Chair Clint Didier and former Commissioner Brad Peck for several years.

Peck, a Republican who was first elected in 2009, resigned at the end of last year, citing “cronyism” and “bullying.”

Earlier this year, Mullen and Didier selected Franklin County Republican Party Chair Stephen Bauman to replace Peck and represent voters in the west Pasco district through the end of the year.

That position will also be on the ballot in November.

The county commission’s weekly meetings have been relatively calm and civil since Peck left and Bauman joined the commission. Mullen took over chairing the meetings in January.

County Administrator Mike Gonzalez on Thursday published a short post on the county’s blog detailing Mullen’s leadership since taking reins of the commission meetings.

In the piece, Mullen also details his priorities for Franklin County going into 2025, including addressing budgetary issues and state mandates that place pressure on smaller counties.

“There are a lot of critical decisions that have to be made concerning the direction of Franklin County,” Mullen is quoted as saying. “Public safety is priority one. I believe in limited government, protecting the rights of our citizens, and promoting the American dream to all. Being selected as a voice and representative of our community, it truly is an honor.”