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GOP favors Smith

By garnering all but one vote, Clinton resident Norma Smith was selected as the Republican party’s preferred choice to replace State Rep. Chris Strow during a meeting Thursday evening in Mount Vernon.

The Republican Party met to prioritize the three candidates vying to replace Strow, who announced his resignation last month. When it came to voting, it was no contest. Of the 28 people who were able to vote for the party’s preferential choice, Smith earned 27 of their votes. Precinct committee officers who have held their positions for at least 60 days could vote.

The party chose Stanwood resident Joel Edmonds as its second preference and Oak Harbor resident Ed Drum as its third preference.

The list now goes to the commissioners from Island, Skagit and Snohomish counties, who will ultimately decide Strow’s replacement.

Island County Republican Party Chairwoman Kathy Jones said the commissioners will meet together to make a decision, but a date hasn’t been set yet.

Jones said she would like a selection to be made before Jan. 10. That way, Strow’s successor would be able to attend the new legislative training session scheduled for Jan. 11, before the new session that starts Jan. 14.

Approximately 50 people crammed into the party headquarters to hear from the three candidates. The selection process included speeches by each candidate along with speeches by the folks who nominated them.

Smith expressed appreciation for the late Jack Metcalf and was happy to see a supportive Norma Metcalf in the audience. Smith was Jack Metcalf’s special assistant when he was a U.S. Congressman.

She said after the meeting that working for Congressman Metcalf was a privilege. Since her stint serving Metcalf she has run for office twice, losing once to U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen and once to State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen.

Her one elective position was as a South Whidbey school board member.

If chosen to replace Strow, Smith said she would be able to hit the ground running and would focus on tax reform.

“We have to stop passing unfunded mandates at the state level,” Smith said. She would also focus on business and occupation tax reform and have it based on net revenues instead of gross revenues. She also pointed out that property tax increases are outpacing people’s salary increases.

She was nominated by Oak Harbor resident Susan Sehlin, wife of former State Rep. Barry Sehlin. She said Smith would be a great legislator because she is patient and she can listen. Sehlin added that Smith also has the skills that will serve her well when she runs for office.

“I know Norma to be a very strong, aggressive campaigner,” Sehlin said.

Edmonds, a Stanwood resident who owns a construction business, noted how much control the state has over property. He said there aren’t any consistent standards. With a background in agriculture, he said that he would get involved with agricultural issues. If farmers aren’t allowed to use some of their land because of increased buffers, then the tax on the land should be lower.

“There’s a balance that needs to happen,” Edmonds said.

Mel Blowers, who seconded Edmonds’ nomination, said Edmonds would also be a good candidate to run for state senator.

Drum is a retired Navy flight surgeon who lives in Oak Harbor. He said that implementing a national health system would usurp the medical profession and turn doctors into public servants. If selected, he said he would work to fix the ferry system and work for property tax reform and revise eminent domain to make it harder to take private property.

Once the candidates for the position spoke, the 28 precinct committee officers cast their ballots. Before that could happen, South Whidbey resident Rufus Rose made a motion to allow a question and answer period for each of the three candidates. However, the people attending the meeting rejected that idea.

There was concern expressed by several party members at the meeting that the county commissioners from the three counties, which grouped together are mostly Democrats, would select the weakest of the three candidates for Strow’s position.

Smith said that the results Thursday evening should send a strong message to the commissioners.

“You know I’m going to hope for the best,” Smith said.

Jones added that the commissioners should pick the most qualified person.

“You hope they want to pick the best legislator,” Jones said.

As of press time Friday, a date had not been set yet for the commissioners from the three counties to meet and select Strow’s replacement.

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