North Whidbey republican women forum tilts toward status quo

If a political forum held in Oak Harbor last week is any barometer for the November general election, challengers in this year’s mayoral and city council races could be in trouble -- among Republican women, at least.

Sponsored by the Republican Women’s Club of North Whidbey, the luncheon/political forum was held at El Cazador restaurant Thursday afternoon. It was the first held in the city since the primary election in August. About 35 people were in attendance.

Participating candidates include incumbent Jim Slowik and challenger Scott Dudley for the mayor’s race, Paul Brewer and Tara Hizon for city council Position 1, incumbent Beth Munns and Larry Eaton for Position 2, and incumbent Rick Almberg and Mel Vance for Position 3.

The format allowed candidates to briefly introduce themselves before being quizzed by the group of conservative ladies. Along with a rehashing of familiar topics, such as the SE Pioneer Way Improvement Project and government transparency, candidates addressed topics ranging from Oak Harbor’s youth to plans for economic development.

While there were no clear winners, as the club didn’t announce any formal endorsements, many who attended said support in the crowd seemed slightly tipped toward the status quo.

Some members speculated it was a matter of familiarity with the incumbents. Slowik has made several appearances before the group over the past few years and Munns helped found the organization.

“It’s because they know them,” said Dot Gailey, an Oak Harbor resident.

But others said they just liked what the incumbents have accomplished. Donna Grate, who lives downtown, said she’s happy the Pioneer Way project finally moved forward after years of just talk.

“I didn’t know what to expect but I like what I see,” she said.

Oak Harbor resident Lesley Robbins said she also was becoming sold on the highly debated road project. That was thanks to the several incumbents who stressed the fact that Pioneer Way was first and foremost an infrastructure project, meant to replace dilapidated utility lines before a catastrophic failure could occur.

“That was news to me,” Robbins said.

She also said she didn’t know that the vast majority of the project’s funding was being spent to that end, rather than on street design. However, she said she was still worried about how the one-way design would affect traffic patterns.

But at least one club member said the forum shouldn’t be used as a glass ball to predict the results of the November election. Sandi Peterson, who is also serving as Dudley’s campaign manager, said the group doesn’t represent the majority of Oak Harbor and these races are far from decided.

“It doesn’t make me nervous at all,” she said.


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