Candidates make pitches to North and South Whidbey chambers of commerce
September 24, 2012 · Updated 9:32 AM
Candidates for state and local races gave their pitches to the business communities on North and South Whidbey this week.
The Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce held its annual candidate luncheon Thursday at the Elks Lodge. The event saw a healthy crowd who heard from candidates running for a variety of open offices.
In state legislative races, they include incumbent Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano, and challenger Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, for the District 10 Senate race; state representative position 2 hopefuls Tom Riggs, D-Camano, and Dave Hayes, R-Camano; and incumbent Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton and Aaron Simpson, D-Langley, for the position 1 seat.
In local races, incumbent Island County Commissioner Angie Homola, a Democrat, and Republican Jill Johnson took to the microphone to make their cases for position 2, as did incumbent Democrat Helen Price Johnson and Republican challenger Jeff Lauderdale for position 1.
Republican Dan Matthews, who is trying to unseat Democrat Congressman Rick Larsen for the second congressional district position, also made a surprise appearance in Oak Harbor. Larsen was not present.
With seven candidates from four different races all crammed in over a lunch hour, each was allowed just three minutes to speak and take a question or two from the crowd. Most didn’t have time to delve into details, instead talking about their backgrounds and hitting broad objectives of their campaigns.
But for many in the crowd, a quick glimpse was enough. It’s not just what candidates say, but also how they say it that matters, said Helen Chatfield-Weeks, an Oak Harbor resident.
“It’s what they say, how they look and how they present themselves,” Chatfield-Weeks said. “That’s how they get my vote. That’s what really interests me.”
Al Koetje, former longtime mayor of Oak Harbor, was also present at the luncheon and agrees that despite their shortcomings, political forums play a powerful role in the decision-making process of voters.
That makes them an essential campaigning tool for the candidates. And with the clock ticking away before the November general election, they know it, he said.
“The last 45 days is critical,” Koetje said.
Also this week, the Freeland Chamber of Commerce held its candidate forum/luncheon at the Useless Bay Golf & Country Club. It also saw a healthy turnout, estimated at about 45 strong.
“That’s an unusual crowd,” said Leanne Finlay, a member of the chamber’s board of directors. “I think people were really interested to hear the candidates. Or they love the chamber.”
Narrowed in scope, the forum hosted just Price Johnson and Lauderdale for the position 1 commissioner race. The candidates were quizzed with questions that ranged from the state of the county and their plans to improve its financial position to the need for additional focus on economic development.
The meeting did see some fireworks, particularly when the subject of sewers came up, but most of the discussion revolved around the economy.
Overall, Finlay said she thought the meeting saw meaningful discussion and was a benefit to Whidbey voters.
“It went really well,” she said.