Haddon launches Senate campaign

The Oak Harbor Country Club was a veritable who’s who of past and present city elected officials and community leaders as Linda Haddon officially kicked off her campaign to unseat longtime state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island.

Haddon, an Oak Harbor Republican making her first bid for office, was described by speakers as a person in possession of compassion and integrity, balanced by doggedness and tireless enthusiasm.

“You couldn’t find a better candidate,” Oak Harbor Mayor Jim Slowik told the crowd on Feb. 25. “She’s going to win this election.”

Haugen said late last year she intends to run for another term but she hasn’t made her formal announcement yet.

Al Koetje, former mayor, said he first worked with Haddon in 1991 when Whidbey Island Naval Air Station was placed in jeopardy by the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission.

“One of the first people who volunteered was Linda,” the former, long-time mayor said.

Haddon, 59, works in the funeral industry, selling pre-arrangement insurance and helping her husband, Jim, who manages Oak Harbor’s Burley Funeral Chapel. Her attributes were enough to convince optimistic fellow Republicans she has the gumption to not only run a competitive campaign, but a successful one.

“We’ll never have a better opportunity to unseat Haugen than now,” said Larry Moses, who also caught a glimpse of Haddon’s tenacity during the BRAC threat.

County Commissioner Mac McDowell, in a letter read by former mayor and honorary campaign chair Patty Cohen, predicted a handy victory for the candidate. He described her go-gettingness when NAS Whidbey faced closure. Within four hours she successfully converted his engineering office into working headquarters.

The attendees represented a cross-section of the city, which is Island County’s Republican bastion. The group included Island County Sheriff Mark Brown as well as representatives for Republican Dino Rossi, state gubernatorial candidate.

Haddon has been active in the Oak Harbor community as a member of Soroptimists, the Chamber of Commerce, Navy League and other organizations.

She has expressed concerns about high property taxes and the recent ferry debacle that has placed her likely competitor in Republican cross-hairs.

Haugen, asked about Haddon’s campaign last week, said she shared the community’s frustration with the loss of vehicle ferry service over the holiday season.

“I’m equally outraged,” she said from the Legislature floor.

The veteran senator has been in politics for more than 25 years, 10 of which were spent in the House. As chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, the second largest committee and the only one that deals with both fiscal and policy, Haugen came under fire for not seeing the ferry problem looming.

“I was given a lot of misinformation,” she said, adding that the Coast Guard painted a more positive picture of the state of Steel Electric ferries than was actually the case. “But I’m in a position now where we’re able to turn this thing around.” New ferries have already been funded by the Legislature.

Last week, Haugen said she was not focusing on the upcoming campaign, but rather the current legislative session.

“I’ve got a job to do right now,” she said. The session ended Thursday, so presumably she’s now turning her attention to political issues.

The senator said her strengths, aside from the experience of decades of service, lie in her understanding of her constituents and her knowledge of the district.

“The people in my district know me and know I care about them,” she said.

Haugen said she will “run on my own strengths and record.”

“I don’t run against people,” she said. As for her chances against Haddon, the senator did not choose to speculate. “I really don’t know anything about her. I hear she’s a nice person.”

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