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Primary change prompts commissioner candidacy

Curt Gordon -
Curt Gordon
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Gordon chooses no party affiliation

As a result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision, a well-known, life-long South Whidbey resident has decided to throw his hat into the ring and become the fourth candidate for Island County commissioner, position 1.

Last month, the nation’s highest court ruled in favor of the state’s voter-approved but untried “Top Two” primary, which allows voters to select freely among political parties for various contests without pledging even temporary allegiance to a party.

For Curt Gordon, an important aspect of the decision is that it allows minor party candidates or a candidate declaring “no party preference” to compete on even ground with major party candidates in the primary.

The two candidates receiving the most votes —?even if they are both from the same party or no party — go on to the general election.

Gordon isn’t the first person to assert that party politics don’t have a place in county government, but he will be the first “no party preference” candidate for Island County commissioner.

“I want people to vote for me for who I am, not for what party I represent,” Gordon said. “I don’t think national parties should be involved in Island County government.”

He said he probably wouldn’t have run for the office if it wasn’t for the Supreme Court decision, which upheld Initiative 872. He just wasn’t willing to make the concession of calling himself either a Democrat or Republican.

Gordon is undeniably a strong candidate, though he admits that running without a party affiliation will make things a little tougher for him. He’s well known on South Whidbey, having graduated from Langley High School in 1975. He is the long-time owner of Island Asphalt Company.

Gordon’s involvement in the South Whidbey Park and Recreation District goes back 20 years. He was also a member of the Island County Conservation Futures Technical Advisory Group for 13 years. He was involved in the process of securing public acquisition of Double Bluff Beach on South Whidbey, Ala Spit on North Whidbey and the Heron Rookery on Camano Island, among many others.

Gordon said he would like to bring balance and accountability to county government. He believes open space and affordable housing can coexist under the Growth Management Act, which has been blamed for difficulties in the county.

“I really don’t think the Growth Management Act is a problem,” he said. “I think the implementation is the problem.”

Gordon is seeking the seat vacated last year by Republican Mike Shelton, who got a job elsewhere. The position 1 commissioner represents South and Central Whidbey. Phil Bakke, a Republican and former county planning director, was appointed to the seat, which he is seeking to keep.

Reece Rose, a Republican from Clinton, is also running for the position, as is Helen Price-Johnson, a Democrat from Clinton.

Under the new system, candidates don’t have to get permission from the parties to run under that party’s label.

Island County Auditor Sheilah Crider said the ballots will look different because of the new system. The ballots will show the candidate’s “party preference.” Actual endorsements or party nominations are not allowed on the ballot itself, but they can appear in the voters’ pamphlet.

Crider expects some confusion, as well as continued legal challenges from the parties.

“I think it will be awfully confusing for folks who are used to it being one way,” she said.

The primary election will be held August 19.

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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