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McDowell draws a challenger

"The election may be a year away, but the political race has started early for at least one candidate.Lynne Wilcox of Oak Harbor announced Monday that she run for 1st District Island County Commissioner William Mac McDowell’s seat. Wilcox currently works as a real estate agent and as executive officer of the Whidbey Island North Association of Realtors. McDowell’s district covers Oak Harbor.Though Wilcox said she doesn’t want to get into details this early in the race, she said growth planning and money management will likely be areas where she and McDowell will differ.This will be the second time these two candidates have faced off for the commissioner post. But this time there's a difference. Four years ago Wilcox lost to McDowell in the Republican primary. This time around, she has left the Republican Party and will challenge McDowell as a Democrat.Actually, she said, it was the party that deserted her.I felt the Republican Party pushed me away, Wilcox said. She said a combination of policies, politics and the party's alliance with the religious right contributed to her decision to become a Democrat.Wilcox hopes to follow in the footsteps of Island County Commissioner Bill Thorn who won election over incumbent Republican Tom Shaughnessy a year ago. Thorn became the first Democrat to win a commissioner seat in 22 years but he did it with only a 38 vote margin of victory.Wilcox may have even a tougher race. McDowell has won his previous two terms handily. In his last election in 1976 he captured nearly 58 percent of the vote. Against Wilcox in the 1976 primary he had a similar margin of victory.That's one of the reasons I wanted to get started early, Wilcox said. My opponent is firmly entrenched.There will be one key difference this time around. Because primary elections in county commission races are held only within the commission district, Wilcox’s first challenge was constricted to Oak Harbor voters. This time, because it’s a general election, it will be a countywide vote.McDowell said he’d like to see history repeat itself in 2000.“The last time Lynne and I ran voters had a chance to compare my vision with her vision and they chose me,” he said Tuesday. “Neither my position nor my party have changed and unless she changes her policies along with her party, I hope this will be a rerun of the last election.”Wilcox said many of her positions have not changed. But that’s because the problems are still the same she said.“I didn’t think I’d be running for county commissioner and discussing the same issues I did before,” said Wilcox.As in ‘76, Wilcox criticized McDowell for his stance on growth planning. During all of McDowell’s time on the board the county has struggled to complete a 20-year Comprehensive Plan required by the state’s 1990 Growth Management Act. After paying out about $2 million in outside consulting and legal fees, the commissioners signed off on a plan a year ago, but key portions of it were ruled illegal by a state board in June. Wilcox said McDowell is still too willing to fight the act in court.“My first reaction is I hope he’s willing to pay for it because I’m getting tired of paying for it,” she said.Wilcox’s stand on impact fees will definitely put her at odds with McDowell. She supports charging a fee to builders and developers to help pay for the costs associated with growth such as roads, sewage disposal and water. McDowell has long opposed such fees, saying they are unwarranted and would also push up the cost of housing. “My opponent will call me a no-growther, and that’s just not true,” Wilcox said. “I believe in controlled growth. I think growth has been uncontrolled in the past.”"

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