Democrat Fisher challenges Shelton

"Mike Shelton won't get a free ride in his bid for a third term as an Island County Commissioner from District 1.Tom Fisher, a Democrat from Clinton, announced Monday that he will try to unseat the Langley Republican. Fisher, 51, is a 17-year resident of South Whidbey who for the last 16 years has owned and operated a cabinet and furniture business in Clinton.Shelton announced his candidacy back in January and spent months without an opponent, as Island County Democrats focused on beating Oak Harbor Republican Mac McDowell for the District 2 seat. In November, fellow Oak Harborite Lynne Wilcox announced that she would carry the Democrats' banner against McDowell.But the idea of letting Shelton run without an opponent didn't appeal to some Democrats, including Fisher. It's a poor democracy that only has one candidate, he said Monday. At the same time, Fisher added that he is not running just to make Shelton defend himself. He believes he can win.I'm not running as a shill just to generate discussion, said Fisher. He said Shelton is vulnerable, particularly in his own South and Central Whidbey district.I think there's a question of representation and on going to bat for the district he represents, Fisher said.Fisher grew up in California, where he attended college. He spent 11 years in Alaska as a commercial fisherman, fish buyer and operator of a small sawmill before coming to Whidbey. Like Wilcox, Fisher will likely take on his Republican opponent over the issue of growth management and the high price the incumbent commissioners have paid to outside consultants for writing the county's still-contested, 20-year Comprehensive Plan.It's not just the cost in money but the cost in time, he said, pointing out that county officials waited almost eight years to take meaningful action in complying with the state's 1990 Growth Management Act. He said the delay has put the county behind in economic development and hurt local businesses.I'm definitely a supporter of the Growth Management Act. I'm not a non-growth advocate. It's just that we have so many finite resources here, he said. I'm sure the growth act is just the beginning of a lot of things we're going to have to face. We can't spend time denying their existence.Fisher campaigned for Democrats Todd Peterson and Fran Abel in their unsuccessful bids to gain a seat on the county board. He has also belonged to Citizens for Sensible Development and and the Nature Conservancy. His volunteer efforts include work with the Maxwelton Salmon Adventure and Hearts & Hammers, and he has acted in theatrical productions on South Whidbey. Fisher's wife Mary operates a nursery garden on Cultus Bay Road. They have three children. The youngest, 18-year-old Brita, graduated from South Whidbey High School this spring. Fisher said now that the last of his children has graduated, he can consider a first-ever run for political office. I think it's time, for more Democrats, Fisher said, noting the large number of newcomers to the county in recent years. Camano resident Bill Thorn made history last year by becoming the first Democrat elected to the three-member county board in more than two decades.Fisher isn't running solely out of environmental concerns. He describes himself as a small businessman who is very conservative fiscally. He said he wants to bring more of a mediator role to the job of commissioner.Fisher said Democrats were quick to offer support when he decided to run for office. He already has the support of Wilcox as well as Fran Abel, who gave Shelton a close race in 1996.Abel noted Monday that she out-polled Shelton in his own district. She also won on Camano Island, but Shelton prevailed thanks to a strong showing from Oak Harbor and North Whidbey.Fisher said he's well aware that he has to get more exposure throughout the county and listen to the concerns of people outside of South Whidbey if he expects to win.I plan to acquire a lot of knowledge in the next few months. People will see my face a lot, he said.The filing period for political office continues this week in Coupeville."

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