July 3, 2008 · Updated 1:03 PM
"Smith stands out in Senate raceSometimes voters feel as if they're forced to pick the least unappealing candidate. That's not the case in the 10th District state Senate race, where Norma Smith offers a fresh alternative.In recent years, Smith has served as a member of Congressman Jack Metcalf's staff. Her work on such congressional issues as Gulf War illness has made an impact in Washington, D.C. She also acted as liaison for active duty military personnel and the commanders of the two bases in Metcalf's district, Whidbey Island Naval Air Station and Naval Station Everett. A resident of Clinton, Smith has also served on the South Whidbey School Board. She is a mother of four kids, and her husband, Steve, is a former Marine who served as a naval aviator. As voters who have seen her speak at forums this fall can attest, Smith is well-spoken, smart and direct.Incumbent Mary Margaret Haugen is a veteran legislator with a track record of fighting for the 10th District. She is chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, which puts her in position to wield significant influence over ferry and highway issues that affect Whidbey Island. That's no small thing, at a time when transportation funding is one of the hottest issues in the state.However, overall state budget issues loom even larger. Recent citizen initiatives indicate a growing discontent with the way taxes are levied and spent in this state. Poor leadership in Olympia is one of the reasons these initiatives are getting proposed and passed. As a veteran leader in the Legislature, Haugen must take some responsibility for the current state of public sentiment toward Olympia. It will require new ideas and an emphasis on fiscal responsibility to run government in the coming years. Norma Smith is best suited for this approach. She is a self-described fiscal conservative. She is committed to finding a fresh approach to state government. She has shown problem-solving skills as a school board member and congressional aide. She would bring new energy and strong leadership to the 10th District.We recommend a vote for Norma Smith. Anderson, Barlean for state HouseIn the races for 10th District Position 1 and 2 seats in the state House, we recommend incumbents Dave Anderson and Kelly Barlean.It is with some hesitation that we pass over Position 1 candidate Barry Sehlin, who is challenging Anderson. Sehlin is an Oak Harbor native and former Whidbey Island Naval Air Station Commander who served well in the Legislature before retiring in 1998. His budgeting experience and bipartisan approach would no doubt serve the 10th District. However, we wonder about Sehlin's passion for the job, given that he retired from the House, then briefly ran for Congress - then dropped from that race in order to run again for the House. The upcoming session promises to be a challenging one. Legislators with energy and commitment are needed.Incumbent Dave Anderson has that energy. He's developed a reputation as a hard-working legislator during his first two terms in Olympia. He makes frequent appearances at events on North and Central Whidbey Island, from school openings to candidate forums. Anderson likes to tout his background in science (he is a former veterinarian) and his understanding of environmental issues (he is a former Puget Sound commercial fisherman). Sometimes he goes overboard, as in a recent mailer to 10th District residents about global warming. Anderson is most effective when he sticks to down-to-earth constituent politics.In the Position 2 race, challenger John McCoy is executive director of government affairs for the Tulalip Tribes. McCoy knows government from the inside, having worked with Washington, D.C., Olympia and Snohomish County on tribal issues. He has been involved in economic developments on Tulalip lands, as well as innovations at the tribe's Heritage School. He believes American Indians should be more involved at all levels of the political process.While McCoy is a good candidate, we see little reason to change course from incumbent Kelly Barlean. In his first term, Barlean gained an assignment as vice chair of the Appropriations committee and also helped save the Whidbey Island Game Farm. He is a political pragmatist and problem solver. He understands current public attitudes about unresponsive state government, and he wants to work to address those concerns. Barlean did a good job in his first term. He deserves a second.McDowell, Shelton for county commissioner Sometimes the best way to approach the future is to stick with what has worked in the past. With that in mind, we recommend votes for incumbent Island County commissioners Mac McDowell and Mike Shelton.McDowell, an Oak Harbor Republican, is seeking his third term. McDowell's accomplishments during his tenure on the board of commissioners include two that stand out: Island County has put itself on relatively solid financial footing over the last eight years, and the county has completed its 20-year comprehensive plan and is nearing full compliance with the state's Growth Management Act.McDowell's track record of fiscal management is most important to Island County at this time. It's apparent that the county commissioners, including McDowell, dragged their feet in complying with the Growth Management Act in the mid 1990s. However, when push came to shove McDowell helped steer the county toward meeting the law. While his critics say he is unyielding - and we would encourage him to do more to appease his opposition and bring the county together - McDowell takes pride in making difficult choices and has grown in office. McDowell's challenger, Lynne Wilcox, is an Oak Harbor Democrat. Wilcox challenged McDowell four years ago as a Republican, and switched parties this time around. She explains that change by saying the Republican Party has veered too far to the right on social issues, and she describes herself as conservative on fiscal matters. She also highlights her professional experience as a mediator, and says she will bring a listening, inclusive approach to county government. While there's no questioning Wilcox's desire for the job, her campaign has been overly caustic, and not very indicative of a listening, inclusive style. She has also not communicated a compelling vision for the county's future. Mike Shelton, a Langley Republican, is also seeking a third term on the board of commissioners. Shelton brings a reasonable approach to county government. He is a good listener, and has shown a willingness to shift his stance on issues. Like McDowell, he has overseen effective fiscal management at the county and he has helped steer Island County through the Growth Management Act. Shelton's challenger, Clinton Democrat William Rowlands, does not offer a serious alternative. Rowlands has no political background and does not have the endorsement of the Democratic Party. Both McDowell and Shelton have been commissioners during a challenging time for all counties in Washington state, as the stresses of complying with the Growth Management Act have cost more than a few county commissioners their jobs. McDowell and Shelton have held steady during this, and in the last two years have shown an ability to work well with their Democratic colleague Bill Thorn. Both deserve an opportunity to show what kind of leaders they can be now that the county's Comp Plan is complete. "