Boundary cuts Peoples from race

Lionel Peoples fell about 30-feet short in his effort to run for Island County Commissioner.

Although his house hasn’t moved in the years since he last ran for District 2 commissioner, the districting lines in Island County have. To his surprise, he recently discovered that he now lives in District 1, whereas he previously lived in District 2.

That district boundary change makes all the difference to Peoples’ political aspirations. He wanted to make another run against District 2 Commissioner Mac McDowell, but now he can’t. And he has no intention of running against District 1 Commissioner Mike Shelton, even though they now share the same district.

“I thought about it,” Peoples said of the District 1 race. “But they’re very clannish down there,” referring to the South Whidbey area.

By law, Island County’s district boundaries must be changed after each federal census to keep the population of the three districts as even as possible. Loann Gullick, elections officer in the Auditor’s Office, said the standard requires districts “of nearly equal population,” which is interpreted as “less than 1 percent difference.”

Between the 1990 census and the 2000 census, Island County’s population grew most in District 3, which includes all of fast-growing Camano Island and portions of North Whidbey Island. District 3 is presently represented by Commissioner Bill Byrd.

To remedy the population imbalance, the Auditor’s Office enlarged McDowell’s District 2 on the east end of North Whidbey. This required an adjustment on the west end, where Peoples lives, so the District 1 line was moved further north, to Hastie Lake Road. People’s house faces that road, and he now lives some 30-feet inside the District 1 boundary.

“I wasn’t aware they had done that to me,” Peoples said Tuesday, explaining why he had announced a run for District 2 commissioner in June. “I guess they knew I was going to run again.”

Actually, Peoples, an affable Democrat, doesn’t really believe there was a Republican conspiracy to district him out of another race against McDowell. In 1996, McDowell got 58 percent of the vote while Peoples got 42 percent.

Most likely, People said, the fact the line moved to where he lives was a coincidence. “I’m sure it is, but I like to play it up a little bit,” he said with a chuckle.

The district boundary changes were approved Dec. 10, 2001, by the board of commissioners, which at the time included Republicans McDowell and Shelton and Democrat Bill Thorn, who was later defeated by Republican Byrd.

McDowell said Tuesday that the changes were recommended by the Auditor’s Office, and no one involved was aware Peoples lived near the new boundary line. “I had no idea whatsoever,” he said. “I just heard he’s not in the district any longer.”

With Peoples out of the race, McDowell presently has no challenger in his re-election bid. But the filing period isn’t until the last week of July, and McDowell suspects the Democrats will come up with a candidate by then. “If history is any indication they will,” he said. “I’m out there campaigning, moving ahead just as if I had an opponent.”

Filing week nears

Thinking of running for elective office in Island County? Then be prepared to register with the Island County Auditor’s Office the last week of this month.

Commissioners Mac McDowell and Mike Shelton, both Republicans, up the only ones for election.

Shelton has two announced opponents, fellow Republican Reece Rose and Democrat Dean Enell. There are no announced opponents for McDowell now that Lionel Peoples can’t run.

Elections Officer Loann Gullick in the Auditor’s Office said those running for precinct committee officer should note two changes that take effect this year. The filing period is now the same as for other offices, and the election will take place on the primary ballot, not the general election ballot as in the past.

The fee to file for a commissioner position is $678.08. For precinct committee officer, the fee is one dollar. The filing period is July 26 through July 30.

For more information call the Auditor’s Office at 679-7366.

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