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Oak Harbor husband-wife are first to silmultaneously run for Island County offices

Oak Harbor residents Carol Ann and Shane Fortune are running for separate Island County offices. - Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor residents Carol Ann and Shane Fortune are running for separate Island County offices.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times

An Oak Harbor married couple have made history by becoming the first husband-and-wife team to simultaneously run for separate Island County offices.

Yet that’s only the beginning of what’s unique about Shane and Carol Ann Fortune’s candidacy. They are unknown quantities who surprised a lot of people by filing. They are friendly, earnest people who are new to politics, haven’t been involved in county government before and seem to have limited knowledge of the offices they hope to run.

The Fortunes said they felt the political wind blowing in favor of conservatives, and against insiders, so they decided to jump into county politics with all four feet.

“We felt this is a good time to get involved,” Carol Ann said.

They are both Republicans. Shane, a substitute teacher, is running for Island County treasurer against Deputy Treasurer Ana Maria Nunez, a Democrat.

Carol Ann, a busy mom of six, is running for county clerk. With two Democrats already vying for the position — Patricia Terry was appointed clerk late last year and Deputy Clerk Debra Van Pelt is hoping to unseat her — the Republican challenger’s candidacy means a top-two primary election in August.

Shane is running on the slogan “Tax Cuts Now,” even though he’s running for county treasurer. The county treasurer has no more authority over the county budget or taxes than any other citizen. The treasurer’s role, set by state law, is essentially to bill, collect, invest and administer money for the county, its cities and junior taxing districts.

But Shane said the treasurer could be more than just a “bean counter.”

“The treasurer should be making recommendations to the commissioners about tax cuts and regulations on land and business,” he said.

Shane originally aimed his political aspirations much higher and was planning to run against U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and even created a website for his candidacy, but realized he couldn’t compete against GOP heavyweights in the race.

And besides, “Fortune” is a perfect name for a treasurer, he joked.

Carol Ann said she is seeking to become county clerk because she has experience as an administrative assistant. It’s the sort of work she really enjoys, she said.

“I could do well at it,” she said. “I enjoy dealing with the public.”

The couple’s rivals argue that it’s not a good time for inexperienced people to become part of county government. With drastic cuts in staff and budgets, they contend that the offices need people who can immediately roll up their sleeves and get to work “in the trenches” with the staff.

“I would obviously be able to step right in and get to work much easier than someone who has not worked in the office,” Nunez said.

Yet the Fortunes say they can help bring change to the culture of the county from the inside, which may be what anti-tax and government-wary voters want.

“There seems to be a feeling that there’s nothing we can do, we have to raise taxes,” Shane said. “I think we just have to live with what we’ve got.”

The couple has an interesting and diverse history in the workforce and institutions of higher learning. They met at Brigham Young University and got married a semester before Carol Ann graduated. She earned a degree in English while working as an administrative assistant in the department of military science and as an early-morning janitor.

Shane, a 1982 Oak Harbor High School graduate, received degrees in international relations and theater arts from Brigham Young. He went on to earn another double major in history and political science from Excelsior College, then a master’s degree in education from Goddard College.

Shane worked as an assistant manager at a theater in Seattle, while Carol Ann worked at a gas station and a pharmacy. After receiving his teaching degree, Shane taught drama in the Monroe School District. He left after nine years, he said, because the commute between Monroe and their home in Oak Harbor was just too much. Since then, he’s been doing substitute teaching for both the Coupeville and Oak Harbor School districts.

When they’re not campaigning this summer, the Fortunes will be busy taking care of their six children. Their youngest is a 2-year-old boy and the oldest is a 15-year-old girl.

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