Primary’s crucial in District 1 race | Editorial

Island County Commissioner District 1 takes up most of Whidbey Island south of Oak Harbor, running from Clinton to the outskirts of the county’s  biggest city. But the best chance for District 1 voters to assure they have the person in office who best reflects their interests is in the primary election.

The primary will be held earlier than every this year, on Tuesday, Aug. 7, a mere 11 weeks away. Voters don’t have a lot of time to check out the five candidates in the running.

The risk in District 1 is that the top vote-getter in the primary has never been assured a job because in the general election, voters countywide get a say. In the past, this has meant that Oak Harbor voters in District 2 have often made the decision. To win in District 1, it has been essential —almost necessary — to do very well in District 2. Many times through the years, the South and Central Whidbey primary victor, often a Democrat, has failed to win election due to District 2’s conservative voters turning the tide.

The influence of District 2 voters has been watered down by the advent of the “top two” primary. No longer is a Republican assured a place on the general election ballot. This is the first year the new top two primary will influence who gets selected in a county commissioner primary.

Helen Price Johnson, the Democratic incumbent, is likely to win one of the top two District 1 places on the August ballot. She has her party’s backing, four years of experience, and a record of trying to do her best in terrible economic times.

The second spot, however, is up for grabs. Republican Jeff Lauderdale has his party’s backing and has been running hard for months, but another Republican, Wayne Morrison, is a well-known businessman. Making the race more interesting is independent Curt Gordon, who fell only about 50 votes shy of beating Republican Phil Bakke in the 2008 primary. Muddying up the contest is another independent, Ed Jenkins, whose strong opinions irk a lot of community leaders, but who speaks well, knows the issues and could make a good impression at voter forums.

For District 1 residents, voting in the primary election is crucial. So study the candidates and vote for who best meets your criteria. Then, no matter how District 2 voters lean in November, there will be a true District 1 representative winning the election.


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