EDITORIALS: Voters reflect national trends

Island County followed most of the nation last week in producing very close political races between the two major parties. But there was one major difference — nationwide, Republicans came out on top, while in Island County Democrats had the edge.

Some votes remain to be counted, but it appears certain that Democrats will win the county races for prosecutor, treasurer and clerk. Three elected Democrats as department heads is unheard of in recent decades, but there you have it. On top of that, incumbent Democrat Commissioner Bill Thorn appeared to be politically dead when the precinct votes were tallied late Tuesday, Nov. 5, but he’s been creeping up in the absentee count. He could still overtake Republican Bill Byrd, which would give Democrats yet another position in Island County.

What’s it all mean? There are possible explanations in shifting population patterns, with more liberal-leaning folks moving to South Whidbey and Camano Island, in particular. Or it could simple mean the Democrats put up better candidates this year. Whatever, Island County is no longer an ironclad Republican enclave. That’s good, no matter what party you prefer. By having both parties represented in government, citizens benefit from the give-and-take of open debate and differing views on the role of government. We have a multi-party system and it’s about time it was reflected in Island County government.

Races were also close in election districts that expand beyond the boundaries of Island County. For the only contested 10th District State House Seat, Oak Harbor Republican Barbara Bailey appears to have won with 51.39 percent of the vote. Her proponent, Eron Berg, is one of the bright young lights in the Democratic party but he was out-polled by Bailey in Skagit as well as Island County. Although disappointed, no doubt, it is likely that the ambitious Berg, who is mayor of LaConner, will be back to run again. Bailey, meanwhile, ran a positive campaign and has won the unenviable task of having to help balance the state’s budget.

In the Second Congressional District, the incumbent Democrat won’t have to worry about being nicknamed Landslide Larsen. Rick Larsen received a scant majority at 50.37 percent, which was good enough to earn him a second term in Congress. Republican Norma Larsen received 45 percent of the vote with little monetary support from the national party. Who knows what would have happened had she been able to match Larsen dollar for dollar? Both the Green and Libertarian parties showed some life, each receiving roughly 2 percent of the vote.

Island County voters joined their peers state-wide to vote down a gas tax increase and vote for a reduction in car license tab fees. Voters have sent the Legislature the same message time after time: Give us a chance to save money and we’ll take it. Perhaps our politicians have learned to stop reacting with surprise when these measures succeed, and to stop running to the voters when they’re afraid to do what has to be done.

Bottom line: Island County voters are almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, but they won’t pass up a chance to save a few bucks. In other words, we’re a pretty good microcosm of American.

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