EDITORIAL: Local politics alive and well

Politics is more fun at the local level, where everybody knows everybody else and it doesn’t take a ton of money to run for office. Judging by the candidate filings last week, Island County residents are in for a lot of fun in the coming months.

A healthy number of candidates filed for office; enough, in two cases, for a primary election in September.

One of the primary elections will be for Oak Harbor mayor. Incumbent Patty Cohen is being challenged by two city council members, Eric Gerber and Bob Morrison. It should be a lively campaign. Cohen successfully nursed the town through several assaults by Tim Eyman as well as the economic downturn, but her opponents sense openings in the area of leadership, economic development and openness.

Also politically hot enough for a primary is North Whidbey Fire District 2. Often it’s difficult to find enough candidates to run for fire commissioner, but incumbent Bruce Carman is being challenged by Jay Brand and Larry Morse. It could have something to do with the controversial decision to end the tradition of having both North and South chiefs, and combining the two into one position. Elections eventually tell elected leaders whether the public agreed with their decisions.

Although those are the only primaries, a healthy turnout of other candidates produced some interesting choices in November. Former state Rep. Sue Karaholis is challenging incumbent Clairann Haney for Oak Harbor City Council Position 1, while Larry Eaton threw his hat in the ring for Position 3, presently held by Nora O-Connell Balda. Both races are bound to bring important city issues to the fore.

No filing period is complete without a few headscratchers. In Coupeville, it’s remarkable that with the mayor, five council members and two school board members up for election, nobody filed against any of them. And in Oak Harbor, North Whidbey Park and Recreation District Commissioner Brien Lillquist filed for school board. He managed to get himself in trouble on the Park board, being subject to a recall effort. Maybe the water in the pool is getting too hot.

Elsewhere in the Park District, both incumbents whose terms are up have challengers. Fred Henninger is running against TJ Harmon-Fisher, while Tom Johnson is challenging Fred Smyth. The races should help decide just how much of the Park District’s resources should be directed toward the pool.

Overall, it looks like an interesting and informative election season coming up. For this we owe a sincere debt of thanks to all the people who signed up to run for office. Without them, we wouldn’t have much of a democracy.

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