Opinion

EDITORIAL: Election season gets competitive

The official filing period is still nearly three months away, but already competition is shaping up for several elective offices important to Island County residents.

No matter how well an incumbent may be performing, he or she needs competition in the election. Without it, our democracy just doesn’t function correctly.

For Island County commissioner, the Democrats found a good candidate to run against long-time incumbent Republican Mike Shelton in District 1. Dean Enell, a Langley resident, is well versed in land use planning and environmental issues, and has the educational and professional background to give Shelton a good race. All Enell has to do is figure out how to shake the “environmentalist” label enough to win a portion of the conservative Oak Harbor vote, which in the past has always put Shelton in office. Whatever happens, the voters will benefit as two good candidates discuss their differences.

Unfortunately, the same can not yet be said for the District 2 commissioner position held by Republican Mac McDowell. Democrats have never found a strong candidate to run against McDowell and so far, this year looks to be no different. While McDowell reflects the dominant values in his Oak Harbor community, he’s not invulnerable. Perhaps a younger candidate with a pro-business background mixed with real concern for the environment could make a race of it. To date, no one with such credentials has surfaced.

The election outlook for the 10th District delegation to Olympia is also mixed. The hottest race is shaping up to be the House position being vacated by Oak Harbor Republican Berry Sehlin. Three solid candidates are hoping to take over Sehlin’s seat. For the Republicans, Peter Strow, a knowledgeable, long-time party activist in both this state and the other Washington, is running. And the Democrats are offering two articulate candidates in Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard and Oak Harbor School District employee Gina Bull.

For the other House seat, Oak Harbor Republican incumbent Barbara Bailey is being challenged by Camano Island Democrat Mark North, about whom little is known at present. Note to North: It’s time to make yourself better known on Whidbey Island.

State Senator Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, has no competition at this point. Haugen has handily defeated a number of solid conservative candidates in the past, so maybe Republicans are hesitant to spend the time and money it will take to make another run at her. But the major political parties have a responsibility to field candidates to give voters a choice, so hopefully they’ll come up with somebody willing to challenge Haugen.

Between now and the official filing period during the last week of July, there’s time for other candidates to join the race. The more the merrier from the voters’ point of view.

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