Those who run the Island County Republican Party chose a process that’s too grueling and too secretive to replace Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton.
The four unfortunate applicants will have to undergo questioning in three private meetings attended only by themselves and the party’s leadership, then meet the public on at least one night, and finally, be present for public questioning by the remaining two Island County commissioners before one of them is selected to fill Shelton’s seat, if not his shoes.
Party Chairman William “De” Dennis said the candidates will face some “pointed” questions in the private meetings, which is fine. We expect pointed questions to be asked of a would-be commissioner who hopes to represent all the people of Island County until the next general election lets the people decide who they want in the seat. But the answers to those questions should be heard by everyone, not just the party elite.
The secret meetings are unprecedented in the history of appointing elected officials in Island County. Whenever an elected official has quit or died before his or her term expired, the process to find a replacement has been open. Why wouldn’t it be? After all, it’s a public office. One well-advertised public meeting would have done the trick. After all, there are only four candidates and three of them will advance to consideration by the commissioners.
Part of the problem is the Island County Republican Party is a lot more “private” than it used to be. There are only a handful of elected or appointed precinct committee persons, and those active in the party on a regular basis total only a dozen or so. The lack of participation has resulted in a party leadership that is in large part unknown to most people who call themselves Republicans, and therefore they are not as responsive as they should be to public opinion.
The long-term solution is for more people, Republicans and Democrats, to get involved in party politics. Next year, run for one of the many vacant precinct committee person positions on the ballot. Go to meetings to make sure the party’s positions are adopted after hearing a variety of views, thus assuring a more moderate and open approach to political issues.
In the meantime, we’re stuck with the faulty process already adopted for finding the next Island County commissioner. Just be thankful you’re not the one locked in a room with this particular group of inquisitors.