In Our Opinion: Johnson, Bacon have right chops for county government

Our endorsements for Island County commissioner races.

The two men running for two Island County commissioner seats are unique campaign partners, placing their signs together, going to events together and echoing each other’s ideas.

Damian Greene and Dan Evans are both Republicans, running for District 1 and 2, respectively. They are challenging Commissioner Jill Johnson, a Republican, and Melanie Bacon, the county human resources director and only Democrat in the race.

Campaigning together may be a pretty good strategy, but unfortunately neither Greene nor Evans presented compelling solutions nor demonstrated the requisite knowledge for leading county government.

That’s not an issue with Johnson or Bacon. They both have an in-depth understanding of how the county works, although they have different political ideologies. They definitely aren’t running together.

Johnson was endorsed by the Island County Republican Party and deserves to be reelected. She is an Oak Harbor native and was the city’s chamber of commerce director before being elected as commissioner. She’s known for her strong support of the Navy base, her outspokenness and her work in improving the mental health care system.

Bacon is the county’s human resources director and an Army veteran whose diverse past includes civil rights advocacy and work as a prison chaplain. She describes herself as a traditional Democrat and speaks intelligently about county government and ways of achieving her priorities, which include helping the most vulnerable and protecting the environment.

Bacon was endorsed by Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, who’s running for state senate, and will make a fine successor.

Like so many candidates of the past, Greene and Evans both fail in fully grasping how the county works and how it differs from other governmental entities — or perhaps they don’t mind misleading voters. Greene is a South Whidbey School Board member and Evans is the president of the Oak Harbor Main Street Association.

Evans recently blamed Island County government for an outage caused by PSE lines melting Comcast fiber in another county. At forums he’s repeatedly criticized the county for the controversial downtown Oak Harbor housing project for low-income people, even though permitting it was completely a city decision.

He continually uses the nonsense phrase “illegally zoned” in talking about the proposed project. The judge who heard Main Street’s land-use petition found that the project did not conform to city zoning, not that the zoning was against the law.

When asked by the newspaper about what he would like to see changed in county government, Greene brought up issues outside of the county’s purview, from street lights on a state highway to a dock managed by a port district.

His campaign website discusses ways to improve the fire departments, which are not part of county government.

Also like many candidates of the past, Evans and Greene promise to solve the big problems of the day with their abilities to convince people outside of county government to do the things they want without remuneration, whether it’s state or federal officials or nonprofit organizations.

Evans said he’ll work with state lawmakers to change the Growth Management Act and criticized Johnson for not doing so. Obviously, it’s not realistic to think a no-name Republican from a small county can accomplish in Democrat-run Olympia what many truly powerful officials and groups haven’t been able to do in decades.

If he doesn’t win this election, Greene will undoubtedly continue being a valuable school board member. Given where Evans’ interests lie, he should attempt to win a seat on the city planning commission. And maybe run for mayor someday.