Well, this is going to be interesting.
After filing closed for state and local elective offices, it was instantly clear that Okanogan County government leadership is going to look a lot different come next year. It remains to be seen what that will mean for the county’s residents, as we have a lot to learn about many of those who filed for office. And we will have to live with the results for the next four years.
Most notably, three-term incumbent Commissioner Jim DeTro, who represents the county’s District 3, chose not to seek re-election. Maybe DeTro communicated his intent to step down to some people, but his decision probably came as a surprise to many folks.
DeTro, a definitely conservative voice on the commission, has been what we in the media call “controversial” more than once for things he has said and done while in office. But he had the solid support of his District 3 constituents — as well as supporters around the county — and probably would have been easily re-elected. He would be difficult to unseat.
Four contenders will vie to fill DeTro’s position: Lloyd E. Caton Jr. of Tonasket, Aaron Kester of Tonasket, Kari Alexander of Tonasket and Jon R. Neal of Oroville. It’s probable that most Methow Valley people know little about them, and until the general election in November perhaps it doesn’t matter much. Only District 3 residents get to vote in the August primary to pick the top two vote-getters who will advance. Then, all county residents get to chose who will be their next commissioner.
The other two commissioners — Chris Branch in District 1 and Andy Hover in District 2 (including the Methow Valley) aren’t up for re-election in this cycle. They will be joined by a “rookie” commissioner who will have a lot of catching up to do, and whose priorities we have yet to discern. How the new lineup affects county decision-making we will only learn in time.
At least there is competition for DeTro’s seat. Meanwhile, three top administrative positions — clerk, coroner and treasurer — are being vacated by their incumbents. In each case, only one candidate filed for the position — so they will be elected by default, essentially, unless someone mounts an aggressive write-in campaign.
That’s just not a healthy way to run a democracy. Voters ought to have a choice for each elective office, especially those that determine how well the county operates. It would have been preferable for the incumbents who opted to seek re-election — assessor, auditor and prosecuting attorney — to have challengers as well, but they don’t.
On the other hand, incumbent Sheriff Tony Hawley is being challenged by two candidates: Twisp Police Chief Paul Budrow, who was actively campaigning well before the filing period, and Kevin D. Newport of Omak. We’ll be keeping a close eye on how that race is shaping up as we move toward the August primary.
U.S. Rep Dan Newhouse is likely to emerge with a healthy lead over any of the seven Republican challengers who think he’s not conservative enough. With the vote split that many ways, it will be difficult for any of the challengers to amass a significant number of votes or make a convincing case for replacing Newhouse, despite some extremists’ outrage at him.
In Washington state Legislative District 7, which now includes Okanogan County, incumbent state Sen. Shelly Short will be challenged by Lonny Ray Williams of Republic, while incumbent state Reps. Jacquelin Maycumber and Joel Kretz had no challengers. Short and Williams automatically advance to the November ballot, so we probably won’t see much campaigning until after the primary. Methow Valley residents will have to reorient themselves after being in the 12th District for so long.
It will be instructive to see how much attention campaigners pay to the Methow Valley, which while politically active still represents a relatively small portion of the county’s population. That said, our votes will be important to any candidate who wants to emerge with a win in November. We’d like to see the contenders make an effort here, and are hopeful that there will be candidate forums to help us become better acquainted with those who want to represent us.
Nationwide, the mid-term elections will draw a lot of the media coverage attention and social media buzz because of their political implications. But the decisions that most affect our lives on a day-to-day basis are made at the local level. We expect candidates seeking those offices to convince us they deserve the position, and then to perform appropriately when they are in office. That’s what elections are all about.