There wasn’t a lot for local voters to do with their Primary Election ballots, but the results nonetheless are important going forward.
Most notably, the proposed annexation of Twisp to Okanogan County Fire District 6 — a sensible action that finally unifies the entire fire district as one jurisdiction — was convincingly approved by voters. District residents were more enthusiastic than town residents, but only by a bit. Twisp approved the annexation with 86% in favor; District 6 voters were as close to unanimous (93%) as you can get in an election.
While the annexation technically becomes effective later this month, pending certification of the vote, the fire district levy will not be assessed to town property owners until 2024. That will allow plenty of time to put transition in motion, and if Winthrop is a good example that should go smoothly.
In the future, Twisp residents can be more involved in the district’s operation, even run for a position on the board of commissioners. The annexation gives the town assurances about coverage from now on. The overwhelming majority of voters saw the value in that.
In Hospital District 1 (Three Rivers Hospital), a vital levy to support the hospital’s emergency room operation was again given a one-year extension by 70% of the district’s voters. The district has shown its faith in the community’s support by bringing the levy to the ballot every year for renewal, and residents (including those in the Methow Valley) have responded.
Apparently it bears repeating, and more repeating, although we have repeatedly repeated it: In candidate races for boards and commissions, in any contest where there are two or fewer candidates, all of the candidates who have filed advance automatically to the general election and do not appear on the primary election ballot.
The one local race that had three candidates did appear on the Aug. 1 ballot, because the field must be narrowed to two for the general election. That was for a District 5 (at large) position on the Methow Valley School Board. The candidates were incumbent Frank Kline, and challengers Mike Liu and JT Sawyer. Kline and Liu advanced.
Kline has a long tenure and name recognition on the school board; Liu also has widespread local recognition because of his years with the U.S. Forest Service as the Methow District ranger. In the runoff, Kline drew about 61% of the votes, which gives Liu a lot of ground to make up in the next few months.
That won’t be the only school board campaign to garner close attention. Incumbent Judith Hardmeyer-Wright will be challenged by Austin Lott of Winthrop for the District 1 board seat. Jennifer Zbyszewski and Scott Larson, both of Carlton, will vie for the District 3 position being vacated by incumbent Mary Anne Quigley. Already we’ve seen a few campaign signs springing up by roadsides.
Elsewhere, candidates for Twisp mayor and Town Council, Winthrop Town Council and the Fire District 6 board are running unopposed and are assured election or re-election. It would be healthier if at least a few of them were contested. As it is, some people are going to end up in elected positions of influence through the simple expediency of filing for office. Giving voters a choice is always preferable.
Although it was not on the primary election ballot, the issue that is already drawing the most attention well ahead of November is a proposal to create a Methow Aquatics District. Now that enough petition signatures have been gathered to ensure that the proposal will be on the general election ballot, the rhetoric is heating up even more than previously. Some of it, frankly, needs to be toned down, and focused on the ballot proposal itself rather than peripheral issues that are not going to be resolved by a “yes” or “no” vote. The proposal will stand or fall on the details of the ballot measure itself. Voters should get acquainted with those details and make their decisions accordingly.