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County's Democratic prosecutor gets help from some Republicans

The race for Island County prosecutor just got more interesting, as campaigners for incumbent Democrat Greg Banks are seeking to steal some of challenger Kelly Barlean's partisan thunder.

The scenario is right out of "The Twilight Zone." On the signpost up ahead: Republicans for Greg Banks.

Campaign signs with this slogan began popping up around Whidbey Island last week, and they are turning the heads of Democrats and Republicans.

Banks has not switched party affiliations, nor are his supporters trying to pull a fast one. Nor has Barlean made any changes: He's still a Republican.

So what's the story?

Freeland resident Brenda Bosman, a Republican who is assisting with Banks' re-election campaign, said the signs are intended to send a message.

"I just want Republicans out there to think twice before they vote the party line, and vote for the best man for the job," Bosman said Wednesday.

Bosman said she hatched the idea for the signs while having a discussion with Banks about his campaign for prosecutor. The position of county prosecutor, she said, should not be dependent on party affiliations. Rather, she said, the position should be decided on merit alone.

"What was frustrating to me was that I think he's clearly the best choice for the job," Bosman said of Banks.

She said she is bothered by the fact that "somebody's running against him who doesn't have the experience, but may have the political support to win the job."

Barlean, a two-term state legislator who decided not to seek re-election, opted to vie for Banks' position after dropping out of a race for Congress this summer. Barlean dismissed the idea that there's a split in his party in Island County. He called the Republicans for Banks signs "just a campaign tactic" devised by Banks and his supporters.

"Sometimes you'll create fake groups," Barlean said Wednesday. "That's just a tactic that some people think works."

Barlean said that when he was re-elected to the state Legislature last year he carried Island County at 61 percent.

"So I had some Democrats voting for me," he said.

Barlean said the Republicans in the county are "rock solid," and therefore Banks should be pursuing other avenues of support.

"Instead of fishing for Republican support, Banks ought to be worrying about getting the endorsement of the law enforcement community," he said.

So far, the law enforcement community has not come out with endorsements, though Barlean said he is running largely because he was contacted by law officers.

Banks, who said there are two Republicans working on his campaign, said the signs are meant to make voters look at the qualities of the candidates rather than their respective parties.

"This shouldn't be a partisan race," he said. "Let's just look at who is the best candidate for this office."

Barlean agreed that because prosecutors don't set policy it's not as helpful to voters to see an R or a D after a candidate's name. The idea of party affiliation in the current election race isn't a big issue for him.

"It's not a burr under my saddle to change it," he said. "It's the least of my concerns right now."

Bosman, though, said the advertising party affiliation is an important part of the current campaign, if only because "both parties have a certain population in them that will only vote the party line."

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