Levy, possible write-in liven primary campaign

Unlike some primary elections, Island County voters will have definite decisions to make when they go to the polls next Tuesday.

While there are a number of unopposed candidates who did not need to be listed on the ballot, there are a few contested, inter-party races, an emergency medical services levy to be decided upon, and a last-minute write-in possibility that could liven up the county clerk race.

Only Republicans will be fighting it out for party nominations in this primary. In the race for Island County treasurer, South Whidbey resident Marty Matthews is facing off against 16-year incumbent Maxine Sauter. In the 2nd District Congressional race, the GOP is running former Rep. Jack Metcalf aide Norma Smith; Herb Meyer, a San Juan Island businessman and one-time member of the Reagan administration's CIA team; and Warren Hanson of Bellingham.

Also included in the treasurer's primary race is Democrat Linda Riffe. Though she is unopposed within her own party, Riffe can have her name on the ballot because Washington state still runs a blanket primary, meaning anyone of any party can vote for any candidate. Island County Auditor Suzanne Sinclair said last week her decision to include Riffe on the ballot stemmed from a sense of fairness.

"It seemed unfair to leave her out," she said.

One candidate who may or may not be left out -- depending on one's point of view -- is Sharon Franzen. Franzen, who was fired last week by Island County Clerk Jane Koetje from her position as chief deputy clerk, has a number of supporters interested in running a write-in campaign for her. Though she has not announced herself as a candidate, supporters may write her name on the primary ballot. Like any other primary cadidate, Franzen can get her name on the general election ballot if she receives 1 percent or more of the votes cast for her race in the primary.

Sinclair cautioned anyone writing in a candidate to include all the information necessary for the vote to count. She said the candidate's name, the office for which the person is running, and the candidate's party must be on the top of the ballot. If a candidate does not have a party, the voter should indicate that the candidate is an independent.

Of the most immediate importance on the ballot is the EMS levy being put to voters by the Whidbey Island Hospital District. Planned to bring in $4.2 million a year for the next four years through property taxes, the levy lives or dies on Sept. 17. The levy pays for emergency services such as the cost of ambulances and paramedics.

If for some reason the levy fails, it could get a second chance in November. Sinclair said by placing the EMS measure on the September ballot, the hospital district can have a second opportunity to float the measure during the Nov. 5 general election.

Absentee and mail ballots went out to thousands of Island County voters last week. Those ballots must be sent or delivered to the auditor's office by Sept. 17 to count in the primary election. Polling hours on election day are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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