At least two Democratic candidates are mounting grassroots campaigns to unseat the 10th District state senator.
Angie Homola — an Oak Harbor Democrat and former Island County commissioner — announced this week that she’s running against Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor.
She joins Nick Petrish, a Democrat from Mount Vernon, who announced last year that he was running for the position.
Petrish concedes that taking on Bailey is a daunting task for either candidate.
Bailey has already raised more than $100,000 for her re-election campaign. Petrish said he doesn’t expect that either he or Homola will receive much financial support from the state Democratic party as party leaders don’t think Bailey is vulnerable this year.
Homola, however, has defied expectations before. She defeated Mac McDowell, a longtime Republican commissioner, with a grassroots campaign in 2008 — when voter turnout was high in support of Barack Obama. She and Commissioner Helen Price Johnson were the county’s first female county commissioners.
Homola served one four-year term but lost a bid for re-election in 2012 to Commissioner Jill Johnson, an Oak Harbor Republican.
She said she expects voter turnout to be high again this year, but not just because it’s a presidential election year. She said she’s heard from many people who want her to get back into government because they are unhappy with the current elected leaders.
“People are ready for a public servant who will listen and respond to their needs,” she said, describing herself as a “trusted, honest and hardworking public servant.”
Petrish agrees. He said he feels that a Democratic senate candidate has a shot in the 10th District if there’s big Democratic turnout.
“We need every Democratic vote and a little bit more to win,” he said.
Four years ago, the state Republican party and a political committee targeted Mary Margaret Haugen, a powerful former Democratic state senator, as part of a successful effort to change the balance of the senate.
Bailey, a long-time Republican state representative, won the election with strong financial support from the Republican party, special interest groups and corporations.
That level financial backing, however, is a matter of concern for Bailey’s challengers. Homola said people should also be worried about campaign contributions and where they come from; she expects to get support from individuals in the district.
“Bailey has become increasingly close to Olympia lobbyists and special interest PACs that have directly contributed over $730,000 to her campaigns since she was elected in 2004,” Homola said in a press release announcing her candidacy, “and spent an additional $285,000 independently in support of her campaigns – a total of over $1 million.”
Petrish agrees that big money in politics doesn’t make for good governance.
“You have to ask yourself, when she raises a quarter of a million dollars for a job that pays $65,000, who is she going to be beholden to?” he said.
Homola said Bailey has represented the district for a long time but has “lost touch” with the citizens.
Homola first entered office as a commissioner during a difficult time. The county was hit particularly hard by the Great Recession, necessitating historically large cuts.
In her announcement, Homola said she worked with colleagues of both parties to cut general fund spending by 20 percent, “thereby preventing a financial collapse of Island County government.”
“In spite of these cuts, she greatly improved services to veterans while protecting seniors and the most vulnerable,” her press release states. “Homola established long-term water protections for island residents.”
Her other accomplishments, she noted, included helping to secure funding for property owners to maintain forestry and agricultural practices as well as working to enhance public beach access and park and trail improvements.
Homola has lived in Island County for 19 years with her two children and husband, a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion pilot serving at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
Petrish said that he’s friends with Homola and considers her to be a “capable, hard-working individual.” He said they agreed to be cordial and not to attack each other in the campaign season.
The candidates for the seat will be narrowed to two for the Aug. 2 primary.
Bailey did not return calls for comment.