The two Island County commissioner races on the ballot Tuesday played out like they should, with North Whidbey voters in District 2 electing Jill Johnson, and South Whidbey voters in District 1 re-electing Helen Price Johnson.
Both won a majority of votes in their own district and went on to win the election. This hasn’t always been the case. In the past, North Whidbey voters have often given the win to the conservative South Whidbey candidate, simply because North Whidbey is heavily Republican. It’s hard to hold your head high in Coupeville when the voters in your own district favored someone else.
Jill Johnson’s opponent, Democrat Angie Homola, did very well on South Whidbey this week. An extreme example is the liberal Langley precinct, where Homola won 531 votes to only 142 for Johnson. A few more wild disparities such as this could have easily won the election for Homola, who trailed by only 776 votes countywide with only a handful of late votes to count. Fortunately for Johnson, she ran very strongly in her home territory and carried the election.
Something similar could be said for the District 1 race, where incumbent Price Johnson was leading by a slim but apparently insurmountable lead of 1,745 vote Wednesday. She carried all her South Whidbey District 1 precincts, but didn’t win any on North Whidbey. Like Johnson, her home field advantage put her over the top.
District 1 Republican Jeff Lauderdale may not be nursing his wounds today had he campaigned harder on North Whidbey. A few more days of door knocking up north may have won it for him.
The bottom line here is that commissioners being elected by voters living outside their districts is an old story in Island County and it could easily have been repeated in 2012.
Perhaps for the sake of perpetual fairness, it would be a good idea to elect our commissioners entirely by district, rather than at-large. Then we won’t end up like we did in 2008, with a very liberal Angie Homola representing a very conservative District 2 because of a heavy Democratic turnout in a presidential election year.
Next year, Island County citizens will be represented by three commissioners duly elected in their own districts. It should always be this way, even if it requires a change in state law.