I recently had a conversation with an Orcas Island neighbor who is helping the SJC Democrats choose and field candidates for the upcoming County Council primary election.
When I expressed surprise that the local SJC Democrat party was politically active in the non-partisan council races he laughed at how naive I was being.
He told me the SJC Democrat activists were shocked when their two council candidates on San Juan Island, incumbents Lovel Pratt and Howie Rosenfeld, lost their elections to non-partisan candidates this November. Both Lovel and Howie had campaigned from the Democrat booth at the County Fair and held “public” meetings at the Democrat headquarters in Friday Harbor.
The belief was that a SJC Democrat endorsement for a candidate and local Democrat Party support made winning an election almost a sure thing in San Juan County.
I guess I really am naive.
I actually believe that council candidates should follow rules under the charter and conduct non-partisan campaigns. If candidates are willing to fudge the clear rules under the charter, it begs the question of what other matters will they be willing to ignore?
The barely disguised partisan campaigns of the two candidates who lost their council seat elections may have seen voters say yes to the charter and no to partisan politics.
The political parties in San Juan County should have the integrity to follow the rules of the charter. They should be scrupulous in not giving any hint of support for one council candidate or another, either up front or behind the scenes.
The San Juan County Charter gained broad public support because citizens were tired of party politics and the political activities of special interests, such as the Friends of the San Juans.
Should individuals, independent of their political party preference work on behalf of the candidates they feel best represent their choice to be elected to the non-partisan council?
Absolutely, but lets follow the charter and the law and keep political parties and special interest organizations at arms length. Thank you for listening.
John Evans/Orcas Island
— Editor’s note: former county commissioner John Evans served as an elected Republican in partisan elections prior to adoption of the SJC Charter