Election results show problem with charter

The results of last week’s primary election have created an opportunity to revisit our support for the ultimately unsuccessful effort two years ago to amend the county’s charter and to illustrate why South Kitsap could potentially get screwed again this year because the drive failed.

Simply put, Charlotte Garrido’s victory over Brock Jackley in the Democratic race for Kitsap County commissioner puts her in a position to represent South Kitsap again, whether the majority of voters in this district like the idea or not.

It’s a familiar position for Garrido, who served as SK’s county commissioner from 1996 to 2000 despite being outpolled among South Kitsap voters during the general election by Republican Dusty Wiley. By coincidence, Garrido served a portion of her term alongside Central Kitsap Commissioner Tim Botkin, who had also garnered fewer votes in his own district than his Republican challenger, Carl Johnson.

It is a peculiar — some would say disgraceful — aspect of the current Kitsap County charter that the county is carved up into three districts and, while voters in each district can nominate the candidate of their choice in the primary, all commissioners are elected countywide during the November general election. Thus, a Garrido or Botkin can find themselves in the awkward position of representing on the Board of Commissioners the interests of a district that rejected them at the polls. Or thought it did, anyway.

This indiosyncracy was one of the main things reformers sought to correct during the long, complicated — and ultimately pointless — drive to rewrite the county charter two years ago. And it’s probably the biggest reason the effort failed.

Politically speaking, South Kitsap is generally regarded by most observers as a bastion of Republican strength. North Kitsap, by contrast, trends Democratic, with Central Kitsap falling, well, somewhere in the middle. The deciding factor, of course, is Bainbridge Island, which votes about 80 percent of the time for Democrats.

Bainbridge residents, who for all other intents and purposes have more in common with Seattle than Kitsap County, ironicaly have it within their power under normal circumstances to assure the Board of Commissioners will have a Democratic tilt. And they relish that power, which explains why Dems throughout the county fought against and defeated the charter revisions.

A skeptic will ask how, if the contest is so rigged to favor Democrats, Kitsap currently finds itself with a Board of Commissioners on which Republicans hold a 2-1 majority? The answer is that South Kitsap Republican Jan Angel won her seat in 2000 running against the same Dusty Wiley who had run as a Republican against Garrido four years earlier.

With Democrats loath to support a former Republican in the general election, Angel managed a comfortable victory. Against Garrido, however, the choice will be much easier and Democrats will have no qualms about mobilizing to defeat Angel this year.

As for Central Kitsap’s Patty Lent, she found herself running two years ago against an incumbent in Botkin who was indelibly marked as a proponent of “Smart Growth,” a policy that turned out to be wildly unpopular with property owners of both parties.

For her part, Garrido is also identified with land-use restrictions in general and the “Smart Growth” movement in particular, and it could prove to be her undoing. Or Garrido could conceivably generate enough votes in South Kitsap to render the whole point moot. That has yet to be determined.

For our part, we’re hoping whichever candidate — Angel or Garrido — eventually wins does so by carrying the South Kitsap district they’ll be representing. It would give us no pleasure to say we were right about the charter when the end result is the voters of SK getting hosed.

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